The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking into expanding the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism to other sectors next year, following its successful adoption in settling land disputes through the Land Management Bureau (LMB).

DENR Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and ADR Committee Chair Atty. Michelle Angelica Go bared the proposal in her message at the awarding of best ADR officers during the National ADR Day Celebration held at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City on December 16.

In her presentation titled “Building Trust: Key Factor in Environmental Peacebuilding,” Go called the ADROs as “environmental peacebuilders,” noting that building mutual trust between two parties “is the first element that you should establish.”

“We leverage on the environment and natural resources to foster sustained peace instead of litigiousness among stakeholders. Sustained peace will hasten the attainment of the development objectives of the department which will definitely have a ripple effect on the societal goals of inclusive growth and poverty reduction,” Go said.

She underscored that the DENR legal affairs office “discourages” litigation which she described as “too costly, too painful.”

Go said that “it is already a success” by just being able “to bring to the table two families that have not spoken to each other for 20 or 30 long years ” and hope to forge a peaceful outcome between the parties,” noting that the accomplishments made since the ADR rolled out in the lands sector in 2018 bodes well for plans to institutionalize the ADR mechanism in the DENR’s other sectors in 2022.

The proposal is pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9285, or the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 2004 and DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2005-18, which calls for the adoption of the ADR principles and procedures in the resolution of conflict.

Since its roll out in the lands sector in 2018, a total of 1,020 cases have been referred for ADR as of December 8, 2021 with some 281 cases still under ADR proceedings.

Meanwhile, a total 739 ADR cases have been mediated during the period, of which 321 disputes or 43 percent of 739 cases were settled while 418 others failed to reach a settlement.

LMB Director and ADR committee member Emelyne Talabis pointed out that the 418 unsettled disputes “should not be taken against the ADROs,” stressing that ADROs were mere facilitators and keep neutral positions in the ADR process.

“Forty three percent is quite an accomplishment and a big leap from the halos wala (almost zero) settlement we had before the adoption of the ADR mechanism in LMB,” Talabis said.

She also noted that the comprehensive ADR accreditation training program and conduct of the mediation proper have continued through online platforms even during the pandemic.

An additional 106 ADROs, divided into four batches, earned their accreditations in 2020 and 2021, bringing to 330 the number of DENR employees that were accredited as ADROs.

Named as 2021 Top ADROs were Alexis Abrasaldo (DENR-Region 2), Cesar Tolenada (DENR -Region 2), Joshua Mabeza (DENR-Region 5), Orland Padios (DENR-Region 6), and Eric Hindap (DENR-Region 4B).

Likewise, awarded as Top Pool of ADROs were the DENR regional offices 2, 5, 6, 10, and the Cordillera Administrative Region. This was in recognition of their supporting efforts to institutionalize the ADR mechanism within their respective areas of jurisdiction.

In 2016, DAO 2016-30 was issued by then DENR Secretary Regina Paz Lopez specifying the guidelines on the adoption of the ADR mechanism in land management and disposition.

Describing it as “DENR-wide,” Talabis said the ADRO’s expertise “has no sectoral divide and not on lands alone.”

“Although all the cases subjected to ADR pertain to land sector only, still the ADROs' expertise are DENR-wide and not on lands alone. That's why in 2022 we aim to roll out ADR mechanism to other sectors,” she said.###