Press Releases

 More than a hundred participants representing water stakeholders from both public and private sectors attended the one-day National Forum on the State of Rivers in the Philippines held Monday (March 14, 2011) at the Sulo Riviera Hotel in Quezon City.

Organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the forum highlighted the national celebration of March 14 as the International Day of |Action for Rivers, with the local theme: “Save Philippine Rivers”. It also served as a venue for consultation with the various stakeholders on the protection, rehabilitation, conservation and governance of the country’s rivers and river basins.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje called the event “timely” in light of the devastating earthquake which hit Japan recently, and which brought to fore problems in water supply for badly hit areas.

In his keynote speech, Paje lamented the people’s low regard in managing the country’s water resources. “At any given time, the country has 146 billion cubic meters of water available, yet we are treating it like a free resource… we are throwing water away by the second, and we are not managing it properly,” Paje said.

Paje also underscored that despite the abundance of water in the Philippines, not much of it is available for public consumption because of problems in “catching” and “keeping” the water such as through water impounding systems; lack of infrastructure, especially for irrigation; and pollution of water bodies.

Paje said addressing such issues would enable the country “to release water at the proper time and proper place, when we need it,” especially during disasters and calamities, as he called on the people to help protect the country’s rivers and river basins, which are considered the “bloodstream of society” supporting life of communities surrounding them.

A river basin is a portion of land that drains to a large river with an estuary or ocean as a final destination. The country has 421 principal river basins, with 20 major river basins having a drainage area of more than 1,000 square kilometers. Yet, a rapidly growing population resulting in increased economic activity and water pollution are putting stress on water resources, prompting the DENR to call for action amid a threat of scarcity of freshwater.

The DENR is initiating or collaborating with other government agencies a line-up of events to bring more attention to the need for sustainable water management. These include the Pasig River Fluvial Parade in Manila (March 15); Walkthrough and Boat Ride at Estero de Paco and Estero de San Miguel in Manila (March 16); Water Trail in Quezon City to be led by water concessionaires (March 21); Filipinos Walk for Watert, which is a local version of the Worldwide Walk for Water, and Executive-Legislative Dialogue on Water with President Aquino at SM Mall of Asia, and Symposium on Best Practices on Water at Micro Tel near SM-MOA, all on March 22 in celebration of World Water Day; Water Quality Management Area Forum at Richmond Hotel, Quezon City (March 24); and river cleanup of Estero dela Reina/Tullahan in Gagalangin, Tondo (March 25).

World Water Day is celebrated every March 22. This year’s theme is “Water for Cities: Responding to the Urban Challenge”, which aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities and individuals to actively engage in addressing challenges of water management in urban areas.

 Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje welcomed a recent resolution by the country’s highest tribunal ordering government agencies to abide by deadlines in cleaning up Manila Bay.

“I personally welcomed the move of the Supreme Court of giving the DENR, as well as the other government agencies, time frames within which we are to implement our respective tasks in cleaning up the Manila Bay,” Paje said during a sail of Manila Bay on Friday (March 11, 2011) with five Supreme Court justices led by Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The other justices who joined the Manila Bay inspection tour were Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr, Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo and Justice Jose P. Perez.

The sail, which began at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) wharf in South Harbor in Manila aboard MV EDSA II, provided the SC justices an ocular assessment of on-going efforts in the historic bay’s rehabilitation and restoration. “The overall state of Manila Bay has deteriorated since the issuance of the mandamus, but there are certain areas that have actually shown a little improvement. The deadlines set by the SC will hopefully lead to the bay’s rehabilitation at the soonest possible time,” Paje said.

The SC on February 15, 2011 rendered a decision based on recommendations by the Manila Bay Advisory Committee (MBAC) led by SC Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., to set time frames for the agencies to perform their tasks as ordered in a “writ of continuing mandamus” for the DENR and 10 other government agencies to clean up Manila Bay, known worldwide for its beautiful sunset. The mandamus was issued in December 2008 as a result of a complaint filed by “concerned residents of Manila Bay” on the alleged inaction of government to improve the bay’s condition.

