Press Releases

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.

 

  

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje appealed to all local government officials to strictly comply with Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, to avoid a repeat of the collapse of a dumpsite in Baguio City that killed at least five persons.

At the same time, he said he will be meeting soon with Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to discuss ways on how to enhance LGU compliance with the law.

“I will be meeting with Secretary Robredo regarding this matter of low compliance of LGUs to the Solid Waste Management Act. We really need to come up with a purposive approach of (enhancing) their compliance so as to prevent any more catastrophe such as this trashslide in Baguio City.” Paje said.

In separate interviews with ANC and DZMM, Paje said that as early as 2006, the DENR, through the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) which he chairs, has sent out notice of violations to more than a thousand local government units (LGUs) who have continually been operating open and controlled dumpsites.

Unfortunately, he said, while at the national level, the government is performing, the LGUs are not in compliance. “The DENR’s role is to help LGUs manage their garbage. At the national level, the government is performing, but the LGUs are not complying. Dapat kasuhan na talaga sa Ombudsman,” he stressed.

Since the law holds the LGUs primarily responsible for solid waste management in their areas of jurisdiction, Paje advised the local executives who do not have the capability to construct landfills to form clusters with other neighboring LGUs as this would be more feasible.

The environment chief said, however, that although there is indeed a legal issue with the Baguio tragedy, “now is not the time for finger pointing. The DENR has been working closely with the LGU and the provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (DRRMC) since the tragedy to address the problem, remove the trash and bring it to Capas, retrieve the bodies… We will tackle the legal issue later.”

Paje also committed to extend technical assistance in the construction of the retailing wall of the dumpsite.

Paje stated that the Irisan dump in which collapsed on Saturday (August 27) had been closed since 2008 and that “it has been acting as a materials recovery facility (MRF), a ‘transfer station’ where the LGU would sort recyclable and non-recyclable waste before bringing the latter to the landfill in Capas, Tarlac.”

He added that the tragedy may have been caused by an engineering problem. “Hindi sila naglagay ng daluyan ng tubig… Sa tingin ko, hindi sila naglagay ng labasan dahil the leachate would come out and they would still have to put up a collecting pan. Hindi nakaya ng retaining wall yung bumagsak na tubig (brought about by the heavy downpour caused by typhoon Mina), so ang nangyari, bumigay,” he said.

He further disclosed that the Irisan site had been identified as an area highly susceptible to landslides in a geohazard map of the province. He thus requested all LGU officials to review the geohazard maps distributed by the DENR to assess which areas are prone to floods and landslides to avoid similar future tragedies. “The maps identify areas of no-habitation zone, plus debris accumulation zones, kung saan ipinapakita na kapag tumibag ang lupa, dun (sa lugar na iyon) itatambak ang lupa,” he said.

The DENR chief reiterated that the problem of solid waste management remains a responsibility of each Filipino citizen, and that the best way to address it was to ensure segregation at source. It is estimated that with every household practicing waste segregation at home, only 30 per cent of waste would actually be dumped in landfills nationwide.

Under the law, the establishment or operation of open dumpsites is punishable with a minimum fine of a Php500,000. LGU officials can also be charged administratively in accordance with RA 7160 or the Local Government Code.

 

  

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the provincial government of Albay in Bicol region have teamed up to reduce and manage disaster risks in this calamity-prone province.

In simple ceremonies held recently at the DENR office in Quezon City, Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje and Regional Executive Director for Bicol Joselin Marcus Fragada signed a deed donating a confiscated six-wheeler Fuso truck loaded with lumber materials to the 3rd District of Albay. The donation was accepted by Albay Governor Jose Maria Clemente Salceda and Albay 3rd District Representative Fernando Gonzales.

The cargo, consisting of about 5,000 board feet of Lauan lumber of different dimensions, are to be used in the repair of damaged property caused by tropical storm Juaning, which hit the area in July of this year. The truck would also be used by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) for disaster relief, as well as evacuation of families located in identified hazardous areas.

In the same event, both parties also signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the assessment of landslide and flood hazard risks of 18 municipalities in Albay. The project, entitled “GIS-based Landslide and Vulnerability Assessment of the Province of Albay”, includes the densification of the province’s geohazard map on a scale of 1:10,000 by the DENR’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

“The donation, though small in comparison to the magnitude of disasters that face the province, can immediately help in recovery efforts. Meanwhile, the assessment project will be piloted in Albay as a laboratory of disaster preparedness,” said Paje, who also hails from Albay.

The DENR-MGB has completed the geohazard mapping of all municipalities in the country on a 1:50,000 scale. The Albay project, however, which includes the development of flood and landslide hazard models for the province’s most vulnerable areas, will enable the province to plan for disaster risk reduction down to the barangay level.

The project also covers information dissemination on landslide and flood hazards and the installation of warning systems in highly vulnerable areas.

Salceda expressed gratitude for the donation and the MOA, which he said “respects the dignity of persons… and will reduce risks from climate change and geohazards, especially in our province which experiences a cocktail of disasters.”

The governor also said that the maps will be “used for response and reconstruction,” and that to avoid human casualties, “all evacuation sites will be cleared by the MGB.”

 

  

The Philippines is living up to its reputation as one of the world’s 17 mega-diverse countries in the world in terms of biodiversity as a group of American and Filipino biologists unearthed seven previously unknown mammal species in Luzon island.

