Feature

  banner sona inputs-web2

 
A s the Aquino administration enters its final year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) finds it necessary to look back on some of its achievements in terms of environmental protection.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said that while the agency has made positive progress during the past five years, much more still needs to be done to protect the environment and make communities more resilient to climate change.

“Measures taken in the past years have led to improvements in many areas, such as forest rehabilitation and climate change mitigation. However, urbanization continue to claim more land, biodiversity is on the decline and economic development threatens the environment,” Paje pointed out.

Amid these challenges, he said the DENR has demonstrated its unwavering commitment to protecting the environment in the last five years and will continue doing so in the years ahead.

Paje said the government’s groundbreaking environmental programs were also designed to achieve poverty reduction, human resource development and food security.

 

National Greening Program

ngp accomplishment-webForemost among these programs is the National Greening Program (NGP), which seeks to cover 1.5 million hectares with 1.5 billion trees for six years from 2011 to 2016, making it the biggest reforestation program in Philippine history.

“That is 86 percent more than the reforestation efforts of the country in the past 25 years!” Paje exclaimed. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the lead agency in the implementation of the NGP.

Apart from being a reforestation initiative, the NGP is also seen as a climate change mitigation strategy as it seeks to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide, which is largely blamed for global warming.

The program is also intended to reduce poverty, providing alternative livelihood initiatives for marginalized upland and lowland households relating to seedling production, and care and maintenance of newly planted seedlings.

The DENR had exceeded the combined target of 900,000 hectares from 2011 to 2014 by 13 percent with 1,017,783 hectares already planted with 603,184,352 seedlings or an average of 593 seedlings per hectare. From January 1 to July 20 this year, 43,503 hectares have already been planted with 34,612,583 seedlings.

“To date, forest cover has increased from 6.8 million hectares to 7.86 million hectares after four years of intensive reforestation activities, through the active participation of various government agencies, the private sector, upland and coastal communities, and other stakeholders,” Paje said.

He said a total of 2,379,773 jobs have been generated through the NGP, benefitting some 342,045 individuals.

 

Total log ban

EO23 strict implementation-web2The Aquino administration is also credited for the protection of the country’s remaining forest cover with its imposition of the total log ban on natural and residual forests. The ban resulted in significant reduction of illegal logging hotspots to 23 from 197 in 2010.

With the support of law enforcement agencies, the DENR confiscated more than 30.7 million board-feet of illegally cut and processed logs and forest products nationwide. A total of 1,549 cases were filed against the violators, with 202 persons convicted.

Out of the confiscated logs and lumber, a total of 146,471 school armchairs and furniture were made and donated to the Department of Education.

 

Geohazard Assessment and Mapping

Geo hazard mapping-webPaje said that addressing climate change would be one of the “crowning achievements” of the Aquino administration.

He said that the administration – through the DENR – has put in place adequate, long-term measures to counter the effects of climate change, which benefits can come well beyond 2016.

“We have very focused programs being implemented by the government like the nationwide geohazard mapping and the massive restoration of watersheds, which serve as the country’s natural defense against environmental impacts caused by climate change,” Paje explained.

The DENR chief said that geohazard maps, which indicate areas susceptible to landslide and floods, could spare the government further losses and expensive rehabilitation works that may be brought about by natural disasters and poor geologic planning.

He said the detailed assessment and mapping of the entire country, including cities and municipalities within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was completed in 2014. Detailed geohazard maps with a scale of 1:10,000 of all cities and municipalities in the country are being finally formatted and downloaded in the DENR website for seamless viewing and easy access by the public.

The DENR, he added, also completed geohazards assessment and mapping of all 171 cities and towns affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013. The post-disaster assessment was undertaken to assist the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery for its settlement projects.

 

Cadastral Survey

Cadastral survey-webThe Aquino administration had also shown its deep commitment to address land title issues, which impede the distribution of the remaining Land Acquisition and Distribution balance, through the completion of the century-old Cadastral Survey Program.

The program started way back in 1913 with the enactment of the Commonwealth Act No. 2259, or the Cadastral Act. From 1913 to 2009 or a period of 96 years, only 46 percent of the nation’s cities and municipalities have been surveyed.

The completion of the program became possible with the substantial funding provided by the Aquino administration. As of July 21, 2015, the DENR has completed the cadastral survey of 1,634 cities and municipalities nationwide.

 

Clean Air

Clean Air tsp pm10-webSeveral initiatives to address air pollution in Metro Manila were undertaken in partnership with LGUs, the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates, the Philippine Medical Association, ABS-CBN, the private sector, civil society and media groups.

