Press Releases

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje urged research institutions and support organizations to join the agency in the conduct of comprehensive biodiversity assessment and inventory of the country’s key biodiversity areas (KBAs) and protected areas.

Paje made the call during the recent unveiling of two new species of frog discovered on Mt. Nacolod in Southern Leyte, at the National Museum in Manila.

“With the highest rate of discovery of new species in the country, it is expedient for the DENR and support organizations, especially research institutions, to conduct more comprehensive biodiversity assessments in our key biodiversity areas (KBAs) and protected areas,” Paje said.

Paje stressed the importance of such assessments not only to the discovery of more species but also in providing policy and decision makers a sound basis for crafting appropriate conservation measures.

But, at the same time, he admonished that “we must move fast and produce credible results as we are competing against other pressing economic development agenda of the government.”

He cited the recent biodiversity assessment conducted in Southern Leyte in November last year that resulted in the discovery of two new species of frogs that belong to genus Platymantis and a total of 229 recorded flora species, 31 of which are unique to the country.

The assessment was jointly conducted by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) of the DENR, DENR-Region 8, the Flora and Fauna International and the National Museum of the Philippines.

“The discovery of the new frog species brings pride to every Filipino as our country harbors an array of amazing wildlife, many of which are still waiting to discovered,” he said.

The Philippines has been recognized in the international community as having the highest rate of discovery of new species in the world. In the last 10 years, at least 36 new endemics have been discovered in various parts of the country.

The ground assessment on Mt. Nacolod revealed that there were still “some patches of pristine forest” on the mountain where the two frogs were discovered, some portions of it have been opened up due to agricultural expansion and the pressure of growing human population.

Meanwhile, PAWB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said during the event that the discovery of some 40 new species in the country in the last 10 years, including the new frog species from Mt. Nacolod and a new species of cloud rat in Dinagat Island, “make the Philippines a conservation priority country in the world”.

“Biodiversity brings immeasurable direct and indirect benefits not only to the country but also to the global community. This is the reason why the government is continuously working towards providing the necessary conservation measures to rehabilitate and protect the habitats of species,” Lim said.

Also present during the unveiling ceremony were Ralph Timmermann, deputy head of Mission, German Embassy; Dr. Bern-Markus Liss, principal advisor for the Climate –Relevant Modernization of Forest Policy and Piloting of Reducing Emission from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) in the Philippines, GIZ; Dr. Neil Aldrin D. Mallari, country director of Fauna and Flora International; and Director Jeremy Barns of the National Museum of the Philippines.

 

  

 

 

If Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje had his way, the government should stop selling lands in Baguio City and Boracay Island to stop further degradation of the environment.

“The government could only promote public welfare in land that it owns. Once sold to the private sector, we can not dictate… we can only tell [the buyer] how to mitigate [the impacts of development on the environment],” Paje said.

He cited the case of Camp John Hay, which is owned by the government, and how the DENR had issued a cease and desist order on the cutting of more than 1,000 trees for construction purposes. “We can only implement decisions in government properties,” he stressed.

“In Baguio, the biggest land owner is still the government, so we can still mitigate and make decisions that will promote public welfare,” he reiterated.

In the case of Boracay, Paje stressed that based on a 2006 Supreme Court ruling, “Boracay is still owned by the state, and this will lapse by 2016.” Until then, the government has the opportunity to “correct and plan for a more sustainable development of the island”.

According to him, the cadastral survey of the whole island is now underway and will soon be completed. He also said that the DENR has not issued any environmental compliance certificate for any building or establishment being constructed on the island “until such time Boracay has been planned properly.”

A “25+5 rule” is currently being implemented in Boracay through an ordinance passed by the municipality of Malay, Aklan, which has political jurisdiction over the island. Under the ordinance, structures are not allowed within 25 meters from the mean water mark determined between low and high tides, and within an additional five meters intended for tourist access within the beach area.

In a related development, Paje also said that President Aquino had already issued an order directing the DENR and the justice, interior and tourism departments to study the carrying capacities of Baguio City and Boracay and to look into cases of “over-building” in these areas. He also said the President has directed the inclusion of the police in the implementation of environmental laws whenever necessary.

