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The Philippines is now categorized as a global “strong performer” after gaining higher marks in environmental performance, outranking Australia, the United States (USA), Singapore, and Bulgaria.

In the biennial Environmental Performance Index (EPI) prepared by Yale and Columbia Universities, the Philippines ranked 42 among 132 countries under the “strong performer” category.

Meanwhile, Australia was ranked 48th, the USA 49th, Singapore 52nd and Bulgaria 53rd, all under the “modest performers” category. A higher EPI rank indicates that a country or region is closer to achieving its established goals in environmental policy.

The EPI, prepared in collaboration with the World Economic Forum in Geneva, Switzerland and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Italy, studies data to analyze how the global community is doing on particular policy issues against environmental pressures, and is used to steer individual countries toward environmental sustainability.

“We are pleased that the international community has recognized our efforts on environmental protection and management. We would like to share this achievement with all the sectors and stakeholders, including other agencies of the government, who have collaborated with us in our programs, particularly in cleaning the air and water, forest protection, national greening program, biodiversity conservation, and other environmental protection initiatives,” Paje said.

Based on the study, the Philippines jumped eight places up from its 50th rank in 2010. It retained its ranking of eighth in the Asia-Pacific region, higher than South Korea, Australia and Singapore which ranked ninth, tenth and eleventh, respectively.

For 2012, the EPI ranked 132 countries on 22 performance indicators across ten policy categories under two policy objectives: Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality. The Philippines gained perfect scores in the indicators for outdoor air pollution, change in forest cover, and growing stocks in forests.

Paje cited strong regulatory efforts of the government to obtain cleaner air, as evidenced by the 30 per cent drop in the amount of total suspended particulates (TSPs) from 166 µg/Ncm (micrograms per normal cubic meter) in June 2010, to 116 µg/Ncm towards the end of last year. The normal standard set for TSP by the World Health Organization is 90 µg/Ncm. Particulate matter or dust contributes to respiratory infections and other diseases.

The environment chief likewise credited the perfect scores in the forestry sector to the issuance by the Aquino administration of Executive Orders (EO) No. 23 and 26. EO 23 imposes moratorium in the cutting of trees in natural and residual forests. It also mandated the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force with the DENR secretary as head, and the chiefs of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as members.

Last year, the task force has confiscated more than 10 million board feet of undocumented logs and lumbers and filed 452 cases against forestry law violators.

On the other hand, EO 26 established the National Greening Program to reduce poverty, provide food security and mitigate climate change by planting 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares over a period of six years. For 2011, the DENR, together with other government agencies, the local government units, the private sector, civil society and other partners were able to plant 69 million seedlings in more than 118,000 hectares nationwide.



The endemic Philippine duck has just gained an additional 178 hectares as its safe haven, this time far up in Northern Luzon.

The addition came in the form of Administrative Order No. 2012-01 signed recently by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, declaring the Malasi Tree Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Barangay San Antonio in Cabagan, Isabela as a critical habitat for the Philippine duck (Anas luzonica) and other water bird species.

The designation of the critical habitat is in accordance with Republic Act (RA) No. 9147, also known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

“This is a major step to conserve and protect the Philippine duck as the area becomes now a protected area, which means that the communities around it should make an effort to minimize human activities that will have adverse impact to the animal,” he said.

Critical habitats are areas that are preserved to support the perpetual existence of a certain plant or animal species, whether they are migratory or naturally occurring in an area.

Under the Administrative Order, the DENR Region 2 is tasked to manage the Malasi Sanctuary in partnership with the Cabagan local government unit (LGU) and other concerned organizations, and in accordance with a Critical Habitat Management Plan specifically prepared for the area.

They are to ensure that any developmental activities within or in the periphery of the declared critical habitat would undergo the necessary assessment process to safeguard the area’s ecological integrity.

They are also to enforce all applicable environmental laws especially those governing acts prohibited by RA 9147 such as dumping of waste products, human settlement, mineral exploration or extraction, burning, logging or quarrying.

The Philippine duck has been described as “the tropical version of the mallard,” a type of duck commonly found in more temperate regions such as the Americas and Europe. Its population has been on a decline, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to classify it as “vulnerable” under its Red List of Threatened Species.

The Malasi area is already familiar among avid bird watchers as it is a known sanctuary for various species of ducks, herons, and other migrant birds. It has also been found to support a significant population of the Philippine duck.

In September 2011, the DENR had also declared a 27-hectare wetland area in Cabusao, Camarines Sur as a critical habitat for the Philippine duck.



Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje welcomed the writ of kalikasan issued by the Supreme Court, directing him and other DENR officials to refrain from issuing permits for operation of fish cages in Taal Lake.

At the same time, Paje directed DENR-Region 4A Executive Director Reynulfo Juan, who also sits as the chair of the multisectoral Protected Areas Management Board of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL), to convene immediately the board to review and discuss the management plan of Taal Volcano in light of the writ of kalikasan.

