Press Releases

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said that damages inflicted on the Bakud (Takut) Reef in Kiamba, Sarangani by MV Double Prosperity last May 8 should include not only the cost of the damaged coral area but the total worth of marine services that have been lost.
“We estimate that the damaged cost in Bakud Reef could run up to PhP42 million. But this amount is like giving a slap on the wrist on the ship’s owners as the value in marine services that was lost as a consequence of the accident is invaluable,” Paje said.

Thus, Paje directed Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Director Mundita Lim to recommend in tomorrow’s meeting of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the Sangani Bay Protected Seascape, to consider in the computation of penalty to be imposed on the erring ship the lost value of marine services that would remain non-existent for at least 20 years, the minimum period needed before it can regain its former condition,” Paje stressed.

Paje said P42 million is too small a compensation. It does not take into consideration to the lost marine life that could have spawned in the rich marine that could ultimately benefitted even millions of Saranggani residents especially for the region’s fisherfolk and its allied enterprise dependent on the region’s teeming fishing industry.

The 225-meter Panama-registered cargo tanker, loaded with 65,900 metric tons of coal, was heading for India from Australia when it plowed through a portion of Bakud Reef which is within the 215,950- hectare Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS), a declared protected area by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 756.

A hectare (10,000 square meters) of coral reef has an annual average value of US$130,000 in terms of services to humans, according to a research posted at the Science Daily website http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091016093913.htm.

Paje said that the SBPS’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) is yet to give an official damage cost and hopes that the figure it will come up with would be reflective of the points he raised.

The SBPS-PAMB is co-chaired by Sarangani Governor Miguel Dominguez and DENR-Region 12 Executive Director Alfredo Pascual and is set to convene on May 18 to assess the damage.

“We must make sure that the operators of MV Double Prosperity pay the full amount of fines due for the reef damage their ship caused. To do any less would make a mockery of the Philippine legal system, particularly our National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Law and the Bakud Reef as a protected area,” Paje said.

 

The goal is to put back trees on hundreds of thousands of hectares where they once stood.

Today, May 13, 2011, President Benigno S Aquino III will lead the launching of the National Greening Program (NGP) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.

He will be joined in the launching ceremony by members of his Cabinet, notably the heads of the National Converge Initiative (NCI) core agencies, namely, Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Sec. Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Sec. Ramon J. P. Paje of the DENR, and Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa.

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative to the Philippines Dr. Jacqueline Badcock is also expected to attend to receive the NGP Plans and Targets, the country’s contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF). Through a resolution, the UN has declared 2011 as IYF.

In a fitting show of example, Pres. Aquino will launch the government’s 6-year reforestation program by registering on-line to the NGP website, thus shall becoming the first NGP registrant, in an apparent gesture of inspiring the citizenry to follow suit and cast the citizens’ support as well.

Targeted at greening some 1.5 million hectares of degraded forest lands, NGP will focus essentially at developing a sustainable forest resource base to accelerate the national greening campaign and rejuvenate rural economies in parts of the nation’s most chronically poor areas in the uplands, ultimately providing livelihood opportunities for some six million families in the upland areas across the country within six years, from 2011 to 2016.

NGP also seeks to improve water quality in rivers and irrigation for farm lands, reduce the potential for flooding, soak up carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lay the foundation for an expanded wood-products economy.

President Aquino issued EO 26 on February 24, 2011 establishing the NGP not only to reforest 1.5 million hectares of land but also to promote a sustained environmental awareness campaign in the face of the deleterious effects of climate change.

Earlier, Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 which bans logging in natural and residual forests nationwide and, at the same time, calls for the preparation of a blueprint for a National Greening Program (NGP) to be formulated by the DENR, DAR and DA through a Convergence Initiative, in coordination with concerned national line agencies including the local government units. The launching ceremony will start at around 9:30 a.m. at the DENR Social Hall, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between DENR Secretary Paje and Energy Development Corporation Chairman Emeritus Oscar M. Lopez for the joint implementation of “BINHI: A Greening Legacy,” a 10-year program that aims to contribute to the restoration of forest cover in the country while addressing the problem on biodiversity loss.

It will be followed by messages from Agriculture Secretary Alcala and Agrarian Reform Secretary Delos Reyes.

DENR Secretary Paje comes next with a presentation on the overview of the National Greening Program as a new development model that offers incentives to stimulate tree nurturing. The NGP Plans and Targets will then be turned over by Paje to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, as the Philippine contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF).

President Aquino has earlier issued Proclamation 125, declaring 2011 as the National Year of Forests in the Philippines, in support of the UN declaration.

During the event, the President will also give posthumous awards of recognition to seven “environmental heroes” (four are DENR, three are non-DENR) for having stood up to the call of duty and sacrificing their lives for the protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.

The launching will be concluded with Pres. Aquino planting a Narra sapling at the Heroes Park located at the back of the DENR main building.

 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has scored a legal victory for criminal charges filed against three individuals who were caught dumping liquid waste into a canal in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City.

The Regional Trial Court Branch 27 of Caloocan City found Allan Lumanog, Ariel Olaje and Arwin Reyes guilty of violating Republic Act (RA) 9275, also known as the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004, and sentenced them to imprisonment of six years and a day up to 10 years.

Roberto Sheen, regional director of the Environmental Management Bureau - National Capital Region (EMB-NCR), called the conviction an “environmental victory” and said that the penal provisions of RA 9275 were enforced following the procedure on custody of evidence under the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases which the Supreme Court promulgated in April 2010.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje also hailed the court’s decision and its timeliness. “This comes at a time when the government is aggressively pushing for partnerships with the private sector and local governments in cleaning our waterways, and shows how serious we are in going after violators of pollution laws,” he said.

