Press Releases

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today appealed to the public to refrain from catching, handling, keeping and trading wild birds to avoid the risk of bird flu.

At the same time, he reminded traders that the import ban on wild birds, their by-products and derivatives from bird flu infected countries remains in effect.

Paje made the appeal in the wake of a recent report of the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) on the “possible major resurgence” of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N1) with signs of a mutant strain of the H5N1 virus.

The report also indicated that the H5N1 virus is already making inroads to Asia and other parts of the world with unpredictable risks to human health and the poultry industry.

“We don’t want to be alarmist, but it is better to err on the side of caution and keep the country and our people safe from the virus,” Paje said, noting that the new mutant strain of the virus has been found in our neighbor countries China and Viet Nam.

Quoting medical reports, Paje said that the deadly bird flu can be easily transmitted through inhalation or direct contact with discharges or feces of infected birds. Thus, he advised the public to contend themselves with watching the birds from afar. “Enjoy the sight of birds flying freely up in the sky or frolicking in seashores; do not touch them.”

Likewise, Paje also warned communities in farms and coastal areas to keep away from any dead bird and to immediately report cases of unusual die offs of wild birds to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) at tel. nos. (02)-9258953, or to the nearest field offices of DENR, Department of Agriculture and Department of Health.

Paje also said that the ban on the importation of wild birds from bird flu-infected countries based on the list of the World Organization for Animal Health is still in effect. The import ban, which the DENR has imposed since January 2004, also covers wild bird by-products and derivatives.

Since its first detection in 2003, the bird flu virus has already infected a total of 63 countries worldwide. Recently, the affected countries include Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Mongolia, Romania and Viet Nam.

 

  

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the DENR has already linked up with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the Ombudsman to put to task local government units (LGUs) in addressing the burgeoning garbage problem in their respective localities.

At the same time, Paje also asked all provincial governors, through the League of Provinces of the Philippines, in providing the necessary assistance to the LGUs under their jurisdiction to enable them to comply with the provisions of Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“We are already working closely with DILG and the Ombudsman to resolve this issue of low, if not non-compliance of local chief executives, to the requirements of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” Paje explained to members of Ecowaste Coalition, a group of non-government organizations advocating the 3R’s in solid waste management, namely reduce, re-use and recycle.

The group staged a protest at the DENR Monday (Sept. 5) calling for the immediate closure and rehabilitation of all dumpsites in the country in light of the recent trash slide that occurred in the Irisan dump in Baguio City.

Paje, who also chairs the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), said that the DENR has already issued 435 final notices to LGUs nationwide that continue to operate open and controlled dumpsites, in violation of RA 9003 which has set the deadline for the closure of all open and controlled dumpsites in 2004.

Relative to this, Paje said the Office of the Ombudsman has also issued Subpoena Duces Tecum to LGUs that were sent with final notices by the DENR.

Paje said such twin moves is “a step closer to filing administrative charges against non-compliant LGU officials under RA 7160 or the Local Government Code, and send out a signal to those who continue to ignore the risks to their own constituents’ health and property.”

“Sec. Robredo has, in fact, issued already a memorandum to all local chief executives and Sangguniang president officers and members to observe the enforcement and implementation of RA 9003, warning them that failure to comply shall subject the officials to administrative sanctions,” Paje stressed.

The DENR has also written Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr., who heads the League of Provinces of the Philippines, and all the country’s governors requesting that they provide the necessary assistance to LGUs to enable them to comply, particularly on the safe closure and rehabilitation of its open and controlled disposal facilities, as well as their final disposal facilities/technologies.

“We sought the assistance of the League of Provinces because, under the law, it is a member of the National Solid Waste Management Commission,” Paje said.

In his letter to the governors, Paje reminded them of their responsibility in putting up a Provincial Solid Waste Management Board whose functions include developing and implementing a provincial solid waste management plan; providing logistical and operational support to LGUs within their jurisdiction; recommending measures and safeguards against pollution as well as fund generation; and coming up with solutions to identified solid waste management problems.

 

  

The country’s only endemic duck will soon make a fifth-class municipality a must-see destination for environmentalists in tourist-haven Camarines Sur.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje recently signed DENR Administrative Order (DAO) No. 2011-10 declaring a 27-hectare wetland area of Cabusao in Camarines Sur as a critical habitat for the Philippine duck (Anas luzonica).

“This DAO is a step to protect the Philippine duck, whose existence is true to the phrase, ‘only in the Philippines.’ It will hopefully give this unique bird a chance to live and propagate in a place free from exploitation and destruction caused by high-impact human activities,” Paje said.

The Philippine duck is a large dabbling duck that frequents both fresh- and saltwater habitats such as mangroves, open sea and rice fields, feeding mainly on shrimp, fish, insects and vegetation. It is characterized by a black crown, nape and eye stripe; a blue-grey bill; a cinnamon-colored head and neck; and grayish-brown body and legs. Its wings, when spread, show a glossy-green patch with a black and white border, with a white underside. It has been described as “the tropical version of the mallard,” a duck commonly found in more temperate regions such as the Americas and Europe.