Carrying capacity refers to how much load an area can take over a given period of time from factors such as population and infrastructure without adversely affecting the environment.

In addition to issues on water pollution, environmentalists have also raised concerns about how the bat population in Boracay has dwindled because of disturbance to their habitats.

The environment chief said the President’s order was to ensure that the issues confronting Baguio and Boracay would not be repeated in other tourism sites in the country. He disclosed that the government had identified 78 such sites and approved by the National Tourism Council. These sites include Panglao Island in Bohol, Coron Island in Palawan, and in the Puerto Princesa Underground River which has been experiencing a dramatic increase in tourist arrivals since its proclamation as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Paje likened the decision-making situation of the DENR on issues like Baguio and Boracay to “a high-wire act in balancing economic development with environmental protection.”

On a positive note, however, he welcomed the “raised public consciousness” as the industry has become more conscious of the impact of their actions on the ecosystem,” he said.

 

 

 

  

 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP) will once again join hands in leading the country’s biggest celebration for the environment when they and other partners celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 22, at the Ayala Gardens, Makati City.

As the keynote speaker, DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje is expected to make a report on the state of the Philippine environment and what the Philippines has achieved to improve the country’s environmental integrity. “True to this year’s theme, which is ‘Earth Day Every Day, Everywhere,’ we will show how the DENR and the rest of the Filipino people have worked in partnership for the environment,” he said.

The DENR chief will join co-convenors Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP) President Roberto Guevara, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, Jr., and officials of Ayala Land, Inc. during the half-day celebration to be held at the Ayala Triangle Gardens, behind the Philippine Stock Exchange building along Ayala Avenue.

One of the highlights of the celebration will be a walk for the environment called the “e-lakad”, where a 300-person contingent from the DENR and its bureaus and attached agencies will walk along Makati Avenue and Paseo de Roxas and converge at the program site. They will bear bayongs to be turned over to the other event organizers and later given to other participants in support to Makati City’s campaign to reduce the use of plastics.

Mayor Binay will also reinforce his city’s campaign against plastics when he administers the oath-taking of some 200 members of Makati’s anti-plastics monitoring task force from the different barangays city-wide.

The celebration will start at 6:00 AM with a “Takbo at Diyalogo para sa Kalikasan” and a mass sponsored by the Makati City government. EDNP will also declare its “Earth Day Ambassadors” for different sectors. Other sidelights include an infusion of cultural and musical presentations, as well as an exhibit on the different environmental advocacies of different agencies and companies.

The first Earth Day was celebrated 42 years ago when then US Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin witnessed the adverse impacts of a massive oil spill in 1969 on the environment in and around Santa Barbara in California. The celebration became global in 1990, and nine years later the international secretariat called on the formal organization of local networks working for the goal of sustainable development. In the Philipines, the annual celebration of April 22 as earth day was declared through Presidential Proclamation No. 1481 signed in 2008, with the DENR as the main convenor for the celebration.

 

  

 

To help local government units and regulated industries, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), signed an agreement with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) that will boost green financing in the country by providing concerned stakeholders access to the best financing program available for their environmental improvement initiatives.

The agreement, signed April 12, 2012 at the DBP Executive Lounge, was inked by EMB Assistant Director Gilbert Gonzales for the DENR and DBP President Francisco Del Rosario, Jr.

Under the MoA, the DENR-EMB will work hand-in-hand with DBP as well as other financial institutions to assist its stakeholders in gaining access to financing programs that will support projects on improved environmental compliance, pollution control, waste management, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Gonzales conveyed the DENR’s optimism on the partnership as it seeks to help industries and other establishments, including government offices, to comply with existing environmental laws and standards.

“We recognize that the reason for non-compliance (to environmental requirements) is due to lack of funds to support investments in environmental improvements and pollution control. Through this partnership with DBP, we hope to address this gap and strengthen the implementation of the country’s environmental laws,” Gonzales said.

