Press Releases

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with partners in the academe and civil society, will be officially launched tomorrow (April 27) the “National Year of Forests” (NYF) at the Makiling Botanic Gardens in Los Baños, Laguna.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, who also sits as NYF chair, said the launching is an offshoot of Presidential Proclamation No. 125 signed by President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III last March 15 as the country’s way of lending its support to the United Nations (UN) declaration of 2011 as the International Year of Forests (IYF).

With IYF’s theme, Forests for People, Paje said the declaration underscores the paramount importance that forests play in the survival of the human race. “It is a synergistic relationship, forests provide benefits to man. Man must care for forests to continue being recipient of its benefits,” he said.

In the proclamation order, President Aquino said the declaration of 2011 as NYF is in support of the government’s five-year reforestation program “National Greening Program.”

“With Executive Orders 23 and 26, the Aquino Administration has made good strides in improving its green agenda. Proclamation 125 is an opportunity for President Aquino to highlight its resolve to move ahead in writing a new, brighter chapter in Philippine environmentalism,” Paje said.

EO 23 bans logging in natural forests while EO 26 declares the implementation of the National Greening Program. The presidential proclamation of NYF also called for the creation of the NYF Steering Committee, Technical Working Group and Secretariat and called on all agencies of the executive branch, including the private and public sectors, to take part in NYF-related activities.

Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco of the University of The Philippines At Los Banos (UPLB) opened the rites, with remarks stressing the need for action at all levels to be given by Filipino wildlife conservation advocate Kim Atienza, Kazuyuki Tsurumi of the UN-Food and Agriculture Organization and representatives for the Community-based Management Federation.

The program proper was preceded by mountain trek-trail-running-bikathon event within the botanic garden, an early morning food gala dubbed “Pamahaw sa Gubat” alongside a free “Hagubahob” concert in the forest.
Poster making contest, photo exhibit/contest and drawing sessions with environment-advocate visual artists Robert Alejandro also highlighted the preceding events.

 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to provide PhP1 million fund assistance to local government units to level up solid waste management compliance in Metro Manila.

“The DENR is ready to provide as much as PhP1 million to each local government unit within Metro Manila to assist them in monitoring the compliance, particularly of subdivisions and condominiums, in the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9003,” DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said.

Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management (ESWM) Act of 2000, explicitly puts the responsibility of solid waste management on local government. However, Paje explained that the fund support is an approach taken by the DENR, being the chairman of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), to enhance compliance to the law at the local level, particularly in the metropolis where the garbage problem remains a critical social as well as an environmental issue.

Paje said he already discussed the fund assistance with the Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Francis Tolentino and members of Metro Manila Development Council or their representatives during a recent meeting in Paranaque City.

Paje explained the fund assistance will be used to enhance waste segregation at source to minimize the volume of garbage collected and dumped in landfills. It will be covered by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) among the DENR, the concerned LGU, and a non-government organization (NGO) to be chosen by the LGU, which will be responsible in formulating an appropriate ESWM system for subdivisions or condominiums within the city or municipality. “The LGU may also use part of the fund to access technical assistance from the NGO in conducting information and education campaign on solid waste management,” he added.

According to the DENR chief, among the provisions that will be included in the memorandum of agreement will be for the concerned local government to identify homeowners associations of subdivisions and condominiums that will become beneficiaries under the project, based on a selection criteria that will be developed by the NSWMC.

The LGU will also be tasked under the MOA to provide counterpart personnel, who will be trained and deputized to enforce the solid waste management law. “We expect that with this fund assistance, the local government will be more determined to exact compliance from its constituents,” Paje stressed, as he lamented the seeming apathy of cityfolk toward their environment.

“It pains us to see our own people indiscriminately discarding their garbage in the streets of Metro Manila, dirtying their own surroundings, yet readily follow anti-littering laws in Subic or Singapore,” said Paje, stressing that a strict law enforcement could be the key to compliance.

“Compliance to the law is only a matter of discipline. With strict enforcement of the law, discipline will surely follow,” he said.
Metro Manila generates more than 8,700 tons of garbage a day, around 25% of the country’s total daily generation of 35,000 tons.

 

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.

 

A vision of Filipinos jumping into clean rivers may actually be in sight as the government reported headways in cleaning up major waterways. Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reports that, in the first six months of the Aquino administration (July-December 2010), water pollution in 10 of the country’s 19 priority rivers was reduced by 10 percent compared to the first semester of the year (January-June 2010).

The 10 priority rivers with reduced water pollution include the Meycauayan River, Marilao River and Bocaue River, all in Regio 3; Calapan River in Region 4B; Anayan River in Region 5; Iloilo River in Region 6; Luyang River and Sapangdaku River in Region 7; Balili River in the Cordillera Administrative Region; and Paranaque River in the National Capital Region.

