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President Aquino will grace the silver anniversary celebration of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Malacanang Palace tomorrow (June 19).

“We are very privileged to have this opportunity to celebrate this milestone in the DENR’s history with no less than the President himself,” DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said, adding that around 500 national and field officials of the agency are expected to attend the event.

The DENR contingent will be joined by retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as well as the DENR’s partners in its river cleanup program in segments that will highlight the government’s priorities for the environment.

Puno will join Paje in briefing the President on the endowment fund for the families of “environmental heroes”, or DENR employees who have died while performing their duty in protecting the environment. The fund will be administered by the Alay sa Anak ng Bayani (ALAB) ng Kalikasan Foundation, Inc., of which Puno will serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees.

The seed money for the fund, amounting to P314,241, was donated by the Civil Service Commission in September 2011 derived from a proceeds of a fund-raising fun run it hosted last year.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman is expected to sign during the event two Memoranda of Agreements (MOA) with the DENR on the delineation of the ARMM’s forest boundaries and on the conduct of cadastral survey in the region.

Paje said that under the MOA, the DENR-National will assist DENR-ARMM in establishing a permanent boundary between its timberlands and alienable and disposable lands “in order to prevent activities that may be detrimental to its forests.” The cadastral survey, meanwhile, will hasten the processing and issuance of land titles to the rightful claimants of public lands within the region.

The MOA signing would come with the turnover of two checks by DENR, amounting to PhP44 million and PhP377 million, as financial assistance to ARMM for forestland delineation and cadastral survey, respectively.

In addition, Hataman will also receive an P11-million check from the DENR as financial assistance in the implementation of the government’s National Greening Program (NGP) in ARMM.

The NGP was launched by President Aquino last year as the government’s largest greening program, aiming to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide for the period 2011-2016. Paje is also set to present to President Aquino the 100 millionth seedling produced for the NGP, a tindalo (Afzelia rhomboidea), during the anniversary program.

Thirty-five corporate partners in the DENR’s “Adopt-an-Estero/Waterbody” program will also join the celebration. Of these, 34 will adopt as many waterways across the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon and Rizal, also known as the CALABARZON Region. On the other hand, SM Prime Holdings will adopt the heavily polluted San Juan River, which flows through the cities of Quezon, San Juan, Manila and Mandaluyong and is one of the main tributaries of the Pasig River.

“With clean water as one of the priorities of the Aquino administration, we are pleased to share this moment with our partners in cleaning up the waterways in what are probably the most problematic regions when it comes to waterway pollution caused by urbanization, industrialization and increased population,” said the environment chief.

 

As part of the Adopt-an-Estero/Waterbody program, the DENR is also set to present to the President four newly-acquired trash boats that will be used to collect floating garbage along creeks and rivers. The trash boats will be docked along the Pasig River behind the palace for the viewing, before being deployed to identified sites in Central Luzon, CALABARZON Region and Metro Manila. The DENR is planning to purchase 20 more such trash boats within the year.