Cimatu pushes for ASEAN-wide mangrove dev't, conservation

Amid growing evidence of the significant opportunities mangroves offer for climate change adaptation and mitigation, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu called for more convergence among member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in promoting mangrove development and conservation.

"With the conservation and management strategies that our respective countries are implementing, I encourage convergence of our research and development efforts for a sustainable region-wide mangrove conservation," Cimatu said in his keynote address at the 2nd ASEAN Mangrove Congress held in Manila from September 5 to 7.

Cimatu said that convergence in mangrove research and development is the key to protecting the region against the devastating effects of climate change and global warming.

"Let us continue our pursuit of research-driven strategies and policies to effectively manage and conserve our mangrove resources," Cimatu told conference participants, which include mangrove practitioners, government officials, scientists and academicians.

He added: "Let us continue transferring the knowledge we have gathered into responsible community-based practices."

Cimatu said that it is important for ASEAN countries to "work as one" given the fact that the region is highly vulnerable to climate change as a large portion of its population and economic activities are concentrated along coastlines.

In fact, he said, some of the ASEAN countries already started to experience the impacts of climate change, such as increasing number of tropical cyclones, extreme flooding, storm surges, landslides, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.

He cited in particular tropical cyclone Nargis that affected almost 2.4 million people and killed almost 100,000 in Myanmar in 2008; the 2004 killer tsunami that hit Thailand; and super typhoon Yolanda (a.k.a. Haiyan) that killed thousands of people and drove nearly four million people out of their homes in central Philippines in 2013.

Cimatu said that the ASEAN region is also expected to face the worst impacts of climate change by year 2100 with a 4.8 degrees Celsius rise in mean annual temperature and a 70-centimeter rise in mean sea level, as projected in recent studies by the Asian Development Bank.

These impacts include a rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere partly due to low carbon sequestration potential of forests, increasing water stress, and high incidence of illnesses and infections.

In the wake of climate-induced disasters and other devastating effects of global warming, Cimatu said the lowly mangroves bring hope in the fight against climate change.

"Mangroves provide protection against extreme weather events like storm winds and coastal flooding, and even earthquake-induced event such as tsunamis," Cimatu said.

The environment chief noted that a number of research findings revealed that a wide extent of at least one kilometer mangroves can weaken waves by as much as 75 percent through its vast underground root networks and high vegetation structural complexity.

"Mangroves also serve as both sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide as these plants can sequester carbon dioxide and store the carbon compounds in their biomass and in the soil," Cimatu said.

"Therefore, effective and sustainable management efforts are essential to reverse rapid mangrove loss and improve our resilience to the impacts of climate change," he added.

Cimatu said that out of the 18 million hectares of mangrove forest globally, 35 percent of the area coverage are found in Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

"Mangrove forest is an important ecosystem in many ASEAN countries," Cimatu pointed out. "It serves as a source of income and livelihood of many coastal communities."

"Mangroves also protect these communities from hazards induced by storms and typhoons, and provide shelter and nursery ground to a diverse community of organisms."

The 2nd ASEAN Mangrove Congress is organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

This was the second time the Philippines hosted the event. The first ASEAN Mangrove Congress was also held in the country in December 2012. ### 


DENR rejects Payatas coop call to reopen landfill

Despite calls from some Payatas residents, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) insisted that there is no way it would allow the Quezon City Sanitary Landfill (QCSLF) to be reopened.

In a recent dialogue with representatives of the Payatas Alliance Recyling Exchange (PARE) Cooperative, DENR officials maintained that the decision to close down the landfill due to numerous environmental violations and susceptibility to trash slide was already final.

PARE, whose members are mostly scavengers and junkshop owners, appealed to the DENR to reconsider its decision for the sake of the 2,000 families who rely on the landfill for their livelihood.

But DENR officials led by Undersecretary Noel Felongco said the agency was left with no choice but to shut down the Payatas landfill.

Felongco noted that the QCSLF had reached overcapacity and the leachate already flowed through the Marikina River, which is in violation of environmental laws, particularly Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

He said that while RA 9003 provides that there should be waste segragation at source and only residuals are to be brought to landfills, the same was not the case of QCSLF because it was loaded with mixed garbage.

Eligio Ildefonso, chief engineer at the Solid Waste Management Division of the Environmental Management Bureau and executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), said "there was no technical basis for the DENR to allow the reopening of the Payatas landfill."

He, however, agreed on the need to help the people whose only source of income will be affected by the landfill's permanent closure.

"The DENR looks after the technical aspect, including the environment and the welfare of the people, while the Quezon City government handles the social aspect like providing alternative livelihood to those who will be displaced by the closure," Ildefonso said.

"Let us all work together to find a solution to this problem," he added.

Ildefonso said that PARE members will not immediately lose their source of livelihood because they may still benefit from the planned rehabilitation of the landfill.

Earlier in August, the DENR turned down the request of the Quezon City government to allow the QCSLF to reopen until December this year.

In its report, the EMB said that "violations of existing environmental laws and their existing rules and regulations were committed" by the landfill's operator, IPM Environmental Services Inc.

A separate report by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau showed that the landfill was "highly susceptible to trash slide" based on its geomorphological and environmental assessments.

The DENR consequently directed IPM to refrain from dumping solid waste within the QCSLF and begin its rehabilitation of the landfill as soon as possible.

It also ordered IPM to immediately submit its detailed Safe Closure and Rehabilitation Plan, which will be evaluated by the EMB-National Capital Region and the NSWMC. ### 


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