DBP President Del Rosario, on the other hand, stressed that the agreement provides a framework for a partnership arrangement between DBP and EMB for purposes of providing training and consultancy services to improve the country’s efforts to clean and protect the environment.

“The DBP continues to reaffirm its commitment to help industries, especially those cited for violation, to bring them back to a state of compliance and improve their environmental performance,” del Rosario said.

Alongside the DENR-EMB and DBP MoA, two other agreements were entered into by DBP. One was with European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) President Hubert D’Aboville and the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) Secretary General Octavio Peralta.

The other one was between DBP and the Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST) represented by its Managing Director Sreenivas Narayanan.

ECCP President D’Aboville described the partnership as a means to promote further the concept of sustainable development in the country by “introducing new business models that lead to greater profitability.” ADFIAP Sec. Gen. Peralta expressed his group’s commitment to make this green initiative work.

ASSIST Managing Director Narayanan, on the other hand, highlighted the need to boost small and medium enterprises’ (SMEs’) access on green financing. According to her, there is a need to educate SME’s in applying for financing programs to enhance the sector’s growth.

The DBP has continued to be at the forefront of the banking sector in supporting investments for environmental improvement. Credit facilities such as the environmental development project and the regional infrastructure for growth project have greatly helped the private sector, national agencies and local government units implement their environmental programs through the provision of credit and technical assistance support.

In 2011, the DENR cited the DBP for their green operations and was given an environmental excellence award during the 2011 recognition awards for eco-friendly government offices.

 

  

 

Weekenders will be treated to a free concert and the sight of hot air balloons floating against the backdrop of the glorious Manila Bay sunset when the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) is officially inaugurated as one of the world’s New Seven Wonders of Nature (N7WN) on April 21 at the One Esplanade grounds beside the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, it was announced by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.

Paje said the organizers, led by Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn and representatives of government agencies that were members of a task force created to spearhead the campaign for the PPUR prior to the proclamation, decided to hold two celebrations – one in Metro Manila, and the other in Puerto Princesa City the following day.

“Mayor Hagedorn himself has said that the victory of the PPUR is not a victory of Puerto Princesa City alone but of the entire country, and this is a chance for everyone to ‘share’ in that victory,” said the environment secretary.

Paje is urging Filipinos, especially those in Metro Manila and in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, to attend the celebrations to show national pride in the PPUR’s victory. “This is our way of saying a big ‘thank you’ to all Filipinos who voted for the PPUR or joined in the global campaign that led to the win,” he said. The environment chief acted as the campaign manager during the voting period.

N7WN president and founder Bernard Weber, along with representatives of countries hosting the contest’s six other winners, will also grace the event.

The inauguration will see Weber turning over a commemorative plaque to the Philippine government. The bronze-cast panel measures 130cm x 110cm x 7cm (4.25’ x 3.6’ x 0.23’) and is a heavyweight at 120 kilograms. The N7WN site describes it as “liquid metal… combined with 21st-century aesthetics.” The PPUR plaque was the first produced for the N7WN winners by an old foundry in Munich, Germany, and will be installed at a still-to-be-determined site in Metro Manila. A similar plaque will be installed near the PPUR entrance itself in Palawan.

Hot air balloons will be moored in the area at 3 p.m. and will float overhead until just before the program starts at 6 p.m. The program itself, along with the free concert, will be held at the open grounds beside the One Esplanade building, on a stage that will be designed to resemble the iconic cave entrance to the PPUR. The event will flow for more than an hour and end with a grand fireworks display.

The organizers have been finalizing the lineup of local artists to sing during the concert, but among those who have confirmed include Sarah Geronimo, Joey Ayala, and the shadow-play group El Gamma Penumbra. TV personalities Luis Manzano and Grace Lee will host the event.

The PPUR was declared as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature on November 11, 2011. The other six winners were Halong Bay in Vietnam; the Amazon of South America; Iguazu Falls between Argentina and Brazil; Jeju Island in South Korea; Komodo in Indonesia; and Table Mountain in South Africa. The PPUR’s inauguration will be the first among the winners.