environment

Cimatu: DENR is more determined than ever to restore Manila Bay

January 7, 2020

Rehabilitating a heavily polluted water body is proving to be an extremely difficult task, but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) under the leadership of Secretary Roy A. Cimatu is more determined than ever to win the so-called “Battle for Manila Bay.”      Cimatu, who chairs the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF), said that much has been achieved since the Manila Bay rehabilitation kicked off in January this year, but more needs to be done to achieve the ultimate goal of making it fit again for swimming and other forms of contact recreation.      “Our effort to restore Manila Bay is now in full swing and we hope to sustain the momentum of restoring it to its former glory in the coming years,” Cimatu said, noting that the Manila Bay rehabilitation will remain a top priority of the government until 2022.      According to Cimatu, the rehabilitation is currently in its first phase, which is the cleanup and water quality monitoring. The next two phases will be relocation and rehabilitation, and education, protection and sustainment.      As of September 26, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau and the Laguna Lake Development Authority inspected 9,708 commercial establishments around Manila Bay. Of this number, 2,478 were issued notices of violations and 107 were slapped with cease and desist orders.      Since the rehabilitation started in January, close to 70,000 volunteers from the National Capital Region, Central Luzon and CALABARZON have collected over 2.3 million kilograms of wastes through cleanups, trash boats and garbage traps.      A total of 70 stations were monitored in the Manila Bay region—31 bathing beaches, 18 river mouths, 16 drainage outfalls and five rivers.      The MBTF has identified 44,125 informal settler families living within the Manila Bay region. While relocation will still be carried out in the second phase of rehabilitation, 51 families—specifically situated along Estero de San Antonio de Abad—were already relocated to Tala, Caloocan City.      In line with this, 547 kilometers of easements have been delineated in NCR and Central Luzon.      To improve the ecosystem in the area, the DENR led the planting of native and fruit-bearing tree seedlings and mangrove propagules.      The agency also intensified its information and education campaign (IEC) on the importance of rehabilitating Manila Bay by conducting over 120 seminars, trainings, and activities participated in by more than 8,100 individuals.      The DENR also came out with 3,574 printed materials, such as on the ongoing rehabilitation, as well as nine information campaigns and 43 updates posted on various social media platforms.      Cimatu said the interventions related to IEC will further increase as the rehabilitation progresses. “We hope that communities will imbibe the knowledge that was handed to them in ensuring the cleanliness in areas they live in,” he said.      The DENR also reactivated its coordination with 12 other government agencies covered by the 2008 Supreme Court continuing mandamus for the cleanup, rehabilitation and preservation of Manila Bay.

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DENR: Public safety is a major consideration in granting tree-cutting permit

November 25, 2019

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) never wants a tree to be cut down unless it is absolutely necessary for public safety.      This was the assurance made by DENR Undersecretary and Chief of Staff Rodolfo Garcia amid the controversy over the cutting of roadside trees in the cities of Naga and Carcar in Cebu province to pave way for ongoing road widening projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).      During the press conference of the recently concluded International Federation of Landscape Architects-Asia Pacific Region Congress held in Cebu City, Garcia said it came to a point where the century-old trees, which are diseased and dying, already pose a high risk to public safety.      “The aims of development projects and protection of the environment are guided by practicality and making sure we conduct consultation with the people—consideration will be easing the lives of the people,” Garcia explained.      Garcia said the trees have to be removed because these already encroach the highway including carriageways and sidewalks, thus endangering the lives of motorists and nearby residents.      “If we have the diseased trees there, standing where the expanded highway or street is, it will pose danger to vehicles and there will be vehicular accidents,” Garcia said.      He added that these trees also contribute to the already bad traffic condition in metro Cebu which has narrow roadways.      “We see the necessity of expanding the road networks here in Cebu, basically to help ease the lives of the people by making their transport faster.”      The DENR official also cited the recommendation of a pathologist, who checked on the health condition of the trees, to cut them down because these are already dying and have become host to pests and diseases.      He emphasized that the government protects century-old trees through the heritage tree project (HTP), but not those which are situated along highways and have become hazard to public safety.      Under the HTP, the DENR coordinates with communities and institutions to protect and save mature trees in highly-urbanized areas by designating them as “heritage trees.”      The DENR—through its regional office in Central Visayas—conducted a consultation on October 25 with the Cebu provincial government and DPWH-Region 7. During the consultation, DENR representatives discussed the agency’s tree replacement program wherein it commits to plant 100 trees in exchange for each tree that will be cut down.

