Inter-agency task force for IPs formed

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has led the creation of an inter-agency task force that would guarantee social protection and uphold the self-determination and development of all indigenous peoples (IPs) in the country.

The task force is composed of representatives from the DENR, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), and the Natural Resources Development Corp. (NRDC), the DENR's corporate arm.

The three agencies signed on Wednesday a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to form the Indigenous Peoples Inter-Agency Task Force (IPITF).

DENR Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio represented Secretary Regina Paz Lopez in the MOU signing, with NCIP executive director and chair Atty. Leonor T. Oralde-Quintayo and NRDC president-designate Sylvia Ordonez signing in behalf of their agencies.

The MOU signing came a week after Lopez announced that an IP Desk will be set up at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

She said the IP Desk will attend to the concerns of IPs who often face threats of land grabbing, forced eviction and human- rights violations.

Under the MOU, a technical working group will be formed to draft the rules of procedures to ensure the observance, effectiveness and smooth functioning of the task force.

The IPITF is tasked to make sure that the IPs are "not subjected to undue pressure and influence from unscrupulous businessmen or other industries intending to extract natural resources."

It is likewise expected to "act towards the fulfillment of the objectives of environmental laws and [IP] rights."

The DENR has promised to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of resoures within ancestral domains and preserve biodiversity, as well as to employ a strict policy of verifying the authenticity of documents pertaining to the use of lands within IP communities.

It also agreed to refrain from issuing titles within ancestral domains and provide opportunities for NCIP to access the Enhanced National Greening Program, the government's massive reforestation and poverty alleviation initiative, for the empowerment of IPs.

For her part, Quintayo said that she was “touched” by the new role given by Lopez to the commission.

“This is the first time that the NCIP and the DENR are working at the national level for really working with the indigenous peoples,” Quintayo said.

She said the preservation and development of ancestral lands for the benefit of IPs require convergence and the intervention of experts, which the collaboration among the three agencies will provide.

The NRDC, for its part, vowed to provide human resources and capital so that the IP communities will be able to make optimum use of their land resources.

The corporation also promised to assist in consultations, planning, product development and marketing for any social enterprise an IP community might wish to undertake.

Whenever available, the NRDC will provide the capital funding or mobilize resources to support biodiversity-friendly social enterprises.

The NCIP, on the other hand, will ensure sustainable use and development of ancestral domains of IPs, free from exploitation and abuse.

The commission also agreed to provide the DENR and the NRDC with community-initiated plans and roadmaps of IP concerns. ###



PH compliance to Montreal Protocol successful so far, DENR says

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the Philippines has made significant strides in complying with the Montreal Protocol, a 29-year-old global agreement to protect the ozone layer.

Finalized in 1987, the international treaty legally enforces the phase-out of the production and use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) or chemicals often used in refrigeration, air-conditioning, foam manufacturing, aerosol production, and fire extinguishing.

"The Philippines has so far been successful in complying with the agreement having phased out all ODS, except for hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), in 2010," DENR Undersecretary for Legal Services and Attached Agencies Analiza Rebuelta Teh said in a report read on her behalf during a forum held in Quezon City to mark the local celebration of the Ozone Day on Sept. 16.

Teh, who is the national coordinator for ODS program, said the country also began reducing the production and use of HFCs by 10 percent last year until the total ban of the last remaining ODS by 2040.

The Philippines signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on Sept. 14, 1988 and ratified it on March 21, 1991.

As a party to one of the most successful and effective environmental treaties ever, the country agreed to the gradual phase-out of ODS, particularly chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).

The Philippines imposed a ban on the importation of CFCs and HCFCs in 2010 and 2013, respectively.

In 1994, the Philippine Ozone Desk (POD) was created to facilitate and coordinate ODS phase-out projects and policies for the overall implementation of the country's obligations under the Montreal Protocol. The POD is under the Environmental Management Bureau, an attached agency of the DENR.

Since ODS are not produced in the Philippines, the focus of its regulation was on the import, processing, sale and disposal of such chemicals.

Over the years, the government has developed, implemented, and updated policies and regulations to regulate, restrict or prohibit the importation, manufacture, processing, sale, distribution, use and disposal of ODS.

A total of 93 ODS projects worth over US$38.8 million have also been approved by the protocol's Multilateral Fund, which contributed to the phase-out of 3,330 tons of ODS in the country.

As a result of the concerted efforts among nations, the ozone layer is healing itself and is expected to recover by the middle of the century.

The Montreal Protocol has significantly contributed to the mitigation of climate change as it prevented the emission of more than 135 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by simply phasing out ODS. ### 


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