Press Releases

Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has called on the public to be climate-conscious and use water more efficiently during the Holy Week and the rest of the summer season amid a strong El Niño phenomenon.

“The prevailing heat nowadays should remind people that we are experiencing a longer and hotter dry season. This is aggravated by El Niño and will continue as long as we do not take concrete personal steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Paje said.

He added: “Let us also not forget that while we are enjoying the scenery and the time with our loved ones, there are those who are losing a lot of their livelihood because of the heat and dry spell.”

Farmers bear the brunt of drying effects of El Niño, with agricultural losses have reached more than P5 billion, covering over 200,000 hectares of farmland, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The country’s water supplies are also under close watch as reservoirs begin to dry up and rivers carrying less water.

Paje, meanwhile, urged the public to take measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño like conserving energy and water.

“Enjoy the beauty of our natural wonders, which our country has been blessed with so many of. But remember to keep the environment in as clean and pristine state as possible, or contribute to its improvement, not deterioration,” he said.

He also gave the following tips for climate-friendly summer:

• Use only as much water as needed. Any excess can be used for animals to drink, to water plants, flush the toilets, or clean floors or cars

• Use reusable food-grade containers, not disposable plastic, for food and drinking water to minimize waste

• Keep surroundings clean to reduce the use of energy and water that may be needed to clean them up

• Switch off and unplug electrical appliances, devices or fixtures when not in use

• Keep vehicles well-maintained to lessen pollution, and

• Patronize fuel-efficient vehicles that can transport more passengers at a time. This not only saves on gas but reduces emissions that worsen the heat and contribute to air pollution.

The environment chief also encouraged communities to start cleaning up waterways in their areas to prevent possible flooding after the country’s weather bureau warned of possible onslaught of La Niña when El Niño ends.

La Niña is a phenomenon that usually follows El Niño, bringing above normal rainfall, stronger monsoons, and more storms. ###

Efforts to keep the forests of Panay Island alive got a boost on Thursday as the German government formalized its financial grant for a forest protection project being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in one of the largest islands in the Visayas region.

With German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski in attendance as witness, GIZ Director and Principal Advisor on Climate Program Dr. Bernd Markus Liss signed, in behalf of GIZ Country Director Dr. Andreas Kalk, the implementation agreement with DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, of the Forest and Climate (FORCLIM) Protection Panay Phase II, agreeing to provide 4 million euros or roughly P200 million for the project.

With the accord, Panay Island is assured that its forests and their biological diversities are well protected during the next three years and nine months.

Panay Island is the sixth largest island in the country and the third largest in the Visayas, next only to Samar and Negros Islands. It is comprised of four provinces, namely: Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo.

“We are deeply appreciative of the continuing assistance of the German government to the country, particularly the DENR to ensure the protection of the remaining blocks of forests in the Panay Mountain Range, including the varied biodiversity therein,” Paje said shortly after signing the agreement at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

He added: “Germany has remained consistently involved in the country’s forest conservation efforts not only through GIZ but also other multilateral funding organizations like the Global Environment Facility which is a significant contributor to our foreign-assisted projects on forestry.”

For his part, Amb. Ossowski said the project is another step in the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries, adding that the Philippines has become a “strategic partner of Germany in biodiversity protection and climate change efforts.”

He also described the country’s rich biodiversity as a “garden of Eden, where one can really admire God’s creation, and worthwhile to protect.”

The FORCLIM project seeks to conserve the last remaining larger block of natural forest with globally important biodiversity on Panay Island.

It is also seen to boost the country’s compliance with its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the implementation of its intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) to global greenhouse gas emission reduction under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Despite limited resources, the Philippines has been making remarkable strides in the fight against climate change, among which is the National Greening Program which enabled us to expand our forest cover by more than 1.3 million hectares from 2011 to end of December last year,” Paje said.

He added: “Yet, at the same time, we will continue to seek, along with other developing countries, for assistance whether financial or technology transfer in order for us to attain our INDC of 70 percent emission reduction.”

