Amid the setbacks posed by the pandemic, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) remains optimistic that the agency could achieve its 10-point priority environmental agenda for 2021.

"True, there are key activities under the DENR’s 10 priority programs that have been stalled or slowed down due to COVID-19 restrictions, but many of these targets have been accomplished already beyond expectations," Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said during the mid-year assessment of the DENR's priority programs last July 5.

The DENR conducted the assessment of its 10 priority programs—the Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP); Manila Bay Rehabilitation; Forest Protection and Anti-illegal Logging program; Clean Air; Clean Water; Solid Waste Management; Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation; Scaling-up of Coastal and Marine Ecosystem; Geo-Hazard, Groundwater Assessment and Responsible Mining; and Improved Land Administration and Management—covering the period between January and May 2021.

Despite the "restricted conditions," Cimatu said that seven regions managed to undertake plantation establishment activities under the ENGP.

These involved 17,696 family-beneficiaries for the planting and maintenance of about 1.97 million seedlings.

"Although hampered by the health protocols and travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19, the implementation of ENGP is on track in most of the regions," DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations and Environment Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna explained.

He noted that about 98 percent of the total annual target area is set for plantation establishment in the third quarter as "the seedlings become plantable and ready for outplanting."

Cuna also reported that the DENR was able to conduct 923 apprehensions in illegal logging which resulted in the confiscation of 1,444 sacks of charcoal, 721,500 board feet of undocumented forest products valued at P24.7 million, and some 400 conveyances and implements.

Moreover, through the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System, 53,040 kilometers or 61 percent of the annual target of 86,868 kilometers were patrolled by 3,532 forest patrollers.

This has resulted in the detection of 3,367 potential illicit activities, of which 1,479 cases were classified as "requiring post-patrol responses" and responded to by teams dispatched from the nearest DENR field offices.

The DENR also conducted the closure of all 335 open dumpsites in the country, exceeding its target of 219 dumpsites by 152.97 percent and the inspection and monitoring of 519 treatment, storage and disposal facilities registered nationwide or 390 percent of the annual target of 133.

On improved land management, a total of 11,167 agricultural and 7,902 residential patents were issued which already exceeded the annual target by 277.57 and 110.92 percent of 4,023 and 7,124, respectively.

"We are on our way towards the completion of our mission and those challenges did not deter you from giving your share in moving our 10 priority programs," Cimatu told DENR officials and some 650 field officers who joined the virtual event. ###