The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) marked the celebration of World Environment Day on Tuesday (June 5) by declaring a hundred-year old balete (strangler fig) tree, growing behind a declared heritage house, as Manila’s second heritage tree.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, together with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Jessie Coe Lichauco, centenarian widow of the late Philippine Ambassador Marcial Lichauco, led the unveiling of the marker at the Lichauco heritage house compound along the Pasig River in Sta. Ana, Manila.

Paje said that although the DENR and its partners were able to plant more than 93 million seedlings under the government’s National Greening Program, “this Heritage Tree is better than our accomplishments.”

The balete tree inside the Lichauco compound is the eighth Heritage Tree proclaimed in Metro Manila. It is, however, the second in the City of Manila, and the first inside a residential compound. The city’s first Heritage Tree is the balete tree inside the Malacañang compound.

The DENR secretary commended the Lichauco family “for having that kind of ascendancy to devote this lot, a prime lot, as a heritage site.”

He added that although the tree is “a witness to the decay of Sta. Ana, of Manila, and of the Pasig River,” it is also a symbol of hope that the present generation can “do something to turn over a much better environment to the future generation.”

During the event, the DENR, Lichauco, and the Lola Grande Foundation for Women and Children, a non-government organization founded by Lichauco’s daughter Sylvia, also signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the regular monitoring of the Heritage Tree. The MOA will also open the Heritage Tree for public viewing for educational and research purposes.

Under the DENR’s Heritage Tree Program, a Heritage Tree must be a healthy tree with a diameter of at least one meter, measured at one-half meter above the ground. The tree’s aesthetic, historical, cultural, social and educational significance must be established. Its nomination into the Heritage Tree Program should be endorsed by a group or an individual who will also serve as the tree’s “adopter.” Any work on or near the tree, including pruning, cutting or removal will require permission from the DENR.

The event was also witnessed by DENR-National Capital Regional Executive Director Neria Andin, Heritage Conservation Society Chairperson Gemma Cruz-Araneta, former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez, former education secretary Jaime Laya, Sta. Ana Parish Pastoral Council president Ernest Panis, and other members of the Lichauco clan.


EnvironmentNatural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

“There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs), regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.

“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity.

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO. Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,” Paje stressed.

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled; while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the