Pollution level in terms of total suspended particulate (TSP) concentration in Metro Manila was reduced by 28%, i.e., from 166 ug/Ncm in January-June 2010 to 120 ug/Ncm in January-June 2015. These values though exceed the standard of 90 ug/Ncm.

PM10 or particulate matter 10 decreased by 31%, i.e., 85 ug.Ncm in January-June 2011 to 59 ug/Ncm in January-June 2015. The July-December 2014 was 52 ug/Ncm which passed the international standard of 60 ug/Ncm.

The DENR, through the EMB, continuously coordinates with the DOE and other stakeholders to ensure the smooth implementation of DAO 2015-04 mandating the shift from Euro 2 to Euro 4 emission and fuel standard, which reduces sulphur content of fuel from 500 ppm to 50 ppm.

 

 

Protected Area Management and Biodivesity Conservation

PAs-webThe Aquino administration also succeeded in passing a landmark legislation aimed at strengthening protected area management and biodiversity conservation.

The President, on Sept. 26, 2013, approved RA 10629 that provides for the retention by the Protected Area Management Board of 75 percent of the revenues accruing to the Integrated Protected Areas Fund.

Considered as a new milestone in the management of protected areas, the law was a big boost to the efforts of promoting ecotourism in the country as it allows reinvesting of 75 percent of all revenues generated by a protected area to activities deemed necessary to protect and rehabilitate areas widely regarded as one of the most successful measures implemented for the conservation of biodiversity.

 

Wide public recognition

Good governance-webThe government’s environmental protection efforts did not go unnoticed by the public as shown by the results of Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys.

The SWS surveys in 2014 showed that Filipinos believe the Aquino administration is doing a good job of protecting the country’s environment. Government performance in environmental protection got the highest rating among 17 specific issues rated by the public in its June 2014 survey.

It showed that 65 percent of the 1,200 respondents nationwide were satisfied with the national administration’s environmental performance on protecting the environment, giving a net approval rating of “good.”

Succeeding surveys conducted in November and December 2014 gave the government “good” ratings in preparing for climate change.

In Pulse Asia’s March 1-7, 2015 survey, 48 percent of the respondents approved of the national administration’s environmental performance, against 22 percent who disapproved, for a net approval rating of 26 percent. The 48 percent approval rating is a significant improvement over the 45 percent posted in the November 2014 survey of Pulse Asia.

 

Beyond 2016

While the government has made significant progress, the DENR recognizes that much work remains to be done.

To sustain the benefits and ecosystem services derived from the various programs and projects it is implementing, the DENR vows to continue strengthening the capacities of natural ecosystems to improve the country’s resilience against the negative effects of climate change and natural disasters.

With the help of its partner organizations in the public and private sectors, the DENR will continue to direct its efforts on achieving sustainable use of resources, equitable access and benefit-sharing.

The department is also committed to contribute to socio-economic growth through environmentally responsive mining, wealth creation from biodiversity, competitive forest industry, and vibrant ecotourism industry.

It will likewise work toward improved environmental quality through promotion of green technology and environmentally compliant industry and sectors. ### 

 

® Public Affairs Office

 

 

 

 

 

  banner bohol quake-web

 
When a massive 7.2-magnitude earthquake jolted Bohol on October 15, 2013, there was a general concern its booming tourism industry might suffer tremendously as a lot of establishments, heritage sites and renowned structures were severely damaged.


collage1 bohol-webBut in less than two years since the devastating tremor struck the island province at its core, Bohol appears to have gotten back on its feet. Its nature-based tourism remains as strong and vibrant as ever, as if nothing had happened.

Although the centuries-old Catholic churches badly hit by the quake are still in the process of restoration and rebuilding, they remain a magnet for tourists amid their present condition. The same goes with some geologic changes that occurred after the earthquake.

There was indeed a silver lining to the devastation because it has given birth to new tourist attractions like ground rupture, uplifted coastal area and sinkholes, which are part of the so-called “geosciences tour” now being offered in the province.


These changes brought by the quake are giving foreign and local travelers more places to go, besides the captivating natural landmarks that made Bohol one of the most visited provinces and top tourist destinations in the country.

Bohol has a wealth of biological diversity, being home to jaw-dropping natural land forms, scenic rivers and tiny adorable primates.

It is a treasure trove of breathtaking natural beauty as evidenced by the world-famous Chocolate Hills, the majestic Loboc River, the stunning Rajah Sikatuna National Park, Panglao’s white sand beaches, among others.

 

Sustainable tourism

As the primary government agency responsible for conservation, management, development and proper use of the country’s environment and natural resources, the DENR plays a major role in ensuring the sustainability of Bohol’s natural attractions.

