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Department of Environment and Natural Resource (DENR) Secretary Roy A. Cimatu highlighted the country’s environmental gains amid the global health crisis in his State of the Philippine Environment Address during the virtual celebration of Earth Day 2021 on Thursday, April 22.

"We have plenty of work ahead of us, even with the pandemic persisting as an obstacle. We are eager to do better this year, and in the years ahead,” Cimatu said in a speech read by DENR Strategic Communication and Initiatives Service Director Hiro V. Masuda.

Cimatu emphasized that the department has been vigorously implementing its major programs, which are as follows: Intensified Environmental Protection in the three priority areas of Clean Air, Clean Water and Solid Waste Management; Enhanced National Greening Program; Intensified Forest Protection and Anti-illegal Logging; Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation; Scaling up of Coastal and Marine programs; Improved Land Administration and Management; Geo-hazard Groundwater Assessment and Responsible Mining; and Cleanup and Rehabilitation of Manila Bay.

In his report, the DENR chief cited notable improvements in the country's air and water quality and solid waste management, as well as an increase in reforested areas nationwide.

The country's particulate matter or PM 10 went down by 64 percent, from 76 in 2011 to 27 in 2020, while PM 2.5 decreased from 20 in 2016 to 15 in 2020. Standards for both are 60 and 25, respectively.

For water quality, monitoring of 36 priority recreational water bodies across the country in 2020 showed that 21 or 58 percent were within the quality guidelines in terms of fecal coliform counts.

Of the 43 rivers monitored, 32 or 74 percent passed the standard for biological oxygen demand.

Cimatu added that in 2020, 824 materials recovery facilities (MRFs) were established raising the total to 11,546, while the number of sanitary landfills increased from 187 to 241.

"Solid waste management has never before been as better for the country," he said. We never have and never will falter in the implementation of our solid waste management program.”

Reforestation also covered more areas with 47,299 hectares of land planted with over 37.2 million various seedlings.

The Philippines is one of the 17 most mega-biodiverse countries in the world hosting more than 52,000 known species.

However, Cimatu noted that the country's biodiversity is the most threatened on the planet.

To address the continuing threat of biodiversity loss, seven wetlands were declared as Ramsar sites under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance for enhanced conservation. The latest addition last February is Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetlands in Central Luzon.

"The increasing number of heritage parks and wetlands of international importance in the Philippines is an indication that we are on the right track in terms of protection, management, and conservation efforts. The key, therefore, is to sustain our gains," Cimatu said.

Last year, the DENR also issued 16,405 agricultural free patents covering 10,495 hectares of land, and 32,580 residential patents.

To enhance the effective management and protection of the country’s forest from further destruction, the National Forest Protection Program has been updated for 2021-2025.

As the Philippines is considered the world’s center of marine biodiversity, coastal and marine resources management have been scaled up.

It is estimated that the country’s coastal and marine ecosystems are worth at least 15.3 trillion.

"We are not faced with a bleak future. With continuing hard work and stronger partnerships, we will be able to do more and sustain our actions," Cimatu said.

Due to the pandemic, the Earth Day celebration was held virtually for the second year.

This year's celebration was anchored on the theme "Doing our Fair Share to Restore the Earth," which was held in partnership with Earth Day Network Philippines. ###