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Amazon deforestation and number of fires show summer of 2019 not a 'normal' year

November 25, 2019

The fires that raged across the Brazilian Amazon this summer were not 'normal' and large increases in deforestation could explain why, scientists show.      The perceived scale of the Amazon blazes received global attention this summer. However, international concerns raised at the time were countered by the Brazilian Government, which claimed the fire situation in August was 'normal' and 'below the historical average'.      An international team of scientists writing in the journal Global Change Biology say the number of active fires in August was actually three times higher than in 2018 and the highest number since 2010.      Although fires in the Amazon can occur in a number of ways, the scientists show that there is strong evidence to link this year's increases to deforestation.      They have used evidence collected from the Brazilian Government's DETER-b deforestation detection system -- which calculates deforestation by interpreting images taken by NASA satellites.      This shows that deforestation in July this year was almost four times the average from the same period in the previous three years. This is important as deforestation is almost always followed by fire -- the cut vegetation is left to dry before being burned.      Professor Jos Barlow, lead author of the paper said: "The marked upturn in both active fire counts and deforestation in 2019 therefore refutes suggestions by the Brazilian Government that August 2019 was a normal fire month in the Amazon."      August's blazes occurred at a time without a strong drought. Droughts can provide conditions favourable to the spreading of human-made fires. The scientists also show that the 'enormous' smoke plumes that reached high into the atmosphere, which were captured by media footage of the blazes, could only have been caused by the combustion of large amounts of biomass.      The researchers acknowledge that the number of active fires decreased in September by 35 per cent. Though they say it is not clear whether that fall is due to rains or President Bolsonaro's two-month moratoria on fires.      Images from DETER-b show that deforestation continued at a rate well above the average in September, despite the President's moratoria.      The extent of August's fires is unclear. Although the numbers of fires are counted, their extent is not, the researchers acknowledge in their paper 'Clarifying Amazonia's burning crisis'.      Dr Erika Berenguer, a Brazilian researcher jointly affiliated with Lancaster University and the University of Oxford, said: "Our paper clearly shows that without tackling deforestation, we will continue to see the largest rainforest in the world being turned to ashes. We must curb deforestation.      "Brazil has for the past decade been an environmental leader, showing to the world that it can successfully reduce deforestation. It is both economically and environmentally unwise to revert this trend."      The paper's authors are Jos Barlow of Lancaster University, Erika Berenguer of Lancaster University and the University of Oxford, Rachel Carmenta of the University of Cambridge, and Filipe França of the Universidade Federal do Pará.      (Story Source: Materials provided by Lancaster University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length./ www.sciencedaily.com)

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DENR leads strategic communication planning workshop for Philippine Rise conservation

November 25, 2019

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), will hold a three-day inter-agency workshop aiming to come up with a strategic communication plan for the conservation of the Philippine Rise Marine Resource Reserve (PRMRR).      The workshop, happening from November 13 to 15 at Sulo Riviera in Quezon City, will bring together communications officers and other representatives from various government agencies, academic institutions and environmental groups.      DENR Assistant Secretary and concurrent BMB Director Ricardo Calderon said the development of a communication plan forms part of a series of activities prescribed in PRMRR’s management plan formulated by an interim management group.      “The communication plan will guide and support activities for increasing stakeholder awareness and literacy on the ecological and economic value of PRMRR,” Calderon said.      The workshop, he added, aims to generate “consistent and uniformed messages about PRMRR” from concerned government agencies and other stakeholders.      Aside from DENR and BMB officials, communications officers from the Presidential Communication Operations Office, National Security Council, Department of Science and Technology, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, and Department of Foreign Affairs will be attending the workshop.      Other participants include those from the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute and the Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, Conservation International Philippines, and National Coast Watch Council.      PRMRR is located within the 24-million hectare Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, which in 2012 was declared by the United Nations as part of the country’s extended continental shelf.      In May 2017, President Rodrigo RoaDuterte renamed Benham Rise to Philippine Rise to assert the country’s sovereign rights over the massive underwater plateau in the Pacific Ocean east of Luzon.      A year later, the President declared portions of Philippine Rise as a marine resource reserve, placing 50,000 hectares of the undersea region under “strict protection zone” limited to scientific studies and designating 300,000 hectares as a Special Fisheries Management Area.      Even prior to the proclamation, the BMB has been collaborating with key national government agencies and stakeholders working for the sustainable use of resources in Philippine Rise.

