Pres. Aquino launches 6-year greening program, plants first of 1.5B trees targeted for NGP

The goal is to put back trees on hundreds of thousands of hectares where they once stood. 

Today, May 13, 2011, President Benigno S Aquino III will lead the launching of the National Greening Program (NGP) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.

He will be joined in the launching ceremony by members of his Cabinet, notably the heads of the National Converge Initiative (NCI) core agencies, namely, Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Sec. Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Sec. Ramon J. P. Paje of the DENR, and Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa. 

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative to the Philippines Dr. Jacqueline Badcock is also expected to attend to receive the NGP Plans and Targets, the country’s contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF).  Through a resolution, the UN has declared 2011 as IYF.   

In a fitting show of example, Pres. Aquino will launch the government’s 6-year reforestation program by registering on-line to the NGP website, thus shall becoming the first NGP registrant, in an apparent gesture of inspiring the citizenry to follow suit and cast the citizens’ support as well.  

Targeted at greening some 1.5 million hectares of degraded forest lands, NGP will focus essentially at developing a sustainable forest resource base to accelerate the national greening campaign and rejuvenate rural economies in parts of the nation’s most chronically poor areas in the uplands, ultimately providing livelihood opportunities for some six million families in the upland areas across the country within six years, from 2011 to 2016. 

NGP also seeks to improve water quality in rivers and irrigation for farm lands, reduce the potential for flooding, soak up carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lay the foundation for an expanded wood-products economy. 

President Aquino issued EO 26 on February 24, 2011 establishing the NGP not only to reforest 1.5 million hectares of land but also to promote a sustained environmental awareness campaign in the face of the deleterious effects of climate change.
Earlier, Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 which bans logging in natural and residual forests nationwide and, at the same time, calls for the preparation of a blueprint for a National Greening Program (NGP) to be formulated by the DENR, DAR and DA through a Convergence Initiative, in coordination with concerned national line agencies including the local government units. The launching ceremony will start at around 9:30 a.m. at the DENR Social Hall, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between DENR Secretary Paje and Energy Development Corporation Chairman Emeritus Oscar M. Lopez for the joint implementation of “BINHI: A Greening Legacy,” a 10-year program that aims to contribute to the restoration of forest cover in the country while addressing the problem on biodiversity loss.  

It will be followed by messages from Agriculture Secretary Alcala and Agrarian Reform Secretary Delos Reyes.

DENR Secretary Paje comes next with a presentation on the overview of the National Greening Program as a new development model that offers incentives to stimulate tree nurturing. The NGP Plans and Targets will then be turned over by Paje to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, as the Philippine contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF). 

President Aquino has earlier issued Proclamation 125, declaring 2011 as the National Year of Forests in the Philippines, in support of the UN declaration.

During the event, the President will also give posthumous awards of recognition to seven “environmental heroes” (four are DENR, three are non-DENR) for having stood up to the call of duty and sacrificing their lives for the protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.    

The launching will be concluded with Pres. Aquino planting a Narra sapling at the Heroes Park located at the back of the DENR main building. 


DENR scores court victory over wastewater dumpers

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scored a legal victory for criminal charges filed against three individuals who were caught dumping liquid waste into a canal in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 27 of Caloocan City found Allan Lumanog, Ariel Olaje and Arwin Reyes guilty of violating Republic Act (RA) 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, and sentenced them to imprisonment of six years and a day up to 10 years. 

Roberto Sheen, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau - National Capital Region (EMB-NCR), called the conviction an “environmental victory” and said that the penal provisions of RA 9275 were enforced following the procedure on custody of evidence under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases which the Supreme Court promulgated in April 2010.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje also hailed the court’s decision and its timeliness. “This comes at a time when the government is aggressively pushing for partnerships with the private sector and local governments in cleaning our waterways, and shows how serious we are in going after violators of pollution laws,” he said. 

Lumanog, Olaje and Reyes were reportedly caught red-handed by officials of Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan City emptying the contents of 46 plastic carbouy containers, which found to be liquid waste containing high concentrations of copper and zinc by the technical staff of EMB-NCR. Such compounds are classified as hazardous wastes under DENR Administrative Order 2004-36, which strengthen the implementation of RA 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990.

The barangay officials had acted on residents’ complaints of a foul smell in their area, and traced the smell to containers on board a parked passenger jeepney. This further led them to a nearby house, inside which was an open canal that eventually drained to a nearby creek. It was in the house where the barangay officials saw the accused unloading the containers.

The officials then made a warrantless arrest and turned over Lumanog and his companions, together with confiscated evidence, to the Caloocan police, who in turn contacted the DENR. Technical experts from the EMB-NCR then wasted no time in conducting an ocular inspection of the site where the three were arrested, and subjected the confiscated liquid waste to a chemical analysis.

In establishing the guilt of the three, the court, under the sala of Judge Victoriano Cabanos, ruled that the liquids indeed contained hazardous substances in toxic amounts, and that the act of discharging them were deliberate and planned. Cabanos also noted the compliance to proper procedures by the authorities involved in the case.

The court then ordered the EMB-NCR to confiscate the liquid waste for immediate and proper disposal. 


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