Press Releases

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has partnered with the various stakeholder groups to plant 6,000 seedlings comprising of narra, goldern shower and pili species at the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), from Calamba, Laguna to Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

Some 700 volunteers from the DENR, South Luzon Tollway Corporation, the local government units of Calamba in Laguna and Sto. Tomas in Batangas, and the Rotary Clubs of Makati Rockwell and San Francisco del Monte took part in greening the five kilometer-stretch of the expressway Saturday (Oct. 1).

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje expressed appreciation for the continuing support the country’s various sectors are extending to the National Greening Program, saying the program is the government’s response to international calls to address global problems like climate change and biodiversity loss with local actions.

“The NGP is designed to address global as well as local problems. By planting more trees, we are enhancing the absorbing capacity of our forests for carbon dioxide, which is considered the major driver of global warming and climate change,” Paje explained.

The greening of SLEX, said Paje, serves an important tool to mitigate climate change as the trees would sequester the carbon dioxide emitted by motor vehicles plying the expressway.

With the theme, Greener and Litter-free Tollways, the tree planting started at 8 o’clock in the morning. On hand to lead their volunteers in the activity included Jerome Vinarao of the RC-Makati Rockwell; Isaac David, president of South Luzon Tollway Corp.; former DENR Undersecretary Rolando Metin; DENR Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza; Emelita Aguinaldo of the National Solid Waste Commission; and DENR-PENRO Cid Mercado.



Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said that the agency is already laying the groundwork to study the population and distribution of crocodiles in the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) in the CARAGA region.

“This study is going to be scientific, and we will be tapping experts not only from the DENR but also from other stakeholder groups. This study will, hopefully, provide us with the necessary baseline information on the abundance and area of concentration of crocodiles within the marsh, from which we will base our short term and long term management program for the crocodiles in the Agusan Marsh,” Paje said.

The scientific study is programmed to start in November and is expected to be completed by April 2012. Joining the DENR in the exercise are representative experts from the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of the AMWS, local academic institutions, non-government organizations, and the Crocodylus Porosus Philippines, Inc. (CPPI).

The CPPI is a private organization of six legitimate crocodile breeders in the country who source their stock from the DENR-managed Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, formerly known as the Crocodile Farming Institute.

Paje explained that the six-month study would also involve information and education campaign to raise community awareness on preventing further crocodile attacks in the area. The study also seeks to develop local expertise on crocodile monitoring and habitat assessment, according to him.

Lolong, a saltwater crocodile caught early in September, has been touted to be the country’s biggest captive crocodile, measuring 21 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, and weighing 1,075 kilos. Residents reported, however, the presence of a bigger “nuisance” crocodile in the area.

The DENR chief reiterated the need to keep Lolong in captivity to ensure the safety of residents. At the same time, he said, Lolong provides a living specimen to orient the public on conserving crocodiles as they have an important ecological role in the wetland environment. “This way we could somehow find alternatives to promote or harmonize the co-existence of the people and the crocodiles and other wildlife species in the marsh,” Paje said.

The Agusan Marsh, with area covering 14,836 hectares, is the largest freshwater wetland in the Philippines and is said to hold the country’s largest remaining population of saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) and freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis).

Paje said that the local government unit (LGU) of Bunawan, Agusan del Sur, headed by Mayor Edwin Elorde, has already expressed full support for the study and is, in fact, a partner in developing management measures for Lolong. Such measures include the establishment of an appropriate facility or improvement of the existing one, visitor management, crocodile health maintenance, community training and information campaign, record-keeping and reporting.

In the meantime, the DENR, the PAMB, and the LGU-Banawan have already taken measures to ensure proper care and welfare of Lolong, which will remain in captivity. These include the engagement of wildlife veterinarians who shall conduct regular ocular inspection of the crododile, and provide it with multi-vitamins, minerals and other food supplements; and weekly change of the water in the pond as a sanitary measure.



Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has endorsed to Malacanang the proposed proclamation of the Marikina Watershed Reservation as a protected area pursuant to Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

Paje signed the endorsement on Monday (Sept. 26) at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City following the signing of the “Statement of Commitment to Save the Marikina Watershed” by various key stakeholders pushing for its declaration as a protected area.

“We have recommended to President Aquino the declaration of the Marikina watershed as a protected area. Once declared, the management of Marikina watershed will be changed into a protected area management regime,” Paje said, adding that under such a regime, exploitation and cutting of trees within the watershed would be reduced.

Paje also said that the DENR, together with the Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), the Alliance of 7, Rizal provincial government, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and all other stakeholders, has committed to plant five million trees from 2011 to 2016 under the National Greening Program (NGP).

“In the Statement of Commitment we just signed with other stakeholders, we will plant five million trees to rehabilitate the Marikina watershed to enhance its water-holding capacity to reduce siltation and flash flooding,” Paje explained.

Paje, who is also a forester, explained that a forested area could prevent flash flooding as it would absorb most rainwater and release it slowly to the lowlands. Forest is also important in preventing or minimizing soil erosion, according to him.

The commitment signing coincided with the second anniversary of typhoon “Ondoy” which caused massive flooding in Metro Manila and several municipalities in Rizal.

Among the signatories include Sec. Neric Acosta, presidential adviser and general manager of the LLDA, Atty. Francis Tolentino, chairman of MMDA, Atty. Christian Monsod of CCCP, Klaas Oreel of PDRF, Rizal Vice Gov. Frisco San Juan and Sec. Paje.

As proposed the Marikina Watershed Reservation will then be known as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape, and will cover a total area of 26,125.64 hectares in the city of Antipolo and in the municipalities of Baras, Rodriquez, San Mateo and Tanay, all in the province of Rizal.

Paje also stressed that the declaration of the watershed as a protected area is imperative to maintain the life-support system in its natural condition and to conserve the rich cultural features and the threatened and endangered Philippine flora and fauna thriving in the area. It is also seen as a potential source of water supply for Metro Manila, and plays a vital role in regulating flooding in the low-lying areas of Rizal and MM.

Among the endangered wildlife species found in the Marikina watershed include forest trees like narra, red and white lauan, bagtikan, kamagong, and molave; while the wild fauna include birds like the Philippine bulbul, black-naped oriole and jungle fowl; mammals like the Philippine deer, wild pig and the Philippine monkey; and reptile such as the monitor lizard.

DENR records indicate that the Marikina Watershed Reservation was established by virtue of Executive Order No. 33, issued on July 26, 1904, thereby making it part of the initial component of the NIPAS.



 Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has ordered the filing of criminal charges against 10 fishermen reportedly caught poaching off Apo Reef Natural Park in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro and the seizure of all equipment used by the poachers.

Paje’s orders stemmed from the apprehension of the fishermen caught by a composite patrol team on Sunday (September 18) for fishing and collecting marine products using hook and line without permit. The Apo Reef is a “no-take zone”, making fishing illegal and punishable under Republic Act (RA) 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992.

“We have to convey to the public that we are serious in our fight against despoilers of our environment, especially of our coral reefs which provide habitat to a diverse species of fish and other marine mammals,” said Paje.

At the same time, he lauded Task Force MARLEN (Marine and Apo Reef Law Enforcement of Nature) for the swift capture of the alleged poachers, saying that the action was “proof of how stakeholders of the environment can work together to protect our country’s natural treasures.”

Task Force MARLEN is composed of representatives from the DENR, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the local government of Sablayan. The task force regularly patrols the 274.69-kilometer coral reef, which is a “no take zone” and thus strictly off limits to fishers.

Arrested were a certain Rey Gesihan, Dalmacio dela Cruz, Michael Magayon, Rey Mangao, Marcial Duroy, Portacio Magramo, Rizalito Magayon, and Edrian Ramos, all of Brgy. Sta. Lucia in Sablayan; Gilbert Celino and JR Collamar of Brgy. Buenavista, also in Sablayan.