“We welcome the move of the Supreme Court, as this fully supports the intention of the government to improve the environmental quality of our rivers, lakes and other waterways, which the DENR has been waging all these years, particularly last year when we launched our Adopt-an-Estero program,” Paje said.

Paje clarified, however, that the DENR does not issue permits for fish cages but the concerned local government units. “The regulation and control of the fish cage industry within the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) is with the local government since they have jurisdiction over the aquaculture zone. The concerned mayor issues the annual permit and the license to operate fish cages within his/her political jurisdiction. In turn, he/she collects fees from the fish cage operators for their municipality,” he explained.

According to him, this practice of the LGUs assuming the mandate to issue permits has been institutionalized even prior to the creation of the PAMB, and continued to this day as the LGUs are also regular members of the PAMB.

Paje said that among the major issues that need to be looked into in light of the writ of kalikasan include the immediate dismantling of illegal fish cages and other aqua structures.

Paje also said the board will need to examine the contribution of pollutive establishments and other development activities along banks of rivers that drain into the lake. “Another that will have to be looked into by the board are the land-based activities that contribute to the pollution of the rivers surrounding the protected area, that also impact on the water quality of Taal Lake,” Paje stressed.

In a report, DENR’s Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO) and concurrently park superintendent of TVPL Laudemir Salac said that the dismantling of illegal fish cages and other aqua structures in the protected area started way back in 2008 when the executive committee of the PAMB had authorized the Batangas provincial government to spearhead the campaign. Relative to this, Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto created the Environmental Law Enforcement Task Force for TVPL composed of representatives from local and national government agencies, including law enforcement agencies.

As of 2011, Salac reported the task force was able to dismantle a total of 6,945 illegal aqua structures, broken down as follows: 1,702 in 2008; 3,593 in 2009; 488 in 2010; and 1,162 in 2011.



Calling all mountaineers, both local and foreign, wishing to scale up the mountains of Mt. Kanlaon.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has suspended indefinitely all mountaineering activities at Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park (MKNP) in Negros Occidental due to cracks and landslides caused by the recent 6.9 earthquake that hit the province.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the suspension is imperative to ensure the safety of mountaineers and other park visitors.

“The department’s decision to suspend mountain climbing and trekking activities to Mt. Kanlaon is to ensure the safety of tourists, both local and foreign,” Paje said.

Paje likewise advised field personnel conducting assessment and monitoring activities to be watchful of possible falling rocks and other sediments from the landslide affected areas.

In a report, DENR - MKNP Park Superintendent Cecil L. Cañada said that based on initial assessment, some portions of the Mt. Kanlaon’s crater have been affected by last week’s earthquake. “There were cracks on the volcano surface and landslides. Mountain trails and the eco-tourism area of the park were also affected,” she said.

Cañada also said that all advance booking and trekking permits have also been suspended until further notice.

She also said that based on the reconnaissance conducted by MKNP Eco-Tourism Officer Angelo C. Bibar and other trained guides and rescue group based in So. Guintubdan, La Carlota City, frequent aftershocks coupled with occasional heavy rainfall could also pose danger to the lives of mountain trekkers and tourists as well.

Mount Kanlaon straddles the cities of Bago, La Carlota and San Carlos City; and the municipalities of Murcia and La Castellana, all in Negros Occidental. Its boundaries also extend up to Canlaon City of Negros Oriental.



Some 500 upland farmer leaders from all over the country and an equal number of their partners from local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations (NGOs) and national agencies will gather at the Fontana Convention Center in Pampanga on February 15-17 to showcase their community-based forest management (CBFM) gains and discuss the challenges they face as forest stewards, it was announced by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

The congress will be the biggest gathering of representatives of forest-based communities and forest-focused NGOs to be ever assembled.

According to Paje, many of the farmer participants are former “slash-and-burn farmers” or “kaingineros” whose cropping activities involve clearing and burning small patches of forest to be able to grow such cash crops as upland rice, corn, root crops, beans, and other vegetables.

“These “kaingineros” have since evolved into forest stewards and are now officers of people’s organizations (POs) working as Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) practitioners with the support of development NGOs, donor institutions, and DENR field offices,” Paje said.

The CBFM was adopted in 1995 through Executive Order 263 as the Philippines’ national strategy for the sustainable development of its forest lands. The strategy involves the engagement of forest-based families under a CBFM agreement with the DENR to develop, protect, and use portions of forest lands.

A total of 1.6 million hectares of forest lands have so far been placed under such agreements that are effective for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

With the theme “CBFM: Kaagapay ng NGP”, the congress will discuss how the CBFM as a strategy will be harnessed to contribute to the reforestation activities of the National Greening Program launched by President Aquino last year.

Among the highlights of the event is the showcasing of CBFM communities’ best practices in addressing forest destruction, as well as local problems of food security and wood supply.

The POs will also share insights on how their CBFM projects help the country address its thrusts on tourism, biodiversity conservation, livelihood generation, and climate change.