An Asian Waterbird Census conducted in 2005 pegged the Philippine duck population at 4,428. Since then, there have been less reported sightings, attributed to “high levels of hunting and trapping, conversion of natural wetlands, mangrove destruction, and recently the extensive use of pesticides on rice fields.” This population decline has thus given the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) cause to classify it as “vulnerable” under its Red List of Threatened Species.

Paje said that the DAO is in accordance with Republic Act (RA) 9147, also known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, which promotes ecological balance and enhance biodiversity by conserving and protecting wildlife species and their habitats. The same law defines a critical habitat as land located outside a protected area that is characterized by the presence of threatened species, considering its endemicity and richness in the area as well as the presence of threats to its survival.

Under the DAO, the DENR Regional Office 5 in Legazpi City, Albay, is tasked to delineate the boundaries of the designated critical habitat. It will also manage the area alongside the local government unit (LGU) of Cabusao, or co-manage it with the LGU and/or other organizations.

DENR Bicol and its partners will also ensure the preservation of existing ecosystems and safeguard the area’s ecological integrity to support the existence of the Philippine duck. They are also tasked to jointly prepare and implement a Critical Habitat Management Plan to address management issues and strategies, including the enforcement of applicable environmental laws and prohibited acts under RA 9147 such as waste dumping, mineral extraction, quarrying, burning and logging.

Although also sighted in other areas such as Lake Naujan and Mt. Iglit-Baco National Parks in Mindoro, and Olango Island in Cebu, avid bird watchers have particularly noted “near-disappearances” of the Philippine duck at the Candaba Marsh in Pampanga due to aquaculture and fishpond creation.

 

 

  

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje is enjoining his Metro Manila-based officials and employees to actively participate in the Civil Service Fun Run on Sunday (Sept. 4) at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

Organized by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) as part of the month-long celebration of the 111th Philippine Civil Service Anniversary, the Fun Run seeks to raise funds for the benefit of families left behind by government forest protection officers who died in the line of duty.

“I am enjoining the DENR employees, particularly those based in the central office, National Capital Region and Region 4B, to participate in this project. Not only it is good for the health, but it is very noble as well as it seeks to raise funds for the families left behind by our co-workers in the department,” Paje said.

Paje added: “We have always considered our fallen forest guards as ‘environmental heroes’, having sacrificed their lives for the protection of the environment.”

The CSC Fun Run will have two events: 3-K and 5-K races. Both races will start at 5 a.m. at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, and will run through Buendia Avenue, also in Pasay City.

Initial report indicates that more than 2,500 participants from different government agencies and the private sector have already registered to join the Fun Run. Of the number, a total of 100 registrants are from the DENR.

 

  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently raided four lead smelting plants and a used lead-acid battery (ULAB) recycling facility in the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija in a crackdown on informal businesses handling pollutive and hazardous substances without appropriate permits in Region 3.

At the same time, DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has directed concerned provincial officials of DENR to explain “why they should not be charged administratively for inaction” on the illegally-operating plants.

Paje, who ordered a nationwide campaign against illegal ULAB recycling facilities and lead smelting plants, lauded the investigating team’s actions.

“These businesses, being run illegally, deprive government of revenues and give unfair competition to those operating legally. Most importantly, they cannot be monitored effectively and pose direct grave threats to human life and the environment because of their haphazard disposal of hazardous substances,” Paje said.

The one-day raid, conducted on August 18, 2011 by an investigating team organized by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Ernesto Adobo, Jr., also led to the arrest and filing of criminal charges against two Chinese nationals, namely Chen Tian Xi and Jiajia Chen, for violating Republic Act (RA) 6969, also known as the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990. The two were alleged to be behind the illegal operation of an unnamed lead smelting plant in Jaen, Nueva Ecija. They were, however, released on August 20, 2011 by the Municipal Trial Court of Jaen, upon payment of bail amounting to P12,000.

Aside from the Chinese-run facility in Jaen, the lead smelting plants of Asia Pacific Resources, Inc. and Solid Lead, Inc., both in San Simon, Pampanga; and the ULAB recycling facility owned by a certain Roland Sumandal in Guimba, Nueva Ecija, were also each slapped with a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) for violating RA 6969.

The Oceanic Fishing Gear, Inc., another lead smelting facility in Meycauayan, Bulacan, was issued a notice of violation of its environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

Based on reports, the two Nueva Ecija plants were found to be operating without any ECC, permits for transport and for operating coal-fired furnaces, or registered treatment, storage and disposal facilities. Their pollution control facilities were also found to be “inefficient and ineffective”, allowing the emission of lead oxide in violation of RA 6969.

Lead smelting involves recycling lead acid separated from used batteries. The finished product is then sold locally or abroad for various uses, such as material for building construction, bullets, weights and soldering processes.

The DENR investigation team was joined by Jaen Mayor Santy Austria, members of local police headed by Major Resty Reyes, personnel from the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and members of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force, in the inspection of the Jaen plant.

Paje described the illegal operation of the recycling facilities as “classic examples of wanton disregard of responsible management.”

Samuel Carpio, head of the investigation team, noted that the plants have been operating without proper treatment and disposal of lead oxide during the smelting or recycling process. Lead oxide poses harmful effects to the human body and can even be fatal if swallowed or inhaled.