DENR-MIMAROPA Regional Technical Director Edgardo Galeon of the Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Services, who led Task Force MARLEN, said that the fishermen have been brought to the Sablayan Municipal Police Station for investigation.

Following the Paje’s orders, Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) Daniel Estarija reported that the boats and fishing paraphernalia were seized and placed under the custody of the DENR station in Apo Reef Island pending the outcome of the investigation and charges filed with the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Meanwhile, the poachers’ fish catch would be distributed to penal and charitable institutions to avoid decay and wastage.

The Apo Reef Natural Park is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world, next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the largest one in the country. It is a famous diving spot famous for the diversity of its coral reefs, whose condition has improved over the years, and marine animals which include the pawikan (sea turtle), manta and eagle rays, sharks, and even transients such as sperm whales and dolphins.

It is on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The NIPAS Act specifically prohibits the use of motorized equipment as well as hunting, destroying, disturbing or mere possession of any plants or animals or products derived from protected areas without permit from the Protected Area Management Board or PAMB. Such acts are punishable from five to five hundred thousand pesos, as well as imprisonment from one to six years.



Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje today said that the DENR will continue to assist the local government of Bunawan in Agusan de Sur for the care and safety of ‘lolong’ in captivity.

At the same time, he said that a proposal to study the population abundance of crocodile in the Agusan Marsh is currently being evaluated by the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau.

“PAWB is now evaluating a proposal to undertake a survey of crocodile population in Agusan Marsh. One particular objective of the survey is to find out if there are still ‘nuisance’ crocodiles in the area so that the DENR, in coordination with the LGU and other support organizations, could come up with a better management alternative,” Paje said.

He also said that PAWB Director Mundita Lim has earlier met with Bunawan Mayor Edwin Elorde to assess the current artificial facility of ‘lolong’ and other technical matters.
“From what I learned from Director Lim is that the current facility is quite small for ‘lolong’. That is why she recommended to Mayor Elorde to construct a bigger one, which somehow approximates the natural habitat of crocodiles, with trees around and a deeper pond,” Paje said.

Paje explained that the reason why the holding pen for ‘lolong’ was quite small for him was because it was constructed prior to its capture. “According to Dir. Lim, the size of the enclosure was based on the regular size of crocodiles that are currently taken care of in crocodile farms in Palawan and Davao. Who would think that ‘lolong’ would be this huge,” Paje said. At 21 feet long, 3.5 feet wide and weighing 1,075 kilos, ‘lolong’ is the country’s biggest crocodile in captivity at present.

Paje said Mayor Elorde was agreeable to the recommendation of constructing a new one within the area in Brgy. Consuela. In the meantime, the local government is now reinforcing the perimeter fence of the current facility of ‘lolong’ with a meter-wide compacted soil surrounded by another layer of concrete perimeter fence.

On calls to return the captured crocodile, Paje expressed appreciation for the concern of the group. However, he said it is also important to give due consideration to the welfare of the people in Agusan Marsh.

According to Paje, even if it could not be ascertained that ‘lolong’ was responsible for the attacks, the situation calls for prudence on the part of the local government and of the DENR to keep the captured crocodile in its artificial habitat for the safety of the residents.

“Definitely, we could not compromise the safety of the residents. We have to understand that the community is already living in fear, especially with the report that there’s a bigger one out there in the marsh, based on the accounts of the residents themselves,” Paje stressed.

At the same time, Paje said that the DENR and the LGU could not allow ‘lolong’ to be exposed to public wrath. “Lolong will be better off in its artificial habitat to prevent people from killing it,” he said.

During her visit last week, Lim awarded Mayor Elorde a plaque of appreciation for all the support exerted by the local government in ensuring not only the safe capture of lolong but also its proper care and maintenance, and for providing facility for the crocodile.