During the meeting, Paje directed Manila Bay Coordinating Office (MBCO) Executive Director Noel Gaerlan to submit to the SC the updated Operational Plan for Manila Bay Coastal Strategy (OPMBCS) even before the June 30, 2011 deadline set by the SC. The plan is also to include template forms or lists for an environmental compliance audit as suggested by environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa.

Oposa had presented “practical ways” to clean up the bay, suggesting that issues be divided into three: solid waste management, liquid waste management, and informal settlers. He also proposed that barangays be audited according to their compliance to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, evaluating them with a “point system” for segregation, collection, existence of materials recovery facilities, dumpsites, and the like.

Earlier during the meeting, MBCO’s Gaerlan presented the results of water quality monitoring for year 2010, indicating the amounts of fecal and total coliform as counted in 14 monitoring stations set up along bathing beaches around the bay. These stations are located in the following bathing areas: two stations each at Noveleta, Tanza and Naic, all in Cavite; Limay and Mariveles in Bataan; and one each at the Navotas Fishport, Luneta Park, Bacoor and Rosario, Cavite.

Of these 14, only six passed the class SB criteria for fecal coliform, namely two stations in Noveleta, two in Tanza, one each in Mariveles and Limay. Meanwhile, nine yielded passing marks for total coliform, namely two in Noveleta, two in Naic, one in Cavite, and all four in Bataan.

Gaerlan also reported that the Parañaque River has reached a critical level of 0.345 mg/L level of dissolved oxygen (DO), far below the ideal of above 5mg/L. DO is the amount of oxygen necessary for marine life to survive.

On the other hand, the Ylangylang River in Cavite registered high amounts of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), which at 89.75 mg/L is way above the required 5mg/L. BOD is the measure of oxygen used by bacteria to decompose organic waste in the higher supply. A high amount of BOD means bacteria robs other aquatic organisms of oxygen supply they need to live.

 The government’s National Greening Program (NGP) is on the right track in promoting the role of women and achieving the country’s millennium development goal of ensuring sustainable development.

This was announced by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary Ramon J. P. Paje through a message delivered by his chief of staff Asst. Secretary Analiza Teh as the agency kicked off its celebration of March as National Women’s Month.

Executive Order (EO) No. 26 signed by Pres. Aquino declared the NGP as a national priority program with the goal of planting 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares for the period 2011-2016.

“The objective of the EO is to pursue sustainable development for poverty reduction, food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Without discriminating the men, various studies indicate that women are mostly affected by disasters, food scarcity and environmental degradation,” said Paje.

Paje said that the successful implementation of the NGP will be the agency’s major contribution to the fulfillment of this year’s theme for National Women’s Month, “Magna Carta of Women, Philippine CEDAW: In support of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)”. Further, monitoring of the agency’s accomplishments would consider sex-disaggregated data to determine the number of female beneficiaries or participants in the program.

According to him, the DENR has undertaken concrete initiatives in response to the three-fold challenge of gender and development (GAD), namely, the country’s commitment to the international Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW; compliance to Republic Act (RA) 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women; and MDG number 7, ensuring environmental sustainability.

He cited that the DENR has long been issuing tenurial instruments such as forest stewardship and land patents to female beneficiaries. He has also instructed the agency’s land management sector to include gender perspectives in the implementation of, and information campaign for, Republic Act 10023 or the Residential Free Patent Act.

For DENR employees, Paje said GAD-related initiatives include the establishment of a day care center for the employees’ children; membership of GAD representatives in various agency committees; issuance of implementing rules and regulations on gender-related laws such as Republic Act No. 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995; and implementation of flexi-time, maternity and paternity leaves per Civil Service Commission rules.

 The national anti-illegal logging task force (NAILTF) chaired by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje recently passed a resolution calling for the creation of local task forces in all regions of the country, except in the National Capital Region (NCR).

Paje said the move is in response to a provision in Executive Order No. 23, which orders the body to establish closer ties with local government units (LGUs) in the crusade against illegal logging.

