DENR begins retrieval of felled trees from Palawan mine site

All entry and exit points within the 2,835-hectare Mineral Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) area of Ipilan Nickel Corp. (INC) in Palawan province have been placed under close monitoring as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) started retrieving thousands of mix of old-growth and secondary trees that were indiscriminately felled by the mining firm.

DENR-Mimaropa Regional Director Natividad Bernardino said a total of 34 forestry officers and workers-- 18 from the DENR regional office and 16 from Palawan provincial government have been deployed to the INC's mining area in Brooke's Point town to do an inventory and retrieve the felled trees, which are considered government property.

Bernardino said her office has been coordinating with concerned local government executives, particularly Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez and Brooke's Point Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano, in transferring the felled trees to a secured location which both the DENR and the local government unit (LGU) have identified to prevent them from getting poached.

She said they plan to complete the retrieval operations within one and a half months. "Transferring these trees to a secured place would become oubly difficult once the rain season kicks in," Bernardino pointed out.

Based on initial reports, the INC cut down some 7,000 trees within 30 hectares of land within the MPSA programmed for mining operations for years 1 and 2, and for development of road network covering an area of 52.15 hectares.

Majority of the felled trees are reportedly premium native species, such as malabayabas, apitongbaboy, nato and agoho.

According to Conrado Corpuz, DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) for Brooke’s Point, the retrieval operation would need boom trucks and off-road, 10-wheeler trucks that have four-wheel drive capacities that can negotiate through the area which is inaccessible to ordinary vehicles.

"We are now coordinating with DENR central office and our LGU counterparts to have these needed assets in our operations,” Corpuz said. According to him, most of the felled trees are slumped over a meter-wide gulleys or pits, each measuring over 25 meters deep and about 25 meters apart and that the pits are from the firm's exploration activities.

Although the INC had earlier secured a one-year tree-cutting permit expiring on May 26, the same was deemed no longer effective since Dec. 14, 2016 when the DENR, under then Secretary Gina Lopez, cancelled the company's environmental compliance certificate (ECC) due to its failure to start its project within the required five-year period from issuance of the permit.

Aside from the scaling of the trees, Corpuz said they will also conduct a perimeter survey of the affected area to determine the actual extent of the cutting activity.

With the cancellation of its ECC, the DENR said that all related mining activities of the INC, including the tree cutting permit, "are likewise deemed cancelled."

Likewise, it is stipulated in the tree cutting permit granted to INC that all timber and other derivable wood materials recovered from the trees cut belong to the DENR.

Last week, no less than Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu personally visited the INC mining area and held a dialogue with local residents, who raised a howl against the company's activities in the area. ### 


DENR holds first-ever Biodiversity Congress

Various policymakers and stakeholders have gathered together for the first-ever National Biodiversity Congress to promote the importance of protecting and managing the country's rich biological diversity and ecosystems.

Organized by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the three-day event kicked off on May 22 and will go on until May 24 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas Center. The kick off for the event coincided with the celebration of the International Day for Biological Diversity.

With the theme, "Upwelling of Lessons, Sustaining Community Benefits in the Conservation of Landscapes and Seascapes," the biodiversity congress marked the first time that key stakeholders --- national and local governments, civil society, academe and the private sector -- gathered to share models and lessons on biodiversity conservation initiatives in both large territories and small communities.

The keynote address was given by Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chair, Senator Cynthia Villar, who underscored the numerous benefits of conserving the country's landscapes and seascapes through sustainable tourism.

According to Villar, sustainable tourism contributes to both economic growth and biodiversity conservation.

The lady senator also shared the plan to build the Las Pinas- Paranaque Wetlands Park within the Las Pinas- Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) which will include a Wetlands Center, Bird hides, boardwalk, a museum, lagoon and floating house.

It is envisioned to be the premier learning environment for urban wetlands in the country and a model for sustainable eco-tourism, she added.

Villar is the author of a bill seeking to expand the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 or Republic Act 7586. The NIPAS system under the now proposed “Expanded NIPAS Act of 2017 shall recognize conservation areas and the management regimes of local government units (LGUs), communities and indigenous peoples.

She urged participants to the first-of-its-kind congress to "work together to ensure that there is still a mega-diverse country that is awaiting the future generation of Filipinos."

The first day of the congress was marked by the launch of the BMB's three major initiatives: the Philippine Biodiversity Action Plan (PBSAP) 2015-2028; the Philippines’ Voluntary Commitments on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Goal #14: Life Below Water Ocean Conference; and the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP) 2017-2018.

The PBSAP, presented by BMB Assistant Director Antonio Manila, is the third iteration of the country’s biodiversity strategy and action plan. It was developed through extensive and participatory consultations with more than 800 individuals representing nearly 200 agencies and organizations from the government, private sector, media and academe, including non-government agencies and people’s organizations at the local and international levels.

The three-day event is filled with interactive plenary and breakout sessions on five thematic areas, namely: Managing Protected Areas; Biodiversity-friendly enterprises; Landscapes and Seascapes; Biodiversity Financing and Social Topics like building an inclusive biodiversity community; and participation of indigenous peoples, women, youth and communities in conflict-affected areas. ### 


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