Press Releases

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is planning to turn the man-made forest area along Central Avenue, a property of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, into an "ecological paradise" with the help of stakeholders, including its informal settlers.

Lopez said the 17-hectare UP Arboretum has the potential to become an ecological model for development and its informal settlers can be tapped as partners and benefit directly from livelihood projects.

"I want an ecological paradise here where there is renewable energy, good septage, medicinal plants; where people from all over the country, the world even, can converge. You can make some money, the community makes money. That's the way they get out of poverty," Lopez said during the launch of the nationwide tree-planting project of the Far Eastern University Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation Beta Sigma Fraternity Alumni Association Inc. (FEU-NRMFBSFAAI) held in the arboretum.

Lopez, an advocate of entrepreneurship, strongly believes that economic development should benefit all the people, especially the underprivileged. She wants a holistic plan where people are part of the development.

For the UP Arboretum, Lopez is looking at agroforestry and the use of environment-friendly technology as business opportunities, particularly those that can be used for production of fertilizers and medicines.

"We include the people and if the people's lives here do not improve, consider the model a failure," Lopez pointed out. "Let them live here and show how people can live in paradise."

Lopez also discussed with UP Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs Prof. Nestor T. Castro her intention to meet the heads of the UP Colleges of Architecture, Sociology, Psychology, Community Development, Forestry and Medicine to explore how the academe can be part of the plan for the area.

She said the UP Arboretum can also be a learning ground for the community, the students and even the DENR.

Castro, whose office attends to the university's community concerns, welcomed Lopez's move to include the informal settlers in the plan for what has been dubbed as the "only remaining forest in the metropolis."

The tree-planting program targets to transform the arboretums of UP and the La Mesa Dam into world-class botanical gardens in five years. It is the centerpiece of the medium-term carbon-sequestration project for Metro Manila of Beta Sigma Fraternity and the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines (CCAAP).

A medical mission and a feeding program for the residents were also held after the tree planting.

Also present in the event were running priest and environmentalist Fr. Robert Reyes, Dr. Mike Aragon of FEU-NRMFBSFAAI, Project Chair Butch Madarang, CCAAP President Herminio Buerano, Forester Rolly Acosta of DENR NCR, and Barangay UP Campus Chair Isabelita Gravidez. ###

Buoyed by the success of their six-year-old alliance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has renewed its partnership with two service-oriented organizations for the rehabilitation of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL).

This time, the Rotary Club of Makati-Rockwell (RCMR) and the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) agreed to plant trees on an additional 30 hectares of forestland within the UMRBPL, a major source of water supply for Metro Manila and nearby areas.

The DENR-RCMR-CESB partnership originally covers only seven hectares at Sitio San Ysidro in Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City under the National Greening Program (NGP), the government’s flagship reforestation initiative.

RMCR has been funding the planting and maintenance of some 3,000 tree seedlings planted by its volunteers since last year under its “Preventing Disasters, Providing Livelihood Project,” which received technical support from the DENR’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Rizal.

The planted seedlings cover three of the seven-hectare area, which has an elevation of 350 meters above sea level, following two planting activities held on October 3, 2015 and last July 23, 2016.

Rizal PENRO chief Isidro Mercado said the expansion is expected to raise the benefits the residents of Sitio San Ysidro have been getting from the project, both in terms of economic and environmental opportunities.

According to Mercado, the residents were hired to conduct maintenance and protection activities on the planted areas, including the right to harvest the fruits from the grown trees like guyabano, mabolo, laputi andbunga.

Mercado said the additional 30 hectares cover steep hillsides that have been plagued by severe erosion, affecting the agricultural activities of families trying to establish small, intensive household farm lots in the area.

The head of the Rizal PENRO also endorsed the plan of RMCR to bring the DENR’s partnership with RMCR and CESB to other provinces.

He said former RMCR president Rolando Metin plans to include coastal planting somewhere along the coastal areas of Quezon province and do the planting activity twice instead of once a year.

The tripartite partnership began in 2010 when Metin, a former DENR undersecretary and CESB member, engaged the DENR for a tree-planting activity along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

The SLEX Tree-Planting Project aimed at improving road safety and comfort for motorists by planting and growing trees along the 45-kilometer expressway.

By 2014, the project planted some 18,423 indigenous and ornamental tree seedlings, which included golden showers and fire trees, with a 50 to 70 percent survival rate based on the assessment done by the DENR-Region IVA office in Calamba , Laguna. ### 

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez hopes to put the image of the military and the police on a more positive light with their new role as "protectors of the environment."

Lopez said the country's security forces play a crucial role in the newly created anti-environmental crime task force led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which will go after environmental offenders and ensure strict implementation of environmental laws and regulations.

The DENR recently signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with other key government agencies, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, for the creation of the task force called "A-TEAM Kalikasan."

Lopez said their new role in environmental protection will help erase the bad image of soldiers and policemen as bodyguards of influential politicians and businessmen and make them guardians of the nation's wealth and the environment.

"The [military and the police] were being used as bodyguards for big business interests. I want to shift that and work together with them, to work with the farmers, to work with the indigenous people, because my experience with the military has been only very good and we need to shape that," Lopez said.

