The legal team of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provided free legal assistance to residents of Barangay SipacAlmacen in Navotas City during their clean up activity held recently.

The DENR Legal Affairs Service (LAS) gave free legal counseling to the estero cleanup volunteers in exchange for their participation in the cleanup activity held in the barangay’s esteros and coastline that contribute to pollution in Manila Bay.

Known as the seat of power of the City Government of Navotas, SipacAlmacen is bounded in the west by Manila Bay and in the east by the highly polluted Malabon-Navotas River. The rehabilitation of the said river system was assigned to the cluster headed by DENR Undersecretaries Ernesto D. Adobo Jr,.and Benny D. Antiporda, and Assistant Secretary Jesus Moises Enrico B. Salazar.

To encourage more people to join the cleanup, LAS Director NorlitoEneran said they established a legal clinic where participating residents could avail of free legal advice.

The activity carried the theme: “Payo pang-legal angalayko, ‘pagbasuramolinisin mo.”

“Participants were given a coupon for every sack of garbage collected, which entitled them to free legal counseling,” Eneran explained.

The LAS staff members were joined by lawyers from the DENR Lawyers Guild Inc., the Malabon-Navotas Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Public Attorneys Office in Quezon City in providing free legal consultation to the participants.

The LAS-led cleanup drive formed part of the overall effort dubbed as “Battle for Manila Bay,” which is being supervised by the inter-agency task force led by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

Adobo said the gargantuan task to bring Manila Bay back to its former glory requires the active participation of all sectors, not just the government.

“Our agency will take the lead role in the Battle for Manila Bay which, Secretary Cimatu assessed,has to begin with the Battle for the Rivers and Esteros that drain into Manila Bay,” Adobo said.

Antiporda, who serves as the DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns, lauded Eneran and the rest of the LAS for coming up with the concept of providing free legal counseling to cleanup drive participants.

“I commend Director Eneran for initiating this activity,” Antiporda said. “I had availed the services of lawyers for legal problems, but I never imagined engaging lawyers to clean the garbage of Manila Bay.”

For his part, Salazar called on the residents within the Malabon-Navotas river system to take part in the cleanup activity which, he said, would benefit them and all other Manila Bay stakeholders.

“We need to be responsible for our environment for the enjoyment of present and future generations,” Salazar added.

Every division under the LAS is assigned to one barangay along the Malabon-Navotas river system. A focal person from each division is designated to coordinate with their counterparts in the community.

Each group submitted a proposed plan of activities, which include a cleanup drive; information and education campaign; enforcement of environmental laws; and monitoring and evaluation. ###