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DENR inks new CNA with employees

August 2, 2019

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Kalipunan ng mga Kawani ng Kagawaran ng Kalikasan (K4) recently signed a new Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) providing for additional benefits to DENR workers for the next three years.      K4, which has a total of 16 regional chapters nationwide, is duly accredited by the Civil Service Commission and has been recognized as the sole and exclusive negotiating representative of all DENR rank-and-file employees for almost one decade already.      The CNA was signed by DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu and K4 national president Jose Isidro Michael Padin during the celebration of the DENR’s 32nd founding anniversary last June 14. It was the second CNA signed between DENR and K4.      Cimatu said he was honored the new DENR-K4 deal was signed under his watch even as vowed for “continued harmonious relationship between the union and the management.”      “This CNA is a recognition of the fact that the DENR’s strength relies on the unity and well-being of its workers,” Cimatu pointed out.      The DENR chief also thanked the K4 officers and members of the Board of Directors who helped make the CNA signing possible.      Under the new CNA, the DENR and K4 agreed to extend mutual cooperation and assistance to each other “with the end in view of improving the welfare and well-being of the workers.”      At least four new employees’ benefits have been added in the agreement, which will take effect until June 2022.      These benefits include provision of hazard pay and accident insurance, establishment of a wellness program, and formulation of a comprehensive health insurance.      Those covered by hazard pay and accident insurance are workers engaged in law enforcement activities against illegal logging, mining, and illegal trade and poaching of wildlife species.      The wellness program includes provision of free maintenance medicine for, but not limited to, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.      It also includes annual medical, optical and dental examination; stress management program; and immunization and screening for tuberculosis and Hepatitis B.      The CNA also calls for formulation of a comprehensive health insurance for workers in addition to the benefits available under the Employees Compensation Commission, the PhilHealth Insurance Program, and other applicable programs and policies of the government.      The CNA was a product of a month-long negotiation, which ended last June 7. The final agreement was presented to the DENR Executive Committee on June 10 or four days before the actual signing.

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Cimatu calls for convergence to fight invasive alien species in Asia-Pacific

July 26, 2019

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has called on experts and researchers in the Asia-Pacific region to work together in coming up with research-based solutions that would reduce the negative impact of invasive alien species (IAS) to biodiversity and the environment in general.      “I stand firm in promoting convergence of our research and development (R&D) efforts for a sustainable region-wide management of (IAS),” Cimatu said as he welcomed the delegates to the international conference on IAS management that took place in Manila from July 9 to 11.      “Let us continue with our pursuit for research-driven strategies and policies to effectively manage and conserve biodiversity for the good of humankind,” he added.      The three-day event called “IAS Conference 2019” has brought together IAS experts, researchers, dialogue partners, environment managers and other stakeholders from the Asia-Pacific region.      In his keynote speech read by DENR OIC Assistant Secretary for Staff Bureaus and concurrent Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Ricardo Calderon, Cimatu underscored the need for a collective effort to tackle IAS that has been “invading and destroying nature’s ecological balance.”      “These IAS pose serious environmental concerns and are among the major threats to biodiversity,” Cimatu pointed out. “They cover a wide gamut of ecosystems from the terrestrial to aquatic environments, irreversibly impacting on biodiversity, agriculture, as well as food and water security.”      IAS are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.      The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines IAS as species whose introduction and spread from their place of origin threaten biological diversity. They are the second biggest cause of biodiversity loss all over the world, next only to habitat destruction.      Except for Antartica and the glaciated Greenland, the IAS affected 17 percent of the global land area which are highly predisposed to their infestation.      These environmental villains are found in many countries in Asia and the Pacific, including the Philippines, assailing the region’s key terrestrial, wetland, coastal, marine and estuarine ecosystems.      In agriculture, the IAS broadly applies to any non-indigenous weeds, pest, insects and other disease-causing agents that disrupt crop and livestock, among others.      In the freshwater environment, one common invasive species is the carp that originated from Europe but has insidiously multiplied and is now found in almost all parts of the globe. This alien invader is classified as the most invasive in the world, damaging marine life.      Among the most infamous IAS in the Philippines are the American bullfrog and the golden apple snail or golden kuhol, which have displaced indigenous species in natural habitats.      The IAS conference was organized by the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) and funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.      According to ERDB Director Sofio Quintana, the conference served as an avenue to the technical experts to verify the list of IAS, including their potential threats and impacts.      The eradication of IAS, he said, was in line with “Target 9 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity.”      Aside from the Philippines, other Asia-Pacific nations that presented their research papers during the conference were India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates, United States and Vietnam.      The Philippines was represented by experts from the DENR-BMB, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, and Food and Agriculture Organization-Philippines, among others.

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