Nestor Canda, the provincial environment and natural resources officer (PENRO), said the DENR has been actively promoting the importance of conserving Bohol’s natural biodiversity by directly protecting wildlife and their habitats, while keeping a close watch on any violation of environmental laws and regulations.

“We are working toward achieving the right balance between development and conservation goals,” Canda said.

He said the DENR is closely coordinating with various local governments and people’s organizations in Bohol to ensure that ecotourism is carefully planned and implemented.

Canda said the key to a successful ecotourism industry is a more balanced and integrative approach, founded on the guiding principles of sustainable development.

“A more balanced and integrated approach is essential to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of ecotourism in Bohol,” Canda pointed out.

Geological monument

geological-monument-webJust recently, the DENR – through Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje – declared as a geological monument certain coastal areas in the municipalities of Loon and Maribojoc, which were uplifted after the 2013 earthquake. It will be known as the Loon-Maribojoc Geological Monument.

Paje said the declaration, embodied in DENR Administrative Order No. 2015-08, aims at ensuring the preservation and protection of the 137-hectare coastline for scientific, educational and tourism purposes.

“Initial assessment made by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed that the uplifted coastal area has unique geological features that must be protected and preserved not only to draw more tourists but to encourage further researches and studies for the advancement of geosciences in the country,” Paje explained.

Canda also saw additional challenges for the DENR and other stakeholders.

“There is a challenge to preserve the corals for further studies and researches,” he said, referring to the presence of exposed reefs as resulting from the uplift.

Canda also underscored the need to assess the vegetation that may arise, as well the marine biodiversity in the area and evaluate the economic implication of the geological phenomenon.

Great Wall of Bohol’

great-wall-webThe epicenter of the deadly earthquake that shook Bohol and nearby provinces was plotted near the boundary of the towns of Sagbayan and Catigbian. The quake was generated by the newly discovered North Bohol Fault and has produced at least 6,000 aftershocks as of May 2014, of which over a hundred were reported felt.

The earthquake was so powerful that it not only caused vast destruction, but also killed more than 200 people and displaced nearly 371,000 more across the island.

Canda said the power of the earthquake was illustrated by the length of the ground rupture it left behind.

A shocking remnant of the strong quake was a continuous ground rupture of six kilometers pushed up a stretch of ground up to an average two meters high, with Barangay Anonang in Inabanga town incurring vertical displacements as high as five meters. The rocky wall created by the quake is now called the “Great Wall of Bohol.”

Apart from being a physical evidence of the earthquake’s impact, the massive crack serves as an educational attraction, and provides additional information and explanations of why and how a place changes from a disaster.

Sinkholes

sinkhole-webThe earthquake also resulted in the emergence of several sinkholes all over the island province. The DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has discovered a total of 1,333 sinkholes in Bohol, including the 60-feet deep karst site in Catigbian town.

Now becoming a popular attraction among adventurous tourists, the Catigbian Karst Window is a sinkhole developed in a rectangular shape, which is a natural depression or hole in the surface topography caused by karst processes or the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks.

Sinkholes are common where the rock below the land surface is limestone, just like in Bohol. The MGB had earlier said the island’s land surface is almost 80 percent limestone.

Canda said the sinkholes are actually part of the slow, natural process of erosion in Bohol’s limestone terrain that occurs over thousands of years. The earthquake merely facilitated the ground’s rupture, exposing cavities beneath the soil surface, he explained.

‘Geopark’

The PENRO disclosed his office is currently coordinating with the MGB, the provincial government and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the possibility of declaring the entire province of Bohol as a geological park or Geopark.

Once declared a Geopark, Bohol will be included in the Global Geoparks Network being supported by the UNESCO, the same agency that proclaimed the Chocolate Hills a national geological monument and proposed its inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The UNESCO described Geopark as a unified area with geological heritage of international significance. Geoparks, it said, hold records of past climate change and are educators on current climate change as well as adopting a best practice approach to utilizing renewable energy and employing the best standards of “green tourism.”

Tourism industry promotion in Geopark, as a geographically sustainable and applicable tourism model, aims to sustain, or even enhance, the geographical character of a place, the UNESCO said.

Canda said a Geopark title for Bohol would help enhance the value of the province, create employment, promote local economic development, and more importantly, boost environmental protection efforts.

Welcome additions

bohol rapture-webThe fault rupture, uplifted coast and sinkholes have certainly changed Bohol’s landscape forever, and residents seem to have learned to accept them.

These changes present an opportunity to the province to transform its situation and provide its people additional livelihood through its ever-growing ecotourism industry.

The remnants of the deadly earthquake are welcome additions to the long list of natural wonders Bohol can offer, thus making every visit to the island a more worthwhile and memorable experience. ###

 

 

 

 

 

® Public Affairs Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Articles...