The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will intensify the implementation of government programs aimed at enhancing resilience of ecosystems and communities amid the growing threats and likely impacts of climate change.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu made this assurance as he presented to the public the accomplishments of the DENR among the other member-agencies of the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation, Mitigation and Disaster Risk Reduction (CCAM-DRR) during the past year, in time for the third State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte next week.

Since July last year, Cimatu said the DENR has been working towards improving the country’s forest cover, rehabilitating mined-out areas, conserving coastal and marine resources, and enforcing environmental laws to help ecosystems and communities adapt to and mitigate the effects of changing climate.

“These programs undoubtedly show the government’s resolve to deal decisively with extreme weather events and disturbances so that environment and people can bounce back more easily from their negative impacts,” Cimatu said during the pre-SONA presentation of the CCAM-DRR Cabinet Cluster, which he co-chairs with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Cimatu said the government has shown its steadfastness in protecting the country’s water resources and fragile island ecosystems with its commitment to rehabilitate the pollution-challenged Boracay Island, which has been closed to tourists for six months since April 26.

So far, Cimatu said the DENR and other agencies involved in the rehabilitation have cleared a number of illegal structures built on areas classified as forestlands and wetlands.

“The clearing operations will pave the way for the rehabilitation and restoration of these ecosystems’ natural functions, especially for clean water supply, flood control, and wildlife habitat,” Cimatu said.

Likewise, the DENR has identified establishments that discharge their untreated wastewater directly to the sea, one major reason for the water contamination in Boracay’s famous white beach.

Charges are being readied against these establishments for violation of the Clean Water Act, other environmental rules and regulations and local ordinances.

Cimatu also reported that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has completed the subsidence hazard mapping of 40 sinkholes identified throughout Boracay, while undertaking geohazard assessments of the coastline caused by extreme weather conditions and sea level rise.

Meanwhile, Cimatu said the Enhanced National Greening Program (E-NGP), the government’s flagship reforestation initiative that doubles as an anti-poverty measure, continued to make headway.

The E-NGP, he said, would remain as the DENR’s top strategy to mitigate climate change impacts.

Aside from increasing the country’s forest cover to act as carbon sinks and natural buffers against weather phenomena in the case of mangroves and beach forests, the E-NGP also supports forest-dependent communities and increases their resilience to disasters as well.

“The E-NGP provides opportunities for communities, from the upland to coastal, to develop social enterprises and reap the benefits from sustainable livelihoods,” Cimatu explained.

From July 2017 to June 2018, the DENR and its partners were able to plant trees on more than 184,500 hectares, bringing to 1.87 million hectares the total number of areas covered by the E-NGP.

The E-NGP has also seen the establishment of more than 5,000 hectares of mangrove and beach forest plantations, of which almost 3,700 hectares were in areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

As additional measure in protecting the county’s rich coastal and marine resources, the DENR has assessed and mapped more than 80,000 hectares of coastal habitats across the country for potential sustainable livelihood opportunities.

Adding feathers to its cap are the issuance of Presidential Proclamation 489, declaring 352,000 hectares within the Philippine Rise as a marine resource reserve, and the enactment of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-NIPAS) Act.

“These issuances are expected to spur more development projects that could ensure better conservation and protection measure and enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts nationwide,” Cimatu said.

According to Cimatu, enhanced efforts in environmental law enforcement have yielded results against illegal loggers, miners and wildlife traffickers.

During the past 12 months, the DENR’s specialized task forces led the confiscation of almost 1.5 million board feet of forest products and 784 live animals with an estimated market value of P51 million. Their efforts also led to the conviction of 16 wildlife law violators, issuance of 89 cease and desist orders against illegal mining operations, and the filing of 51 cases against them in local courts.

The DENR, through its attached agency the Laguna Lake Development Authority or LLDA, has successfully demolished 90 illegal structures spanning 652 hectares of Laguna de Bay.

It is set to remove more illegal structures covering 668 hectares, in a bid to comply with the lake’s carrying capacity for fish pens and cages. ###