“To underscore the role of the LGUs in the implementation of EO 23, Resolution No. 2011-003 designates the Regional Task Forces (RTF) to act on reports by local executives, through their provincial governors or the regional directors of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG),” Paje said.

Resolution 2011-003 provides that “all concerned municipal/city mayors, though their respective barangay captains” are to conduct upland monitoring “to ensure that no illegal logging, kaingin and other forms of forest destruction” take place within their jurisdictions with the injunction to report to the RTFs, “through the Provincial Governor and/or the DILG Regional Director,” incidents of forests destruction especially kaingin and illegal logging activities.

Paje reminded concerned local officials to “exercise extra vigilance” in taking heed of the resolution’s injunction on reporting all forms of destructive activities inside the forest as the resolution imposes a sanction of preventive suspension with the possibility of facing appriorate charges to be filed by no less than DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, who is also a member of the five-man NAILTF created by virtue of EO 23.

Other members of NAILTF included National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Philippine National Police Chief Raul Bacalzo, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Ricardo David, Jr.

Under the resolution, the RTFs are to be created in all administrative regions, except the NCR, to be chaired by the concerned DENR Regional Executive Director with the DILG regional director as vice chair, and the PNP Regional Director and concerned Brigade Commanders of the AFP as members.

Tasked to be “responsible for the overall implementation of (EO 23) in their respective areas of jurisdiction and shall directly report to the (NAILTF),” the RTFs “can call upon the support of all government agencies,” including the PNP and AFP Environmental Desks which are created under the PNP Regional Directorate and the AFP Brigade Commanders, respectively.

Said environmental desks are to “coordinate the provision of police and military support to all anti-illegal logging operations” of the NAILTF and the RTFs.

To further give more teeth to Resolution 2011-003, Paje bared that the body also passed Resolution 2011-04 detailing a wide range of undertakings the body are to take which include the conduct of periodic aerial surveillamce; acquisition of aerial photos to be provided by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA), particularly of critical areas and hotspots identified by the DENR; conduct of massive consultations and trainings with upland peoples organizations on the development of social fences around natural and residual forests nationwide.

 

The government is embarking on a massive greening program aimed at reducing poverty in the countryside while ensuring food security, biodiversity conservation and address climate change.

This was announced today by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, saying the national greening program (NGP) is a priority of President Benigno S. Aquino III in an effort to bring back the lost forest cover of the country. He also said the program has the full support of the Cabinet.

“At least during his term, Pres. Aquino wants to grow back the lost forest cover of the country,” Paje said. There are about 8 million hectares of denuded areas nationwide, according to Paje.

Specifically, Paje said the goal is to plant 1.5 billion trees in some 1.5 million hectares from 2011 to 2016, which is more than twice the government’s accomplishment of 730,000 hectares for the past 25 years.

Among the areas targeted for planting under the program are forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban area under the Greening Plan of local government units, inactive and abandoned mines and other suitable lands.

In Executive Order No. 26 issued on February 24, 2011, President Aquino tasked the DENR to lead the implementation of NGP, with the members of the steering committee under the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-DENR Convergence Initiative to constitute the program’s Oversight Committee.

“With EO 26, which sets off the National Greening Program (NGP), the President has effectively put order and complimentarity to all past greening efforts to regain the country’s verdant past and self-sufficiency in its timber needs,” Paje said.

Paje also explained that the NGP will draw its strength from people’s participation through social mobilization with the whole bureaucracy serving as the prime mover in the greening program.

As mandated in the executive order, Paje said the DENR is to draw partnership with all national government agencies, LGUs, government owned and controlled corporations, including state colleges and universities to harness their maximum participation through their personnel complement. Paje estimated around 1.2 million government employees to plant at least 10 seedlings each.

In addition, Paje said around 14 million students shall likewise be tapped to participate in the program, as well as the 20 million residents in upland communities in an effort to provide them additional livelihood opportunities and reduce poverty.