Over 100 employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gathered at the La Mesa Watershed Reserve (LMWR) in Quezon City last month for a tree planting activity in recognition of the Australian Government’s continued support for the professional development of the DENR workforce.

DENR Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems and Climate Change Analiza Rebuelta-Teh and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu led the planting of some 100 two-year old narra saplings within the two-hectare LMWR Arboretum Park maintained by the DENR-National Capital Region. Key officials from other government agencies and the Philippine-Australian Alumni communities also attended the event dubbed as “Australia Alumni Family Day.”

“More than enriching knowledge and competencies, this has resulted in the personal and professional growth of our workforce,” Teh said, pointing out that the DENR is not the only beneficiary of these opportunities “but also the very public it serves.”

Teh emphasized that the Australian scholarship grants have helped shape Filipino scholars into becoming innovators especially in formulating policies on conservation and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources.

So far, scholarships and trainings sponsored by the Australian government have produced 60 postgraduate degree holders (five PhDs and 55 masteral degrees), including 100 participants in foreign and local trainings.

The scholarship and training programs offered cover areas such as human resource management and development, geographic information science, natural hazards, marine science, mineral resources, remote sensing, groundwater management, environmental law, public policy, and public administration.

Ambassador Yu said the event underscores the two countries’ mutual priorities on climate action, stressing that the tree planting activity brought attention to the important issue of environmental challenges.

She added that the activity “catches what is so wonderful and fantastic about the Australian-Philippine relationship” as it likewise celebrated Australian Day and the World Environmental Education Day on January 26.

“As true friends, partners, and in fact neighbors in this region, we know what it means to celebrate,” she said.

The envoy bared that the Australian Government has invested AU$18 million through SHIELD (Strengthening Institutions and Empowering Localities Against Disasters and Climate Change) Programme to help the most vulnerable provinces in the Philippines to deal with disasters that are driven by climate change.

The La Mesa Watershed Reserve has a total area of 2,659 hectares, around 75 percent of which is watershed and 25 percent is basin area. The DENR has rehabilitated approximately 1,000 hectares of forestland within the reserve.###