Lopez said she views the military and the police as partners in development. "I think of we do that and we all work together with the civil society, I don't see why we can't make a difference."

Other parties to the MOA are the Department of National Defense, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation, and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The task force aims to respond to the clamor for social justice, especially among the indigenous peoples who complain about land grabbing and the negative impacts of mining and illegal logging to the environment and their livelihoods.

Lopez expressed high optimism and expectation that the task force will succeed in its mission. "I am counting on three things from you -- will, heart and integrity," Lopez told the members of the task force.

"Yes, we will make things happen. In the immediate future we will see a much, much better Philippines because enforcing is really number one and let’s make it good," she added. ###

It was all hands on deck at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last Wednesday, as its top officials met with representatives of various people's organizations and civic groups to listen to all their concerns during the agency's first ever "People's Day" under the leadership of Secretary Gina Lopez.

Lopez, who had earlier designated every Wednesday as People's Day in the DENR, made sure that key officials of the department, including its attached agencies, were present so they could immediately respond to issues and concerns raised during the meeting.

The environment chief said she wanted all DENR officials to become more results-oriented and responsive to the people's needs.

"Everyone who comes here should return home armed with the spirit that something will be done in their areas so that they have a plan," Lopez said, addressing those who came to the DENR central office in Quezon City to bring forward their concerns about matters that are within the agency's mandate.

"I don't want [the DENR] to be just a regulatory arm, I want something done in your respective areas," she added.

During their meeting, the DENR executives and civil society members talked about issues like public land titling, reclamation, mining and reforestation, among others.

They also discussed possible livelihood opportunities the DENR could provide the public under its existing projects, notably the National Greening Program.

"We want this People's Day to become a people's arm so you have access to DENR. It is important that whatever your concerns are, we can find a solution," Lopez told members of people's organizations and the civil society.

Lopez, meanwhile, directed all DENR officials present to make sure that they took note of all the issues and concerns brought before them and that appropriate action will be taken.

Aside from top officials like undersecretaries and assistant secretaries, officers of different bureaus under the DENR were also present during the meeting.

Lopez said the holding of People's Day is one way of bringing the DENR and its programs closer to people. It likewise serves as a tool to improve transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in the DENR as the agency also get the public's input on matters affecting them, she added. ###

Warning that no mining company will be spared, Secretary Gina Lopez has warned that all operating mining projects, whether big or small, will be covered by the audit being done by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

"We're doing all -- small, big, everyone," Lopez told in a press conference. "All mining areas will be audited, all ECCs (environmental compliance certificates), permits, everything will be audited in the light of the common good."

She said the DENR won't hesitate to shut down all mining operations found to have violated environmental and health and safety laws and regulations.

"If you break the law, you face the consequences of breaking the law. Whatever the law says that's what we should follow. If you break the law, there are penalties," Lopez pointed out.

It was during the press conference that Lopez announced the suspension of the Bulacan-based Ore Asia Mining Development Corp. for failure to secure an ISO 14001 Certification, which the DENR required of mining companies in an administrative order it issued last year.

ISO 14001 sets out the requirements of an environmental management system (EMS) for small to large organizations. EMS is a systematic approach to handling environmental issues within an organization.

Ore Asia is the eighth mining firm suspended by the DENR since Lopez assumed office on July 1.

Undersecretary Leo Jasareno, head of the DENR's mining audit team, said the agency has suspended Ore Asia's ore transport permit, which effectively stopped its operation.

Ore Asia is the only iron-producing mine in the country. It produced about 40,000 tons of iron ore last year.

"The ore transport permit is the permit that allows the transport of the ore from the mines to the market. So, if you withhold the permit, effectively, hauling will stop," Jasareno explained.

The DENR was able to verify complaints from residents that Ore Asia's operations have caused siltation in the river that serves as a tributary of Sibul spring, and have discolored the water to reddish brown.

"Kalawang na 'yung kulay ng river," Jasareno said.

Echoing Lopez's statement, Jasareno said all mining companies, regardless of size, will be included in the audit.

"We're auditing Lepanto and Philex in Luzon, Atlas Consolidated in Visayas, Oceana Gold in Region 2, and Filminera in Masbate. We are waiting for the findings on Taganito and SR (Metals Inc.)," Jasareno said.

He also cited Citinickel Mines and Development Corp., Berong Nickel Corp. and Benguet Corp., which are all major industry players.

Lopez, meanwhile, reiterated that all mining firms should get their act together if they want the industry to thrive.

The DENR chief noted the case of Zambales province where mining companies are responsible for polluting the river and degrading the forests.

"In Zambales, if you fly over that, the river is virtually red, they cut 20,000 trees from the watershed, the fishpond, the farmland," Lopez said.

"Before they (mining firms) even consider doing anything, they have to give the people back their farmland, plant the trees they cut without permit," she added.

Aside from Ore Asia, the DENR also suspended the operations of Eramin Minerals Inc. and LNL Archipelago, Zambales Diversified Metals Corp. and Benguetcorp Nickel Mines Inc., all in Zambales; Berong Nickel Corp. and Citinickel Mines and Development Corp. in Palawan; and Claver Minerals in Surigao del Norte. #