Paje represented the country in the Convention of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, France in December last year, where he strongly pushed for the inclusion of adaptation finance in the global climate deal.

The project will be jointly implemented by DENR’s Forest Management Bureau, Biodiversity Management Bureau and Western Visayas regional office, the GIZ, local governments and people’s organizations. ###

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje called for sustained efforts among Filipinos in the fight against climate change, as the Philippines once again joins the Earth Hour movement on March 19.

“Climate change is our planet’s biggest environmental challenge, and to fight it requires mass participation across all continents, even in countries like the Philippines which has a very small carbon footprint,” Paje said.

“Earth Hour is but only one response by our country and the rest of humanity,” he added, referring to the global annual event where millions of people switch off their lights for one hour to show their concern for the planet.

The country has been participating in the Earth Hour since 2009, and is consistently one of the biggest advocates of what has been dubbed as the world’s largest climate movement organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Although it has smaller carbon footprint compared to industrialized nations, the Philippines is considered an important player in the fight against climate change being one of the countries most vulnerable to the global phenomenon.

Since joining the movement in 2009, the country consistently had the biggest Earth Hour participation and has been very active in the global fight against climate change.

“We have actually been ‘waking the talk’ beyond merely pledging to limit our carbon emissions,” Paje said.

He said the biggest action the government has taken was to implement the National Greening Program (NGP), the Aquino administration’s flagship reforestation project that is set to surpass its target of reforesting 1.5 million hectares of denuded lands by June this year.

“Our new forests will greatly increase the capacity of our carbon sink to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby mitigating climate change,” Paje said.

Paje noted that satellite data from 2002 to 2014 showed sea levels near the Philippines rising by more than 14 millimeters per year, or five times more than the global average.

“There is increased urgency to act on climate change, and while Earth Hour is symbolic, we must go beyond one hour each year,” he said, adding that the Philippines has been doing its share beyond local boundaries.

Paje cited how the country emphasized the importance of innovations in transferring useful technology and building climate-smart infrastructure during the United Nations Climate Change Summit in 2014.

He said this was followed in February 2015 when the Manila Call to Action on Climate Change was launched in Malacañang.

Also in 2015, the Philippines chaired a forum of vulnerable countries during the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP21.

The forum resulted in the Manila-Paris Declaration of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, which called for being carbon-free and fully producing renewable energy by 2050, Paje said. #

Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has announced that about one-third or 33 percent of management positions in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are now occupied by women.

Paje said women currently hold 269 of the 798 management positions in the agency, or 251 percent higher from the 107 positions recorded in 2008.

As the country observes Women’s Month this March, Paje said it is only fitting that the DENR recognize the important role of women in society and nation-building.

He said the growing number of women with management roles in the environment department was largely due to the Aquino administration’s strong commitment to Gender and Development to ensure fairness and equity in the workplace, allowing women to compete with men on equal basis.

“Gender equality has been a major policy that I pursued when I assumed office in 2010, and whatever accolade or recognition the DENR has been receiving either from local or international bodies is greatly attributed to the increasing role that women play in the DENR organization,” Paje said.

Paje noted that in 2012, the DENR received a “double upgrade” in a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) on corruption, based on interviews with 826 company executives representing large, medium and small enterprises nationwide. It was the first time since 2005 that the DENR got a positive rating in that survey.

Also in 2012, the Philippines ranked 42nd among 132 countries under the “strong performer” category in the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) prepared by Yale and Columbia Universities.

Just recently, the DENR central office became the first institution in the country to receive ISO 14001:2015 Certification from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a Switzerland-based international standard-setting body composed of representatives from national standards organizations of 164 member-countries.

ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organizations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders.

Paje said these achievements would have not been possible without the support of DENR women executives, who supervise offices that are directly responsible for the implementation of environmental policies and programs.

He noted that “80 percent of assistant bureau directors are now occupied by women, and 37 percent of the division chiefs are women.”

