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The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) continues to enhance its information, education and communication (IEC) strategies to keep environment conservation relevant amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The DENR is doing its part to reach out to the public through various platforms—webinars and social media to overcome the challenges of personal interactions due to the pandemic," DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said.

The DENR chief also said: "The COVID-19 pandemic is a major reason why we at the DENR intensified the IEC campaigns – for us to realize that maintenance of ecosystems services and a clean and healthy environment are the requirements to prevent diseases which are zoonotic in origin, such as COVID-19.”

“Zoonotic diseases are a result of disruption of nature’s processes, and destruction of habitats leading to increased human-wildlife- livestock interactions which could facilitate the transmission of wild viruses. A crisis like this can be prevented if we just change our ways and behavior in dealing with nature,” he added.

Cimatu cited that the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) has just launched Samot-Sari, a five-part web series shown in the DENR-BMB’s online platforms, among its other existing IEC campaigns.

Through these programs, the DENR-BMB continues to reach out to its stakeholders and the Filipino people about the importance of protecting our forests, freshwater and marine ecosystems, government programs, laws and the role of every citizen in protecting these natural ecosystems.

"Aside from BMB’s endeavors, we also have the Strategic Communication and Initiatives Service (SCIS)—the official communication arm of the Department—which consistently provides the stakeholders and the general public relevant information on finding balance between maintenance of the environment and economic development," Cimatu said.

The DENR chief said they also support other initiatives, such as the Our Fragile Earth--a docuseries featuring the Philippines’ protected areas while educating the stakeholders and the Filipino people on the importance of the country’s diverse and unique biological heritage.

Our Fragile Earth, which was conceptualized and hosted by House Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, was produced by the DENR-BMB.

During the virtual press briefer for the Our Fragile Earth series, Legarda underscored the need to understand why educating and spreading the information is important.

"How can we conserve what we do not know about, what we do not understand?" Legarda lamented.

"Our people’s energies must be used to defend our natural heritage. We must all work together to conserve wildlife and nature and mitigate disasters worsened by climate change. Our survival also depends on how well we understand our surroundings," she added.

In partnership with Legarda’s office, the DENR-BMB also holds the Protected Area (PA) Talk, which showcases the various facets of PA management, which include a partnership with local governments, private sector, civil society organizations, and other government agencies; law enforcement; sustainable and innovative financing; PA governance; enhancement of biodiversity; impact on local communities; innovations; and engagement with local communities and indigenous peoples.

PA Talk has already streamed six episodes featuring 22 protected areas since June 22, 2020, via the Facebook pages of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda and the DENR- BMB.

Last March, the DENR through the BMB also launched the eLearning course for Basic Wildlife Law Training and the Wildlife Philippines Podcast in partnership with the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Facility Illegal Wildlife Trade Project, and USAID-Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Project 3.

The DENR through its Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), also launched public access to various significant studies on environment and natural resources. Journals that can be downloaded from their official website include Sylvatrop, Canopy International, and Research Information Series on Ecosystems or RISE last year.

Through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the National Solid Waste Management Commission has launched a short online course on solid waste management, which can now be accessed for free via TESDA’s official website.

According to Cimatu, there will be "more IEC campaigns that will be launched not only by the BMB, ERDB, EMB, and the SCIS but by all the other bureaus of the DENR through their online platforms."

Legarda said that while the pandemic recovery may be long, “it needs to be seen through a lens of a human being who understands environment, climate, and sustainability.”

"COVID-19 is an environmental issue at hand," said Legarda, who is principal author of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018 or Republic Act 11038.

Through RA 11038, a total of 94 protected areas were added to the existing 13 legislated protected areas, adding up to a total of 107 legislated protected areas all over the country.

"We see the connection between environment and climate on one hand, and pandemic recovery on the other. We cannot fight COVID-19 without also fighting for nature and the environment," Legarda added. ###