Press Releases

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje condemned the killing of Forester Melania B. Dirain as he sought the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to fast track the investigation.

Paje said the killing could be related to the anti-illegal logging campaign in the region. “The investigation is still on-going, but we could not somehow blame her murder to our step-up campaign against illegal logging because of the official circumstances that For. Dirain was into at the time of her death,” Paje said.

Dirain, 47, was shot dead Tuesday (Feb. 7) right inside her office by an unidentified gunman. She was a Forestry Specialist at the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the DENR in Sanchez Mira, Cagayan.

Paje said that based on a radio message, Dirain, a mother of three and a widow, was gunned down by an unidentified armed man inside her office between 7:30 and 8:30 in the evening, while she was talking to a male office messenger.

Dirain died on the spot. Five spent shells from an apparent caliber .45 and four deformed slugs were recovered from the crime scene.

The report also indicated the gunman, wearing black pants, black jacket and a scarf on his head, left the scene immediately after the shooting.

Forester Dirain joined the DENR in 1989 as a forest guard. In January 2010, she was promoted to the position of Forestry Specialist.

At the time of her death, Dirain was the team leader of the CENR Office in the apprehension of undocumented lumber, flitches, and other forest products in the area.

Field reports indicate that the most recent anti-illegal logging operations made by her team was last January 27 when they apprehended in Alcala town, also in Cagayan Province, some 118 pieces of undocumented lumber of premium hardwood, with estimated volume of 2,167 board feet, aboard a six-by-six truck owned by the Philippine National Police Regional Mobile Group with plate number SHD 961.

The confiscated forest products, including the conveyance, are presently impounded at the DENR’s field office in Alcala, Cagayan.

In a report to the DENR chief, DENR-Region 2 Executive Director Benjamin Tumaliuan said that Dirain was the first lady forester that he designated to coordinate with local government units that are known to be “hotspot areas” for illegal logging.

“Being a female, we thought they would not harm her,” Tumaliuan explained in his spot report.

The latest killing of a DENR field officer happened a year after Executive Order (EO) No. 23 was enforced last February 1, 2011, placing the entire country under a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests.

“It compels this administration to lead the way in repelling this affront on our environmental law enforcers, which is why the creation of an anti-illegal logging task force is one of the salient aspects of EO 23,” Paje said, stressing that high in the agenda of the task force is to identify the protectors and financiers of illegal logging activities, “whether they be in government or not.”

The EO also provides for the creation of anti-illegal logging task force to be composed of the secretaries of the DENR, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, the chief of the Philippine National Police and the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Paje stressed that laying down the national policy on logging moratorium is only the first step, but the real test of its bite, he said, “is in the enforcement in the battlefield where our co-workers who stand in the way of illegal loggers are the ones being silenced.”

  

 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), is set to file a case against a seafood restaurant in Pasay City for allegedly serving exotic food in violation of Republic Act No. 9147, also known as the Philippine Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

In a report to DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, DENR-National Capital Region (NCR) Executive Director Nilo Tamoria said the case being prepared against Hingyak Delicious Seafood Restaurant stemmed from the confiscation of some 4.25 kilos of wildlife derivatives, including snake skin, snake meat and chopped meat from soft-shelled turtles, in a raid conducted last January 30, 2012 by joint operatives of the DENR-NCR, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), wildlife enforcement officers of Pasay City government, and staff of TV5’s investigative program, Bitag.

Tamoria said the raid was conducted in response to a request from Bitag, which has been receiving reports from the public that the establishment was allegedly offering and serving exotic food.

He also said all confiscated derivatives have been turned over to the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) for safekeeping.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the joint move of DENR and NBI is meant to send a strong signal that the government is dead serious in its campaign to protect the country’s wildlife resources to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

“The reason why we have laws is put order in our society. Our wildlife law is passed to protect our wildlife resources as they play an important role in sustaining a balanced ecology,” Paje said.

He also stressed that the collection, hunting or possessing of wildlife, their by-products and derivatives without proper permit are considered illegal acts punishable under the Wildlife Act.