According to the DENR’s Statistics and Data Resource Management Office, female top executives rose to 38 this year from 36 in 2015, ranging from the Secretary down to Bureau Directors and Assistant Directors, Administrators, General and Assistant General Managers and Service Directors, including Regional Directors (RDs) and Assistant Regional Directors (ARDs) and Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officers (PENROS).

Female middle managers, consisting of Divisions Chiefs and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (CENROS), rose from 196 to 231 from 2015 to 2016, respectively.

Meanwhile, the DENR has awarded housing units to 55 employees, 34 of them are women, under the agency’s housing project dubbed Project HOPE.

This brings to 2,574 the total number of DENR workers who have availed of the housing units since the project was launched in 1998.

Project HOPE was launched in 1998 after the then Philippine Estates Authority (PEA) transferred to the DENR the housing units, which were part of the 21,000 socialized housing units built through a joint venture agreement between PEA and Filinvest Development Corporation in 1993.

Three more housing projects are being developed by the DENR management for its employees to avail, namely: the Garden Cottages in Tanay, Rizal (130 hectares); the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority Housing Project in Taguig City (5.7 hectares); and the Government Employees Housing Project in Muntinlupa City (78 hectares). #

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is tapping the power of wireless communications technology to expand conservation efforts within protected areas (PAs) across the country.

The agency launched on Thursday a web-based mobile application called Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System (LFBPS) that would provide accurate information about the status of PAs covered by Republic Act No. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

LFBPS would enable park rangers and planners to access critical information in real time and share information about what they find in the field, and would allow wildlife authorities speedy access to information on hundreds of protected species and resources which they can use in identifying and prosecuting wildlife crime.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje welcomed the application as a way to facilitate the country’s wildlife conservation efforts.

“Technology and its applications, like the LFBPS, will surely allow us to cope with the different challenges the environment faces. We see it as a way for us to come up with better ways to reverse environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, and at a faster pace,” he said.

The debut of the mobile app was held at the Fuyot Spring National Park (FSNP) in Ilagan City, Isabela, one of the local government units that overlap in the 360,000-hectare Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP), the largest protected area in the country.

The launching rites was led by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Demetrio Ignacio and Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy, who also witnessed the signing of the guidelines and mechanics for the national adoption of the project by Forest Management Bureau Director Ricardo Calderon and Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Mundita Lim.

Project Lawin is developed by the DENR and the Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

It aims to improve the response mechanisms to address observed threats and ensures the sustainability of conservation efforts inside the country’s PAs over the long-term with active support from local communities in the monitoring and enforcement of wildlife laws, especially in areas that are considered hotspots for timber and wildlife poaching.

Pilot testing of the project started in 2015 in FSPN and in seven other B+WISER project sites, covering a total area of 442,000 hectares.

The other pilot sites were NSMNP in Region 2; Kaliwa-Upper Marikina Watersheds in Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar in Quezon province; Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro; Quinali “A” Watershed in Albay; Bago Watershed Forest Reserve in Negros Occidental; Mt. Kitanglad Natural Park in Bukidnon; and Mt. Apo Natural Park in Southern Mindanao.

At least 670 wildlife workers, consisting of resource and data managers and community monitors who are mostly indigenous peoples, were trained during the pilot testing.

The project’s system operates web-based, open-source software called “CyberTracker” for the data collection interface and the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for data analysis, mapping and report generation.

Data can be transferred to Google maps and other tools for creation of actionable reports, which facilitate decision-making. Decision-makers at the regional and national level could easily access Lawin patrol reports generated at the field level.

During the pilot testing, the system was found to be effective in spotting the trends and patterns of wildlife species using Geographical Information System or GIS.

The data collected gives national and local planners a more detailed perspective of a PA’s biodiversity and how to manage them more intelligently and efficiently.

The system was also found to be helpful in enabling wildlife patrol rangers, which are mostly community volunteers, to quickly alert wildlife officers to recent clearing of wooded areas, and allows them to upload observations and photos of signs of illegal logging as evidence, and send these photos to concerned law enforcement agencies. #