Press Releases

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today expressed gratitude for the Filipino people all over the world for the successful election of the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

“The Almighty wrought this masterpiece of nature, but we thank our people for its election as one of the seven best among the many wonders that nature has scattered all over our planet,” Paje said.

He added: “By taking the time and making the effort to vote for the PPUR through text messages and through the Internet, our people, both at home and abroad – as well as our many friends among the international community – we were able to amass the number of votes necessary to catapult the PPUR from a local to a global jewel. This is definitely a victory for the Filipino people.”

Paje described PPUR’s victory as a “collective accomplishment of Filipinos all over the world,” saying that the campaign embarked on by the government and the private sector for PPUR, which he said was encouraged and supported by President Benigno Aquino III, was one that “we can all be proud of, and which we hope to nurture as a mass base of support for environmental causes.”

Paje, who served as the national campaign manager for the PPUR, expressed gratitude to President Aquino for his total support, for issuing Presidential Proclamation 182 creating a task force comprising of government agencies and the private sector to “ensure there is oneness in goal.”

He also gave thanks to major government agencies involved in the campaign, particularly the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Tourism (DOT), which served as chair and co-chair of the task force, respectively, and the private sector led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, marketing strategist Tony Abaya and all others who tirelessly worked during the campaign.

“Once again, it has been shown that environment can indeed be a unifying factor for the country; and that if we all unite, there is no reason to fail,” he stressed.

Paje said that despite the many problems besetting the country, the Filipinos remain a “lucky race” for having been endowed not only with rich natural resources, majority of which that could not be found anywhere else in the world, but also of citizens with great talents and beauty of heart. He particularly mentioned boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who has since been a source of national pride.

“Definitely, we will not run out of great talents in this country who, somehow put the country in the world map,” he said, citing Ms. World first runner up Gwendolyn Ruais and Ms. Universe 3rd runner up Shamcey Supsup as the latest to have brought not only honors to the country but also inspiration to the Filipino people.

 

  

 

The agricultural sector has much to benefit from the National Greening Program (NGP) as the latter would substantially improve the water yield of watersheds, thereby ensuring the supply of water to irrigate farmlands.

At the same time, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that additional areas will be made available to high value crops through agroforestry to enable farmers earn additional income.

“We are seeking to plant and develop some 1.5 million hectares of open and idle forestlands between 2011 and 2016 in order to address the problem of soil erosion, secure a sustainable supply of water and providing additional livelihood for farmers through agroforestry,” explained Paje.

According to Paje, the NGP forms part of a number of initiatives that the Aquino Administration is putting in place to guarantee food security and enable the Filipino farmer cope with the impacts of climate change. He also said that under the NGP, the government seeks to improve the vegetative cover of watersheds nationwide that could supply much of the freshwater requirement of the country.

Food security is one of the pressing issues facing the Philippines being widely regarded as highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Soil erosion is equally problematic due to the country’s geographic conditions.

DENR data show that about 20 million hectares or two-thirds of the country’s total land area of 30 million hectares, are hilly and mountainous, making these areas susceptible to soil erosion whose direct impacts and side-effects include low crop productivity, reduction of the capacity of water conveyance structures, destruction of wildlife habitat, and destruction of standing crops.

The environment chief said that under the NGP, agroforestry is encouraged to address poverty and provide livelihood opportunities for farmers especially those in the uplands. The DENR, with the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform through the Convergence Initiative, will assist farmers in the planting of coffee, cacao, cashew, and other high value crops, Paje added.

There are 8 million hectares of open, denuded and degraded lands that are in need of immediate rehabilitation.

Stressing that extreme weather events and change in rainfall patterns have resulted in substantial damage in the country’s crop yield, particularly rice, Paje said there is a need now to put science in upland development where plantation crops must suit not only the area’s soil type but also the elevation and the changing rainfall patterns.

"With the changing rainfall patterns due to climate change, affecting the planting and harvesting seasons for famers, this gives us in government and all its partners in the private sector more compelling reason to ensure the success of the NGP,” Paje stressed.

 

 

 

  

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today appealed for Filipinos’ support for the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) in Palawan as the New Seven Wonders of Nature contest approaches the final stretch of voting before the declaration of winners on November 11.

This, even as Paje announced the discovery of a new mineral found in the cave, which according to him, added another reason for the PPUR to be considered as “a true wonder of nature.”

The discovery of the new mineral, called serrabrancaite, was confirmed by renowned crystallographer Dr. Paolo Forti, a member of the Italian La Venta Geographical Association. La Venta has been conducting expeditions at the PPUR.