Lumanog, Olaje and Reyes were reportedly caught red-handed by officials of Barangay Bagong Silang in Caloocan City emptying the contents of 46 plastic carbouy containers, which found to be liquid waste containing high concentrations of copper and zinc by the technical staff of EMB-NCR. Such compounds are classified as hazardous wastes under DENR Administrative Order 2004-36, which strengthen the implementation of RA 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act of 1990.

The barangay officials had acted on residents’ complaints of a foul smell in their area, and traced the smell to containers on board a parked passenger jeepney. This further led them to a nearby house, inside which was an open canal that eventually drained to a nearby creek. It was in the house where the barangay officials saw the accused unloading the containers.

The officials then made a warrantless arrest and turned over Lumanog and his companions, together with confiscated evidence, to the Caloocan police, who in turn contacted the DENR. Technical experts from the EMB-NCR then wasted no time in conducting an ocular inspection of the site where the three were arrested, and subjected the confiscated liquid waste to a chemical analysis.

In establishing the guilt of the three, the court, under the sala of Judge Victoriano Cabanos, ruled that the liquids indeed contained hazardous substances in toxic amounts, and that the act of discharging them were deliberate and planned. Cabanos also noted the compliance to proper procedures by the authorities involved in the case.

The court then ordered the EMB-NCR to confiscate the liquid waste for immediate and proper disposal.

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has described the year 2011 as “a watershed year” for DENR’s legislative agenda on forestry following a commitment made by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to work for the passage of the Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) bill.

“With Senator Zubiri’s track record, there is a high degree of optimism at the DENR and among its partners that we can finally look forward to having a new forestry regime after years of subjecting the proposed law into 15 long years of legislative mill,” Paje said, noting Zubiri’s promise couldn’t have come at a better time than during the launching of the National Year of Forests (NYF). Zubiri, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, was the keynote speaker at the NYF launch last week at the Makiling Botanic Gardens at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Laguna (UPLB), where he committed “to do his best” to have the Sustainable Forest Management bill sponsored within the year, and work for its passage into law by 2012.

The launch of the National Year of Forests in the country is based on Proclamation No. 125 issued by President Benigno S Aquino III last March 15, and in support of the declaration by the United Nations of the year 2011 as the International Year of Forests, with the theme: Forests for People.

“The President’s proclamation of this year as our Year of Forests is in keeping with our responsibility as member of the United Nations. As envisioned by the UN’s declaration of the International Year of Forests, we are taking this opportunity to undertake a national greening program that would engage the whole citizenry in bringing back the vegetative cover of our uplands, while providing them economic relief,” Paje said.

President Aquino has earlier issued Executive Order No. 23 which declared the implementation of the National Greening Program, which seeks to plant some 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide until 2016. He also banned logging in natural forests through Executive Order No. 23. Aside from the SFM bill, Paje likewise commended Zubiri’s insistence on taking the proposed National Land Use Act (NLUA) to a higher level of engagement with his fellow lawmakers both in the House of Representatives and the Senate despite daunting task of taking a leadership position in a very sensitive piece of legislation which, according to Zubiri, is “a very far reaching and wide-encompassing measure.”

“I promise you today, I will try my very best to have it (NLUA bill) passed in the Senate. And I thank the President for making the NLUA bill a priority measure,” said Zubiri before a crowd of 3,000, who made a two-kilometer uphill trek from the main stadium ground of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños as a show of solidarity for the NYF year-long celebration.

Zubiri likewise unveiled his plan to push for the Senate approval of the proposed bill on Magna Carta for Environment Workers that will protect and promote the welfare of environment workers, including non-government workers, volunteers, cops, soldiers and even lawyers.

“I will guarantee you that I will do my best to have this bill approved in 2011 ‘para by 2012, meron na tayong batas na Magna Carta for Environment Workers,” Zubiri stressed.

Under Senate Bill 2550 or the “Magna Carta for Environment and Natural Resources Personnel,” protection and benefits shall be given to the personnel of DENR, its bureaus, regional officers, and attached agencies, environmental units in the other government agencies and the ecological waste management department of the local government units including forest rangers and park rangers.

 

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje is urging a review of the Building Code of the Philippines in light of growing public concerns on the impacts of geologic hazards on the structural integrity of various infrastructures, including residential houses and buildings, in the country.

“The series of strong earthquakes that jolted Japan, Haiti, Chile, and New Zealand should give us an impetus to go revisit our Building Code to determine if it already needs some updating,” Paje said.

At the same time, Paje directed the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to work for the full integration of Engineering Geological and Geohazard Assessment Report (EGGAR) into the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) System required under Presidential Decree No. 1586.

“Following the Cherry Hills landslides in August 1999, the DENR responded by issuing DENR Administrative Order No. 2000-28, to address the possible effects or impacts of geologic hazards on people’s lives and properties,” Paje said.

DAO 2000-28 sets forth the implementing guidelines on engineering geological and geohazard assessment as additional requirement for ECC applications covering subdivision, housing, and other land development and infrastructure projects.

This time, Paje stressed, EGGAR shall be considered a basic requirement especially for development projects located in areas prone to landslides and flooding, and those near faultlines and volcanoes.

Relative to this, Paje urged national government agencies and local government units using the Building Code as basis in the approval of land development projects to ensure that recommendations in the EGGAR are properly implemented and complied with during the construction phase.

The Philippines is naturally prone to various geologic and natural hazards like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and major mass movements because of its geographic, geologic and tectonic setting. It straddles the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire where most of strong earthquakes occur.