Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said that his agency is challenged to “perform even more” on report that the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III has received positive marks on environmental issues in an opinion survey conducted by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) to assess the third quarter performance of the President.

“We are happy with the positive rating given by the people on the government’s performance in so far as environmental issues are concerned. This could only mean that our efforts in various fronts of environmental protection and natural resources management are being felt and appreciated by the people. But at the same time, we are challenged to perform even more,” Paje said.

The PIA study primarily intended to assess the President’s performance as of the third quarter of this year on issues related to the economy, good governance, social development, justice and security, and climate change and environmental protection. It was conducted from Sept. 23-25, 2011 via face-to-face interviews with 1,262 respondents, representing 10 sectors from 64 provinces nationwide.

Specifically on environment, study results showed that 75 per cent of the respondents believed in the President’s determination to improve the country’s preparedness for disasters; 64 per cent gave him positive marks for protecting endangered species and their natural habitat; 61 per cent of the respondents approved of the President’s efforts on stopping environmental abuse and destruction; and 57 per cent gave him the thumbs up for cleaning and clearing natural waterways.

Earlier, the Social Weather Station (SWS) also reported of a “very good” overall rating for P-Noy administration’s 3rd quarter performance based on its survey conducted Sept. 4-7, 2011, with 1,200 respondents.

The DENR chief stressed, however, that even with the positive response of the public, his department will continue to level up its efforts to respond to public expectations. “While the series of environmental disasters has somehow made our people become more aware on what could happen if we neglect our environment, I would like to also give credits to the advocacy that we have embarked in partnership with various sectors of our society,” Paje said.

These public-private partnerships which, he said, provided the catalyst to boost the department’s performance and that made an imprint on the people’s consciousness include program and policy reforms in mining, forest management, pollution control and prevention, land management and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The environment chief particularly cited the total log ban imposed on natural and residual forests, the National Greening Program and the creation of the National Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force as important high-impact measures that the P-Noy administration has been spearheading. “These three, along with our intensified actions against forestry law violators, address the issue of environmental protection, disaster preparation, and habitat conservation,” he said.

He also mentioned the geohazard maps made available by the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau to the different local government units (LGUs) as important tools in planning for and avoiding disasters in localities.

As for clean waterways, the DENR secretary said that one of the agency’s initiatives with the private sector and other government partners which is the “Adopt an Estero” program “has shown tangible proof to our stakeholders that cleaning up our waterways is indeed possible.” To date, the agency has a total of 231 partners nationwide for the program, which aims to clean up or rehabilitate esteros and other waterways to prevent possible flooding. The program, which was launched in September of 2010, also supports the massive cleanup of the Manila Bay area, as mandated by the Supreme Court.

At the same time, the DENR has also partnered with the Philippine Plastics Industry, supermarket chains, and Metro Manila LGUs to lessen the volume of plastics generated and disposed of in dump facilities or, worse, in esteros in the National Capital Region.

Paje also remarked that its strong partnership with local government units for the enforcement of environmental laws, particularly the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, and other environmental programs within their respective political jurisdictions has earned public appreciation as shown in a recent survey on good local governance.

In said survey, also conducted by SWS in July 2011, the city/municipal government scored “very good satisfaction rating” on protecting the environment (73%) and collecting garbage (70%).