Likening a victory of the PPUR to “David winning over Goliath” in reference to other contest nominees such as the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, the Grand Canyon of the USA, and the Amazon River of South America, Paje said that regardless of the PPUR’s chances, “Filipinos worldwide should be united irrespective of geography, religion or political affiliation to show the world the beauty of the PPUR and the whole Philippines as well.”

Serrabrancaite, a “completely new cave mineral”, according to Forti, was extracted from an inlet of the PPUR. He also said it has never been found before in caves, although it has been previously found only in Serra Branca, Brazil. Its formation, according to scientists, is mostly induced by the mineralization of bat or seabird droppings known as guano.

“Cave experts themselves are amazed because only few caves in the world host more than three to four minerals, yet in the PPUR alone, they have unearthed at least 11, of which three are new cave minerals,” Paje noted. The other two new minerals were robertsite and janggunite, while the eight previously known cave minerals include calcite, gypsum, apatite, variscite, strengite, manganite, rodocrosite, and pirolusite.

The DENR chief, who is also the national campaign manager for the public sector, added that this brings to seven the number of reasons why the PPUR deserves to be one of the seven wonders of nature based on the La Venta discoveries alone.

The PPUR represents one of the largest and most important underground estuaries in the world; hosts one of the most complex cave systems; has the natural capacity to offset the effects of high-impact tourism; contains unique formations from secondary mineral deposits not found elsewhere; hosts cave formations that allow scientists to conduct studies in understanding the Earth’s evolution.

The 20 million year-old fossilized remains of a sea cow or sirenia have also been found embedded in perfect condition in the cave’s walls.

Paje also revealed that online voting for the PPUR has slowed down as indicated in the contest website, while SMS voting has dramatically spiked. He attributed this to the “one vote per email address” policy of the website, while SMS voters are allowed to vote as often as they want.

He enjoined Filipinos worldwide to encourage their relatives and friends to cast their votes as early as possible to avoid the “phenomenal” increase in online traffic the organizers are expecting before voting ends at 11:11 am on 11/11/11.

Organizers had stated that servers and systems had been upgraded to deal with the expected surge in online and SMS voting, given people’s penchant for doing things at the last minute. However, “extreme peaks of traffic could still disrupt these contingency plans” and could not guarantee successful voting before the declaration.

Online voting is on-going through the website www.new7wonders.com, while SMS voters need only send the word “PPUR” to 2861 for all local networks.

Meanwhile, the private sector has also initiated an on-going local SMS promo to drum up awareness and support for the PPUR’s nomination. The “Pera sa Kweba” text promo, which runs from September 30 to December 28, guarantees all-expense paid trips to Palawan and a total pay-out of more than P30 million in cash prizes. This includes a grand prize of P25 million to be drawn on December 30. Winning mobile numbers are announced on the Will Time, Big Time program of ABC-5.

The search for the New Seven Wonders of Nature was organized by Switzerland-based New7Wonders Foundation in 2007, drawing 440 entries from more than 220 countries. Millions voted for the top 77, which was further narrowed down to 28 finalists for the final phase.

The Aquino government has issued Presidential Proclamation No. 182 to initiate a promotional campaign for the PPUR, which has also been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

 

  

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje called on the business sector to join the government’s greening program in the recent 37th Philippine Business Conference and Expo held at the Manila Hotel in Manila.

“The DENR welcomes and seeks partnerships with the private sector, particularly in the National Greening Program which no less than President Aquino has launched as a priority project not only to reforest the country’s denuded and degraded forest areas but also meant to reduce poverty, promote food security and biodiversity conservation, and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Paje said.

Paje acknowledged the continuing effort of leading businesses towards good environmental citizenship as part of their corporate social responsibility programs or an integral part of their business operations. He cited in particular the establishment of the Philippine Business for the Environment in 1992 as a milestone in the long line of efforts of the private sector to become more pro-environment. However, he admitted that getting the small and medium scale enterprises to comply with environmental standards remain a challenge.

“The challenge that confronts us now is how to get the rest of the business sector, down to small, medium and micro-scale enterprises, to also become fully compliant with environmental standards,” he stressed.

According to him, the environmental policies that are in force today in the form of laws, rules and regulations, and executive issuances are among the best in the world. However, he said that while some businesses regard complying with these regulations are costly, the “costs of not complying with them are infinitely greater to the society as a whole” especially in light of the global problem on climate change, which he said, also affect the business sector by devastating its markets and suppliers.
Relative to this, he stressed that private-public partnership should be highlighted on top of the business sector’s undertakings to comply with environmental laws and regulations to address the pressing issue of climate change.

