The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered into new agreements with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance the country’s biodiversity conservation and water access and sanitation services.

Secretary Roy A. Cimatu welcomed the five-year partnership with the USAID for the Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) and the Safe Water projects during the signing of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

"Given the current pandemic, the DENR is committed more than ever to address the country’s environmental challenges.  We can easily attain this goal if we have partners like USAID," Cimatu said, adding that the international development agency has been a "time-tested partner for the environment.”

The SIBOL and Safe Water programs are among the projects under the P7.25 billion (US$150 million) USAID-Philippines agreement on enhanced ecosystems and community resilience signed by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and USAID in February 2021.

The DENR is one of the implementing partners that will manage the delivery of program results toward the achievement of the objectives, while the USAID will provide technical assistance for the SIBOL and Safe Water initiatives.

SIBOL is a P1.1-billion project (US$22 million) that aims to improve natural resource governance, stimulate public and private sector investments in conservation, and reduce environmental crimes.

Meanwhile, the Safe Water initiative is an P870-million project (US$18.4 million) that intends to increase access to resilient water supply and sanitation services, improve the sustainable management of water resources, and strengthen the governance and regulation of the water sector.

The DENR through the Biodiversity Management Bureau and Forest Management Bureau, various DENR field offices across the region, as well as the NEDA, and the National Water Resources Board will be carrying out these projects in the next five years.

"Together, through these projects, we will advance our shared goals of environmental sustainability and improve the lives of Filipino communities," Cimatu said.

For his part, Acting Mission Director of USAID Sean Callahan said: “The long history of the partnership between DENR and USAID has been fruitful and together we have achieved much in creating a more secure environment that sustains both ecological integrity and human development."

Cimatu also acknowledged the significant contributions of USAID to the country’s environment during the ceremony held last Thursday.

He cited the DENR-USAID partnership on the conservation of natural forests through the B+WISER (Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience) and Protect Wildlife projects.

"USAID, a consistent and effective ally of the DENR, has also supported us in creating sustainable models which guided us for the management of our ecosystems," he added.

Cimatu also highlighted a "milestone partnership" between the DENR and USAID through the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System that helped improve the management of over 90 percent of Philippine forests, which directly benefited Filipinos who depend on the forest for their livelihood. ###