Press Releases

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is hosting the first ever regional workshop on social forestry and its potential to climate change mitigation and adaptation in Southeast Asia on October 20-21 at Bayleaf Hotel in Manila.

The two-day workshop brings together some 50 forestry experts and policymakers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to map out short- and long-term actions on social forestry as a major strategy to help member-countries meet their respective nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The initiative builds on the recognition in the Paris Agreement of the important role of forests to achieve real reduction in the global emission of greenhouse gases in the short and long term.

The theme for the 1st ASEAN Forestry Working Group Workshop on Social Forestry and NDCs is "Operationalizing the Paris Agreement towards Developing ASEAN Guidelines to Strengthen Social Forestry Integration in NDCs Planning in ASEAN."

Among the speakers during the meeting are: Dr. Pham Quang Minh of the ASEAN Secretariat on “ASEAN Vision on Food, Agriculture and Forests – Perspectives on Linking Social Forestry and Climate Change”; Dr. Maria Brockhaus of Center for International Forestry Research on “Framework on Forestry and Climate Change”; Dr. Doris Capistrano of ASEAN Social Forestry Network on “Gains and Good Practice of Social Forestry and Contribution of Social Forestry and Climate Change Agenda.

Director Ricardo Calderon, chief of the Forest Management Bureau of DENR will speak on the “National Perspective of Linking Social Forestry and Climate Change”.

The Philippines, through the DENR, is currently the chair of the ASEAN Working Group on Social Forestry.

The workshop aims to further strengthen the contributions of social forestry to regional climate change plans and the NDCs of respective ASEAN nations.

According to the Center for People and Forests of the Regional Community Forestry Training Center for Asia and the Pacific or RECOFTC, forest areas placed under social forestry schemes in the ASEAN only cover 15 million hectares or roughly 3.5 percent of the region's total forestland area of 434 million hectares in 2013.

The center is an international non-profit organization that focuses on capacity building for community forestry in the Asia-Pacific region.

In its report, the center cited the Philippines and Vietnam as having the biggest contributions to social forestry at 26.12 percent and 25.08 percent, respectively.

Other countries cited in the report were Thailand with 2.23 percent; Cambodia, 1.8 percent; Myanmar, 0.13 percent; and Indonesia, 0.11 percent.

Social forestry as a national forestry conservation in the Philippines traces its roots in 1982 with the issuance of Letter of Instruction No. 1260, which consolidated three of the government's upland conservation initiatives (Communal Tree Farming, Forest Occupancy Management, and Family Approach to Reforestation) into one comprehensive program called Integrated Social Forestry Program (ISFP).

ISFP was designed to provide security of tenure to forest occupants through a 25-year Certificate of Stewardship Contract or Certificate of Forest Stewardship Agreement, and enhance the capability of farmer-beneficiaries to sustain the economic productivity and ecological stability of their settled lands.

In 1995, then President Fidel Ramos issued Executive Order No. 263 adopting Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) as a national strategy to achieve sustainable forestry and social justice with social forestry scheme as a key framework to implement the program.

CBFM was premised on the principle of "people first and sustainable forestry will follow."

To date, a total of 1.6 million hectares of forestland are being managed by 1,884 people's organizations granted with 25-year CBFM agreements, which is renewable for another 25 years.

Of the total number of people's organizations benefitting from CBFM, 892 have enrolled their areas in the National Greening Program, the government's massive reforestation program that doubles as an anti-poverty measure. ###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has recognized nine business establishments and two individuals for their exemplary performance under the agency's Philippine Chiller Energy Efficiency Project (PCEEP) and the Philippine Environment Partnership Program (PEPP).

One of the awardees -- the Leyte-based EDC Green Core Geothermal Inc. -- was given the DENR's Official Seal of Approval in recognition of its efforts to incorporate green policies across its business operations to help protect the environment.

This year's PCEEP excellence awards were handed out to Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino/Cofely Philippines and The Peninsula Manila. The Ayala-owned Trinoma Malls in Quezon City, SM City Iloilo, Bank of the Philippine Islands-Buendia Center in Makati City, and the International School Manila in Taguig City received plaques of recognition; while Manila Pavillion got a certificate of recognition.

A special citation was conferred on Stellar Equipment and Machinery Inc., the exclusive distributor and retailer of Johnson Controls building efficiency systems and York air conditioning systems in the country.

The DENR also recognized Trinoma Malls for having the "highest greenhouse reduction" for 2015.

Engr. Vincent Lazaro of Waterfront Cebu Hotel and Casino and Engr. Karsten Carlo Pica of Cofely Philippines shared the award for Best Chiller Management of the Year.

The DENR lauded the awardees for their strong commitment to protect the environment and the ozone layer by implementing environmentally sustainable practices and meeting eco-friendly standards.

The agency also expressed hope the awardees will inspire other businesses and individuals to pursue environmental excellence, strive for energy self-sufficiency, and provide the public with cleaner and more environmentally sustainable means of living.