Citing a report from PAG-ASA, Paje said that the number of destructive typhoons that hit the country in the first three years of the 21st century has increased, from 6.75 typhoons in 2000 to 2003 to 9.7 typhoons per year from 2004 to 2007.

Further, the climate pattern in the country has already been drastically altered with prolonged wet season accompanied by heavy rainfall beyond the normal monthly average, inundating low-lying areas, causing damage to farmlands and other agricultural products and landslides.

To address the issues of climate change and to minimize damage to life and property, the government has embarked on massive tree planting activities in various denuded areas to increase forest cover which is currently peg at 7.2 million hectares or 26 % of the country’s land area of 30 million hectares.

By increasing forest cover, the government is reducing carbon in the atmosphere as carbon is absorbed by trees. Forests also stabilize soil, thereby reducing the incidents of landslide while regulating the flow of water by storing them in the watershed.

Paje stressed that trees that will be planted under the National Greening Program (NGP) will not only increase the country’s forest cover but also help poor Filipinos in the upland and lowland areas improve their economic status. Part of the NGP is the planting of fruit-bearing trees such as mango, jackfruit, cashey, guyabano, coffee and cacao that will be owned by the community.

Aside from the rehabilitation of denuded forest areas, the DENR also implements programs and strategies to provide residents of Metro Manila and other urban cities a cleaner air. Paje reported that the total suspended particulates (TSP) in Metro Manila is 126 micrograms/normal cubic meters (ug/Ncm) in the first half of 2011, 40% beyond the national standard of 90 ug/Ncm.

To address the issue of air pollution, the DENR secretary said that the government has intensified the enforcement of the Clean Air Act on motor vehicles as they are the main contributor to air pollution, and instill discipline as well as improve compliances with emission testing by installing close circuit TV cameras (CCTV) in all vehicle emission testing centers. The DENR also imposed joint liability in PETC regulations in cases of “no-show” or the issuance of certificates to vehicles without undergoing actual emission test, Paje added.

Paje also reported the government’s programs in pursuit of the Clean Water Act and to clean up the major rivers which drain to Manila Bay. One of these is the “Adopt-an-Estero” program which, according to him, has led to the forging of more than 200 memoranda of agreements with the private companies nationwide, including Jolibee Corp, San Miguel Foundation, Toyota, among others.

Paje stressed that the government is also bent on reducing solid waste by requiring the Philippine Plastic Industry to develop a program for retrieval/collection/recycling of plastics and launched the reusable bag campaign for greener environment in partnership with the country’s major malls.

The country’s geographical location increases its vulnerability to extreme weather conditions which often resulted in the loss of lives and properties. To protect the communities from the hazards of earth movements like landslide, liquefaction and earthquakes, the DENR distributed 65,000 geo-hazard maps to all local government units and started the production of more detailed maps, with scale of 1:10,000, for 88 landslide-prone cities and municipalities.

  

 

Local government units (LGUs) may now start availing of fast and reliable technical assistance for their environment-related concerns through the Environmental Compliance Assistance (ECA) Center for Local Government Units of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the establishment of the ECA Center for LGUs is the agency’s response to a need to continually educate local officials and employees on environmental management, including environmental laws.

“Local government units are partners of the national government in enforcing environmental laws and regulations. We need to work closely with them to achieve significant and meaningful results in environmental protection and management,” Paje said.

Paje noted, however, many LGUs are still not aware of their responsibilities as enforcers of environmental laws, and as operators of regulated establishments like hospitals, schools, slaughterhouses, public markets, ports, terminals, cemeteries, sports and convention facilities.

He also said that many of the country’s environmental regulations can be quite confusing to local officials, adding that through the ECA Center, the DENR can respond immediately to their needs and queries.

Located at the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) main building in Visayas Avenue, Quezon City, the ECA Center will be manned by a technical personnel who will assist LGUs in their concerns.

The LGU-dedicated ECA Center website ( www.emb.gov.ph/ecacenter) is likewise set to be launched on November 18, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall. Among other things, the website shall contain information on environmental laws, regulations, and resolutions.

Details of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) System such as the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) and Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC) will also be made available online. Downloadable forms for permits and required reports as well as fines and penalties for non-compliance will also be posted in the website, including frequently asked questions and best available technologies to satisfy the information needs of the LGU.

The ECA Center can be reached through telephone number 920-22-60 or through email address, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..