  

 

The recognition of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of world’s Seven Wonders of Nature and the adoption of the Manila Declaration on furthering the implementation of the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment marked the celebration of World Wetlands Day in the country, it was stressed today by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

“This is definitely a ‘double success of sort’ for our wetland areas in particular, and the marine environment in general. In both events, Filipinos should take pride for taking the lead in the global effort to protect wetland areas not only for the economic benefits they provide but also the ecological services that we are now enjoying, and which we want the next generations to also enjoy,” Paje said.

February 2 of every year is designated as World Wetlands Day (WWD) by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also known as the Ramsar Convention. It is also declared the National Wetlands Day by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 74, series of 1999. This year’s theme is “Wetlands and Tourism”.

Wetlands are lands that may be permanently or seasonally inundated. These include lakes and rivers, swamps and marshes, peatlands, estuaries, tidal flats, mangroves and coral reefs, and even man-made sites such as fish ponds, rice paddies and reservoirs.

Paje said that the newly-declared wonder of nature best exemplifies this year’s WWD theme. “PPUR is a wetland, and has long been considered a prime natural jewel for our local tourism, drawing both foreign and local tourists” he said.

According to him, the underground river is a part of a national park that encompasses various interconnecting ecosystems from the mountain to the sea, including forests, inland wetlands like rivers and swamps, and coastal wetlands such as tidal flats and seagrass beds.

Earlier, Paje announced the move of the DENR, through its Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), to officially nominate PPUR to the Ramsar Convention as a “wetland of international importance.”

Paje also said that the adoption of the Manila Declaration by representatives of 65 countries that participated in the recently concluded Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections and the Intergovernmental Review Meeting on the Implementation of the GPA for the Protection of Marine Environment was equally an important tool in support of this year’s WWD’s international theme.

“Tourism has been identified in the global meeting as a key sector whose impacts and opportunities are closely interlinked with coastal areas and other wetland areas, as well as the marine environment,” he said.

Containing 16 provisions focusing on programs and activities that need to be undertaken starting this year up to 2016, the Manila Declaration calls on member countries to step up their efforts to protect the ‘blue world’ from pollutive land-based activities, particularly on priority areas such as marine litter, wastewater, fertilizer-induced pollution and biodiversity loss.

 

  

 

After officially proclaimed as one of World’s Seven Wonders of Nature, another global recognition is in the works for the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in Palawan.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the DENR, through the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) is set to nominate the PPUR as Ramsar Site to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or Ramsar Convention in Switzerland.

Paje made the announcement even as he expressed gratitude to the Filipino people all over the world for casting their votes for the underground river. He also thanked other nationalities for their “overwhelming support,” saying the inclusion of the protected area among the world’s natural wonders is “very timely” with the government’s thrust to boost local tourism.

“The PPUR could be one of the gateways for tourists who want to see the country. It will also be a showcase of how the government can make the necessary adjustments, especially in terms of infrastructure and services, in coping with the expected influx of tourists to the area, to ensure that the pristine environment that the PPUR is known for will not be damaged irreversibly,” Paje explained.

 

According to him, the nomination of PPUR as a Ramsar site will highlight this year’s celebration of World Wetlands Day in the country. “February 2 is World Wetlands Day. We are going to mark this year’s celebration with the submission of PPUR’s nomination as a Ramsar site or wetlands of international importance,” he said.

Through Resolution No. 427-2011 issued on Dec. 22, 2011, the Puerto Princesa city government recommended to PAWB the park’s nomination to the Ramsar Convention because of its importance as a biodiversity conservation area. Among others, it features a spectacular limestone or karst landscape that contains an 8.2 kilometer-long underground river that flows directly to the sea.

PAWB, a bureau under the DENR, is the National Administrative Authority of Ramsar Convention.

The nomination of PPUR is pursuant to the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, also called the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that seeks to conserve and sustainably utilize wetlands and protect them from progressive encroachment.

The Ramsar Convention was adopted in the Iranian City of Ramsar in 1971 and the Convention's member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet, with Philippines as the 119thcontracting party to the Convention.

