Huwebes, Hulyo 5, 2012

Feature: DENR’s golden harvest on its silver year

As per Proclamation Number 237, Series of 1988, the Philippines observes the month of June as Philippine Environment Month. Also in June of this year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) commemorated its 25th founding anniversary—having been created through Executive Order 192, and signed by former President Corazon Aquino in 1987.

The silver anniversary of the DENR, somehow, marks the golden era-- or perhaps, the coming of age—in the country’s environmental scene.

The various environment programs by the government, with the DENR at the forefront, have paved the way for reforms which radically improved the country’s environmental state.

In fact, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) developed by Yale and Colombia University, the Philippines ranked 42nd out of 132 countries in terms of environmental performance, putting it under the global “strong performer” category. This is eight notches higher as compared to the country’s 2010 ranking of 50th. Garnering  perfect scores (100 points) in the following indicators: protecting forest cover (logging ban), growing forest stock (National Greening Program), CO2 per capita (for increasing carbon sequestration by growing forests), agricultural subsidies for lowland and upland farmers and for reducing outdoor air pollution; the Philippines outranked  the “more developed” countries like Australia, the United States, Singapore, and Israel.

The EPI is in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the European Commission.

The country’s impressive performance could be attributed to the programs implemented by the DENR together with other government agencies. In support of the agency’s goals of strengthening the conservation, protection, and utilization of natural resources in the country, President Benigno Simeon Aquino has approved many programs and projects of the DENR that have brought positive changes to the country. Some of which are the following:

1.  National Greening Program- Launched in February 2011, through Executive Order No. 26, the National Greening Program (NGP) aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares in six years (from 2011-2016). The program is a reforestation project which already has been instrumental in the planting of 90.6 million trees in 128,591 hectares. It has also generated a total of 364,088 jobs from seedling production and 97,000 from plantation establishments.

2.   Log Ban and Anti-Illegal Logging Campaign- As a complement to the NGP, President Aquino also signed Executive Order No. 23, declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests. Likewise, the anti-illegal logging campaign recovered  some 13.3 million board feet of illegally-cut and transported forest products valued at about P330 million. This was able to send a message across illegal loggers that has resulted in lower number of illegal logging cases in the country. These confiscated products were put into good use as the DENR has donated the logs to the Department of Education. These were then converted to chairs, desks, and other school furniture that benefited many public schools. From the donations, a total of 54,021 armchairs in 1,200 classrooms; 6,090 desks; and 1,332 other school furniture have been produced. Some 363 school buildings have been repaired.

3.   “Adopt-An-Estero/River” Program- The program which have enjoined 272 corporations and LGUs in the adoption of 168 waterbodies nationwide.  The task is to rehabilitate esteros, rivers, waterways, and the Manila Bay through a sustained clean-up. The project has led to the recovery of 3,334 tons of garbage (equivalent to 1,717 truckloads), and an obviously cleaner and healthier bodies of water nationwide.

4.   Air Quality in Metro Manila- The intensified anti-smoke belching campaign has improved air quality in the National Capital Region (NCR). This reduced the total suspended particulates (TSP) in Metro Manila by about 29%, thus, lowering air pollution in the region. Also, new monitoring stations have been installed to effectively oversee the air quality in NCR.

5.   Geo-hazard assessment and mapping – This undertaking was able to identify areas that are prone to flooding and landslides. This has been a great help for the public to prevent these areas or prepare in times of natural calamities. A total of 75,000 map sheets have been distributed to all local government up to barangay level. Corresponding trainings and capability-building were also conducted to the local government personnel to interpret the maps. This is particularly helpful in managing risks and threats from natural disasters. The detailed mapping of all cities and municipalities is targeted to be completed by 2016.

Through a sustained implementation of these programs, the Philippines is on its way to becoming a “green” country once again. In line with the government’s social contract with the Filipinos stipulated in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), the DENR has shown the benefits of a synergistic partnership with other government agencies, private enterprises (through PPP or Public-Private Partnership), and non-government organizations in reaping the fruits of its programs.

Being in the forefront of the government’s Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Cluster, the DENR, under the leadership of Secretary Ramon Paje, is instrumental for the country to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goal of ensuring a global environmental sustainability that would lead the country toward national progress.

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