Initiated by the World Bank-Global Environment Facility, the PCEEP provides technical and financial assistance to businesses to allow them to replace old chillers with new ones that are energy-efficient and free from ozone-depleting substances in order to protect the ozone layer and reduce greenhouse emissions.

At the end of the project on Jan. 1, 2017, the PCEEP is expected to have replaced 30,649 tons of refrigeration, reduced 5,700 kilos of ozone-depleting potentials, generated at least 124.7 gigawatt hours in electricity savings, abated 10 megawatt demand, and reduced 62,400 tons of greenhouse gases.

The PEPP, on the other hand, is a program that aims to promote the adoption of pollution prevention and cleaner production processes among business establishments. It also provides assistance to other businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises or SMEs in cleaning up their production processes to prevent pollution.

EDC Green Core Geothermal Inc. is this year's lone recipient of the DENR's Official Seal of Approval under "Track 1" category of PEPP.

Track 1 industries are recognized for their initiatives that go beyond compliance, and are driven to improve their performance with competitiveness, image and supply chain requirements.

Recipients of the DENR's approval seal have undergone a series of evaluation, including validation of documentary requirements and site inspection conducted by the EMB's regional offices and members of the PEPP Technical Evaluation Committee.

To qualify, a company must have no pending administrative case with the Pollution Adjudication Board within three years prior to the date of application. It should also comply with all applicable environmental laws and have been proven to show superior environmental performance.

Industries awarded with the DENR seal enjoy relaxed requirements for submission of reports, longer validity of permits and simplified procedures in securing environmental compliance certificate or ECC for expansion projects. The seal is valid for one year. ###

The man in charge with overseeing happiness in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is coming to the Philippines on October 17 to spread the word about gross national happiness (GNH), an alternative indicator of a country's economic and social well-being.

Saamdu Chetri, head of Bhutan's GNH Centre, has been invited by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez to conduct a series of lectures aimed at inspiring Filipinos to find a balance between materialistic and non-materialistic aspects of life, and other factors that are vital to human happiness.

Lopez said Chetri will be in the country on October 18-26 to conduct lectures in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

A strong believer of GNH, Lopez said she envisions the Philippines as a country whose citizens give great value to the environment in the pursuit of economic development.

“We are changing the paradigm of development from the Gross National Product (GDP) to GNH. And, this is the first time that we are really taking a serious look of making happiness a barometer of development," Lopez said.

GNH aims to measure quality of life in more holistic terms than in the standard and monetary-related gross domestic product (GDP), striking a balance between spiritual and material aspect of life.

According to her, GNH is a more of a human development approach rather than a material approach.

The target audience for the lectures includes representatives of people's organizations, indigenous peoples, civil society and local government units from 29 priority areas earlier identified by Lopez as models for sustainable development. Also to be invited are members of the academe, Senate and media.

The first lecture will be held on October 18 at the Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City. The succeeding lectures will be held on October 20 at the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, on October 22 at the Ateneo de Manila University and on October 24 at the University of the Philippines Diliman, both in Quezon City.

On October 21, Chetri will hold a lecture for members of the media on at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

Lopez expressed hopes the lectures will lead to the crafting of an action plan by leaders of various sectors and organizations in the priority areas based on the principles of GNH.

She was also expecting to generate commitment and partnership with different stakeholders in pursuing GNH.

As far as the DENR is concerned, Lopez said the agency aims to harmonize and integrate GNH in all its programs and projects.

GNH was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

Since then, Bhutan has measured its prosperity through formal principles of GNH instead of relying on GDP.

That was to be measured by its people's sense of being well-governed, their relationship with the environment, satisfaction with the pace of economic development, and a sense of cultural and national belonging. ###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reminded the public that it is a crime to catch, trade or kill pangolins or anteaters, which have just been included under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or CITES.

Adopted by over 180 countries, CITES is an international agreement that aims to ensure that the survival of wild animals and plants is not threatened by their trade. Appendix I lists plants and animals that are threatened with extinction, thus trading them internationally for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited.

Of the eight pangolin species worldwide, only one can be found in the Philippines. Locally known as balintong, the Manis culionensis is endemic to Palawan province and is considered critically endangered, with its numbers highly threatened by its low fecundity or number of offspring produced per year, loss of habitat, and illegal trade of its scales and meat.

Prior to its inclusion in Appendix I, the pangolin was listed in Appendix II, which provides a modest level of protection as it requires exporting countries to ensure that any traded pangolin specimens have been legally obtained and that their export will not be detrimental to the species' survival.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez said the upgrading of the pangolin to Appendix I comes with stricter penalties for those involved in the illegal trade and killing of the harmless mammal.

"Further endangering the pangolin is a crime that threatens our biodiversity and the fragility of our ecosystems. The DENR will not hesitate to apply the full extent of the law to anyone caught catching, killing or selling pangolin," Lopez warned.

Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, prescribes various penalties for illegal acts toward threatened species.

Under the law, illegal transport of pangolin may merit imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to P100,000. A jail term of up to four years and a fine of P300,000 await those who will be found guilty of trading pangolin.

The killing of pangolin carries a jail term of up to twelve years and a fine of up to P1 million.

Pangolins mainly dine on ants or termites. A single adult mammal can eat up to 200,000 ants in one meal, or more than 70 million in a year.

The pangolin is considered as one of the world's most illegally trafficked mammal. Its inclusion in the Appendix I of CITES is seen to prevent the continuing decline of its population in the wild, along with its ecological importance in helping regulate insect population and ensure survival of seedlings.

Based on the estimate of the DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau, almost a thousand Palawan pangolins were illegally traded from 2000 to 2013.

The ban on the international trade of pangolins was proposed and approved during the World Wildlife Conference of the CITES Conference of Parties in Johannesburg, South Africa held September 24-October 5.

Twelve delegates from the Philippines, led by DENR Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo Jr., defended the proposal to seek higher level of CITES control and international cooperation for the protection of the pangolin against trafficking.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, and civil organizations Save Philippine Seas and Crocodylus Porosus Philippines, Inc. were also represented in the delegation.

Adobo said that past incidents of confiscations confirm that traffickers have routes through Philippine waters and are likely to have access to traders in the country.

He added that, with the illegal trade compounded by habitat loss and the species’ low rate of reproduction, “It would be impossible for pangolin populations to recover given current rates of harvest.”

The inclusion of the Philippine pangolin in Appendix I would help prevent the further decline of its population in the wild and ensure their continued performance as a regulator of social insect populations.

Aside from the uplisting of pangolin, the inclusion of silky and thresher sharks, mobula rays, and saltwater crocodiles in Appendix II was also proposed by the Philippine delegation.

Appendix II species are not necessarily threatened with extinction but whose trade must be regulated to sustain their survival. ###

Environment and health leaders of the Asia-Pacific Region meet to strengthen collaboration on climate change resilience, health issues arising from the impacts of environmental degradation, safe water and sanitation, and proper management of chemicals in pursuit of sustainable development.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Health and Environment, this time to be hosted by the Government of the Philippines spearheaded by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is a convergence that will integrate efforts among countries for better environments and better health across all the goals of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

DENR Secretary Regina Paz “Gina” L. Lopez said, “Sustaining and improving the quality of the environment to promote and enhance public health is key to achieving social justice. A healthy environment is a pre-requisite to socio-economic development and human well-being."

“The only way forward to realize this is for member-states to adopt appropriate measures and actively work to attain the global targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and engage and ensure the participation of the private sector, non-government organizations (NGOs), the academe, civil society and the media in the implementation of good practices on SDG-related programs,” she said.

In reference to the SDG (Agenda 2030), the Manila Declaration on Health and the Environment proposes to enhance and ensure access to safely managed water and adequate sanitation both at home and in health care facilities; prioritize climate change adaptation, preparedness and resilience and invest in the proper management of chemicals and waste.
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr. Shin Young-soo underlined the role of the Forum as a "concrete example of how we can best tackle emerging challenges when we come together and discuss issues of common concern openly."

“Bold leadership is required to address the environmental determinants of health in our respective Regions. By effectively addressing environmental health risks we have the opportunity to save lives and mitigate unnecessary ill-health," Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said, adding, "We must act now to convert our commitments and pledges into action.”

The Forum outlines that basic necessities for public health such as water quality, food safety, and clean air must be carefully managed. Be it haze in South-East Asia, air pollution in North Asia or sanitation and hazardous waste problems in the Pacific – and climate change, shaping up as the health challenge of the century that looms over all of humanity – it is imperative to create and sustain healthy communities by limiting pollution from power plants, factory farms and transport and at once building their resilience.

Speaking at the Forum, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw pointed out, “Understanding environmental health challenges will be the key in supporting the realization of the Manila Declaration on Health and Environment.”

The Asia-Pacific Ministers of Health and Environment believe that through dialogue, sharing of information and collaboration both at national and regional levels, we can transform the lives and the health of the people and ensure the well-being of present and future generations.

The Regional Forum’s secretariat consists of the WHO Regional Offices of South-East Asia and the Western Pacific, and the United Nations Environment Programme Regional Office for the Asia Pacific. It is an initiative of 14 countries (ASEAN + 4) to strengthen the cooperation of environment and health authorities within and among the countries.
At this Forum, all countries of the WHO regions of Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific were invited to attend, reflecting the interest of those countries in the activities of the Forum and recognition that environmental health concerns transcend all borders and that no countries should be left behind.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Forum is being held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza on October 6 and 7, and the 4th Ministerial Meeting at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Manila on October 8, 2016. ###