Barely a year into the P-Noy Administration, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has seized progress on environmental stewardship, initiating key reforms in all fronts, particularly forestry and land management.

In a reversal from previous years, the DENR placed 4th in the list of “least corrupt” national agencies in a recent survey conducted by Pulse Asia held in February and March this year, the only regulatory body to be included in the ranking with service-oriented agencies led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), and the Department of Education (DepEd).

Paje underlined some key reform initiatives of the Aquino Administration in stopping the destruction and abuse of the environment to include Executive Order No. 23, which banned logging in the remaining natural forests in the country. This was complemented by the creation of the National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force in the same EO, which as of press time, has netted 7.283 million board feet of logs and lumber valued at PhP200 million, and the closure of 56 wood processing plants in the CARAGA region and the provinces of Davao and Quezon identified to have been processing undocumented forest products.

In the disposal of confiscated forest products, the DENR has given priority to the DepEd in keeping with President Aquino’s directive to help address the perennial problem of inadequacy in armchairs, desks and tables in public schools.

“A Memorandum of Agreement was already signed among DENR, DepEd, PAGCOR and TESDA on the manufacture of school facilities using the (donated) logs/lumber,” Paje said.

Paje also reported that the number of DENR checkpoints has been rationalized from 274 to 117, or 57% reduction, also in a move to get rid of any opportunity for graft and corruption in the timber industry.

On reforestation, the first six months of the P-Noy Administration saw the reforestation of some 29,552 hectares with 32.3 million trees, benefitting some 17,758 families with livelihood opportunities.

Describing it yet as “the biggest reforestation program in the history of the Philippines,” Paje said EO No. 26, which established the National Greening Program, aims to plant and grow 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares in the next six years. For this year, the DENR, which is mandated by President Aquino to lead in the implementation of the NGP, sets out to grow 50 million trees in 100,000 hectares.

“Reforms in the land administration are now among the priority legislative agenda of the President,” Paje added, saying the passage of the Land Administration Reform Bill will unify all land agencies, and the National Land Use Bill which will rationalize the country’s land management.

Paje underscored the importance of pushing such legislative agenda of the government, saying it will eradicate the problem of “multiplicity of government agencies” involved in land administration with overlapping functions and powers. “Let alone the judicial processes in land titling, no less than five agencies in the executive branch also play out key roles in the country’s land management, resulting in multiplicity in terms of standards for survey and mapping, land valuation, and taxes on land transactions. All these multiplicities breed opportunities for graft and corruption.’’

Agencies involved in land administration include the Department of Justice’s Land Registration Authority and Register of Deeds; DENR’s Land Management Bureau and Land Management Services in regional offices; the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority; and the CARP Secretariat and its field offices.