Once approved, the PPUR is going to be the fifth protected areas in the country proclaimed as Ramsar Sites. Protected areas previously declared as Ramsar Sites include the Olonga Wildlife Sanctuary in Cebu in 1994; the Tubbataha Reefs, also in Palawan; Naujan Lake National Lake in Mindoro Oriental; and the Agusan Marsh in Agusan del Sur; all in 1999.

The environment chief explained that the PPUR National Park does not only refer to the river alone but encompasses all the various interconnecting ecosystems from the mountain to the sea, which include eight types of forests such as ultramafic and limestone; inland wetlands like rivers and fresh swamp; karst ecosytems; and coastal wetlands such as tidal flats and seagrass beds.

While noting the increase in tourist arrivals in Palawan the past year from 170,000 in 2010 to 250,000 in 2011, Paje assured the public that the DENR, together with the PPUR’s multi-sectoral Protected Area Management Board, and other government agencies would be working closely together to protect the PPUR.

The secretary also acknowledged that although the Philippine campaign “never doubted” that the PPUR would emerge as one of the winners past the provisional stage because of its proven natural and geological wonders, the overwhelming support from Filipinos all over the world who cast their votes online or via text messaging, and encouraged others to do the same, was a huge contributing factor for the win.

Palawan has been one of the country’s famous destinations, and the reported increase in tourist arrivals has paved the way for the construction of a new international airport in Puerto Princesa City , as well as additional hotels to accommodate the visitors.

  

 

The Global Conference on Land-Ocean Connections (GLOC) and the Third Intergovernmental Review (IGR3) Meeting on the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action (GPA) for the Protection of the Marine Environment ended with a high note with the adoption of the "Manila Declaration” by 381 delegates, including 17 environmental ministers, from 65 governments and the European Commission Thursday (Jan. 26) at the EDSA Shangrila Manila.

At the same time, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Amina Mohamed commended Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and the Philippine government for the “excellent preparations and hosting of the 3rd Intergovernmental Review.”

DENR Secretary Paje said the adoption of the Manila Declaration reaffirms the commitment of member-countries to step up their efforts, particularly on priority areas identified in the GPA, such as the reduction, control and prevention of marine litter, wastewater and pollution from fertilizers.

He also said that what transpired during the four-day conference was a “giant leap” in the sustainable development of coastal and marine environment “within the prism of green economy in a blue world”.

“I strongly believe that what transpired the past four days is a giant leap towards the improvement of our coastal and marine environment … provide us (with) directions on our way towards the development of our coastal and marine environment within the prism of the green economy,” Paje said.

He also said that while the conference output is non-binding, he stressed that “what is binding is our responsibility to our people who depend on our marine resources for employment, income and subsistence.”

The Manila Declaration on Furthering the Implementation of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities contains 16 provisions centering on programs to be undertaken for the period 2012-2016 at the international, regional and national levels, and within the framework of integrated coastal management, on GPA’s priority areas such as marine litter, wastewater, pollution from fertilizer and biodiversity loss.

The Declaration also calls on member-countries to engage and step up their efforts to develop strategies and policies on the sustainable use of nutrients so as to improve nutrient use efficiency with attendant economic benefits for all stakeholders, including farmers, and to mitigate negative environmental impacts.

The document also indicated an agreement among the delegates to improve cooperation and coordination at all levels in dealing with issues related to oceans, coasts, islands and their associated watershed by applying integrated management such as “ridge to reef” approaches, as well as strengthen and promote the implementation of existing Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans, including other relevant global and regional arrangements, agreements and programs for the protection of the marine and coastal environment.

The delegates also indicated in the Manila Declaration their decision to invite the United Nations agencies, inter-agency groups and multilateral environmental agreements to strengthen the integration of the GPA into their policies, plans and programs.

They also call on the Global Environment Facility, other global and regional financial institutions, development partners, and donor countries to make coordinated efforts to support developing countries as well as countries with economy in transition in the GPA implementation through financial and technical support and capacity building.

Through the Manila Declaration, the delegates also conveyed their request to the UNEP Executive Director to forward the document as a contribution by the GPA IGR3 to the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012, as well as to convene the next IGR meeting in 2016.