All of the seven species are forest mice belonging to the genus Apomys and live only in a small part of Luzon. The discovery increased the number of native mammals – excluding bats – in the country’s largest island from 42 to 49, or up 17 per cent.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje was elated at the discovery, and noted its timeliness with the declaration of years 2011-2020 as “Decade on Biodiversity” by the United Nations and the national government. “The international community has recognized that our country has among the highest rates of discovery in the world. Filipinos should be aware of such discoveries, to show a collective pride and give a more positive meaning to the expression, ‘only in the Philippines,’” he said.

The formal descriptions of the seven species were published in the May 2011 issue of Fieldiana, the peer-reviewed journal of the Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) in Chicago. The nine co-authors of the article include biologists from the University of the Philippines, the Philippine National Museum, Conservation International (CI) -Philippines, Utah Museum of Natural History, and Florida State University.

FMNH’s Dr. Lawrence Heaney, project leader and the lead author of the Fieldiana, described the species as “wonderful little mice that live in forested regions high in the mountain… often abundant, [yet] they actively avoid humans and rarely cause any harm. They prefer to eat earthworms and seeds on the forest floor.”

Two of the species live in, or are endemic to, Mt. Tapulao in Zambales; two in Mt. Banahaw; another two in the Mingan Mountains of Aurora Province; and the remaining specie in the Sierra Madre mountain range of northeastern Luzon.

Theresa Mundita Lim, Director of the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB), said that the discovery highlights the need to protect mountain forest habitats. “These animals are part of the rich biological heritage of the Philippines. The forests where they live in are crucial watershed areas for Manila and many other cities,” she said.

Danilo Balete, the project’s field team leader, expressed the team’s excitement with the discovery. “It is extraordinary that so many new species of mammals remain to be discovered in the Philippines. In the past 10 years, we’ve published formal descriptions of ten other species, while other biologists have described five more. And we are nowhere close to the end of our discoveries. The Philippines may have the greatest concentration of unique species of animals of any country in the world,” he said.

The discovery also prompted Dr. Scott Steppan, co-author and head of the laboratory at Florida State University where the DNA of the animals were studied, to consider the Philippines “even better” than the wildlife-rich Ecuadorian archipelago of the Galapagos Islands. “The Philippines is an ideal place to study the evolution of animal diversity… These animals have been evolving in the Philippine archipelago for millions of years,” he said.

Josefa Veluz, biologist of the Philippine National Museum and co-author of the study, pointed out that the new species from the Sierra Madre and Mt. Banahaw live within protected areas, but those from the Mingan Mountains and Mt. Tapulao do not. She cautioned the public on the impact on wildlife and watersheds of logging, agricultural expansion, and illegal mining activities.

This was seconded by Romeo Trono, Country Executive Director for CI-Philippines. “Protecting land and marine resources is key to maintaining healthy ecosystems which deliver services such as food, clean water, health, tourism and cultural benefits and a stable climate which are vital to the very survival of every Filipino. Although small in size, these little animals are part of our biodiversity which forms the basic foundation of healthy ecosystems.

The Philippines, although cited by various conservation organizations as among those with remarkable levels of species endemism, is also ranked as one of the world’s most threatened hotspots, where increased human activities contribute largely to habitat loss and pose as severe threats to the existence of various species of flora and fauna.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

“There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs), regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.

“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity.

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO. Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,” Paje stressed.

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled; while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the www.ngp.denr.gov.ph

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), the Climate Change Commission and the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) is set to host on June 14-15, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall, a multi-stakeholder forum on climate change and cleaner transport to mark the 12th year of implementation of the Philippine Clean Air Act.

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje reiterated the importance of having to combat air pollution, particularly from mobile sources, to drive forward the implementation of Clean Air Act in the country.

“The law has been in place for twelve years now, and much as we have been able to achieve a lot, especially in terms of the reduction of total suspended particulates (TSP) level, or the introduction of alternative fuels in the country, we still have a lot to do. Mobile source, in fact, remains the top most source of air pollution in the country,” he said.

The forum is the third of the series of Clean Air 10 Forum that are being held annually since 2009 where government agencies, local government, business and the civil society merge to exchange insights to move forward, Clean Air Act implementation.

As one of the DENR's active partners in implementing the Clean Air Act, the Partnership for Clean Air (PCA) stressed the need to strengthen partnerships and coordinated action toward cleaner air.

"Despite significant advances since the implementation of RA 8749, the challenges we face remain formidable and will test our resolve. We need to forge more alliances not just between classes and among sectors but reaching across generations, because the struggle for clean air should represent in the end the confluence of diverse efforts that many Filipinos today are involved in,” says Vicky Segovia, PCA Executive Director.

The two-day forum, dubbed “Clean Air 10+2”, will highlight the need to strengthen partnerships toward clean air and climate change action, with focus on energy and transport. To be highlighted are the initiatives of the local government units, the industries, and the private sector on clean air and climate change, particularly on the use of LPG as an alternative fuel for vehicles, electric, hybrid, and non-motorized vehicles, and clean fleet management.

Forum participants will also be able to hear the government’s response on the mainstreaming of environmentally sustainable transport strategy including the volume traffic reduction scheme, the anti-smoke belching campaign, and the Mega-Manila Transport Study.

The Clean Air 10+2 Forum is organized by the DENR, the DOTC, the Climate Change Commission and PCA, with the support of Petroleum Institute of the Philippines, Ayala Foundation, and Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. with other civil society members.

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

“There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs), regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.

“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity.

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO. Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,” Paje stressed.

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled; while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the www.ngp.denr.gov.ph