Data culled from the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) showed that the level of water pollution in the 10 priority rivers, generally measured by the biochemical oxygen demand or BOD, for the second half of 2010 was at 26.08 milligrams/Liter (mg/L) on the average, down by 10 per cent from the level measured in the first semester of the same year at 28.84 mg/L.

BOD measures the amount of oxygen consumed by microorganisms in decomposing organic matter in the water. For class C waters – ideal for fisheries, non-contact recreation and manufacturing processes – a level higher than the standard or ceiling of 7 mg/L indicates the presence of more bacteria that deplete the oxygen in the water for other higher forms of aquatic life. In 2009, BOD levels reached as much as126.27 mg/L, or 1,700% beyond the standard.

Paje cited the unprecedented show of confidence and support in the government’s programs as the leading factor in reducing water pollution. So far, 77 corporations have extended human and other resources in the Aquino administration’s initiative to clean up the country’s esteros and other waterways using the public-private partnership approach through the “Adopt-an-Estero” program. These include the Manila North Tollway Corporation, San Miguel Corporation, the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA), Skyway Corporation and San Miguel Foundation.

Additionally, the Philippine Plastics Industry Association (PPIA) has been required to retrieve, collect and recycle plastics in esteros and dumpsites, while an association of supermarkets and retailers has started the “Reusable Bag Campaign for a Greener Environment” as part of concrete efforts to reduce solid wastes dumped along waterways, particularly plastic bags.The government has also issued Cease and Desist Orders (CDO) to eight polluting companies, and fined 22 polluting firms to the tune of P22.6 million. This, Paje said, shows the seriousness of government to improve water quality, especially in light of a report by the World Bank that the cost of water-borne diseases amounts to P6.7 billion a year.

Among the companies issued with CDOs were Tiffany Mansion Condominium, Eisenhower Condominium Corp., Batangas Sugar Central Inc., Waltermart, Medical Center Paranaque, Cebu Hybrid Farms Corp., Superstar Coconut Products, Inc., and Focus Ventures, Inc.

President Aquino had earlier noted that lack of clean water was a “critical constraint to economic growth” as it threatened national development through the spread of diseases. In his speech during the celebration of World Water Day 2011 in March, he underscored the importance of private-public sector partnerships in improving water quality, and vowed to come up with more water-related projects “to allow people access to what is rightfully theirs.”

 

Today's (April 19) advanced celebration of Earth Day at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, saw the unity of local leaders of 33 barangays traversing Diliman Creek and its tributaries, as well as officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Quezon City government and non-government organizations to save the creek and improve its deteriorated state.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, who led the signing of the memorandum of agreement, said the partnership will strengthen the rehabilitation of Diliman Creek, which is one of the major tributaries of Pasig River.

“Maintaining clean waterways is a collective priority. The first MoA we signed for Diliman Creek was with the Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association, and this time we are strengthening the participation of the barangays surrounding the creek to prevent garbage from clogging the waterway and floating these downstream,” Paje said.

Other signatories to the MOA were Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Philippine Mine Safety and Environment Association (PMSEA) President Louie Sarmiento, and Sagip Ilog Pilipinas Movement Executive Director Myrna Jimenez. Serving as witnesses in the signing were local officials of the 33 barangays, DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Juan Miguel Cuna, EMB-National Capital Region Director Roberto Sheen, and Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) General Manager Rodrigo Cabrera.

Part of the strategy to ensure the minimization of garbage that are dumped in Diliman Creek is the simultaneous clean up of Diliman Creek and its tributaries by 33 barangays traversing it every fourth Sunday of the month. This will start on April 24.
In preparation for the upcoming clean up, PMSEA will distribute cleaning implements such as gloves, shovels, and other cleaning materials to each of the 33 barangays.

The undertaking forms part of the “Adopt-an-Estero Program” which encourages the private sector, national and local governments and the civil society to extend support in cleaning up waterways in urban centers.

Under the MoA, the parties will undertake expanded environmental improvement of Diliman Creek as well as conduct information and education campaigns, community mobilization activities, and trainings for concerned stakeholders in support of the program.

For its part, the DENR, through LLDA and EMB, will intensify the monitoring of industrial and commercial establishments, and undertake, among others, regular water quality monitoring and provide the necessary technical assistance to concerned leaders and stakeholder groups in the area.

In addition, the concerned parties also agreed to determine the necessity of, and to the extent possible, plan for more dredging and de-silting of the creek, introduction of interventions such as phyto-remediation through constructed wetlands, planting of bamboo and other plant species along the river banks, rip-rapping or coco-matting, construction and greening of linear parks.

To date, a total of 58 MoAs have been signed with various private companies nationwide to help revive water bodies in different portions of the country.