Press Releases

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) expressed hope the Senate would soon ratify an international treaty regulating the use and trade of mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to human health and the environment.

This developed as the DENR – through its Environmental Management Bureau – and its partners from the public and private sectors have released a Ratification Dossier on the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the Philippines adopted in October 2013.

The dossier was completed through the assistance of the United Nations Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Swiss Confederation.

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, who had signed the landmark Minamata Convention in behalf of the Philippine government during a conference held in Kumamoto, Japan more than two years ago, said that ratifying the treaty is an important step toward controlling mercury pollution in the country.

“The ratification will seal the country’s firm commitment to protect its people and the environment from toxic and even deadly effects of mercury,” Paje said.

The dossier will be used as reference for ratification by the Senate and for assessing the capability of the Philippines in adopting the treaty.

The 24-member Senate is the lone government body tasked to scrutinize and endorse foreign treaties. The vote of at least 16 senators or two-thirds of the Senate membership is required before a foreign agreement is deemed ratified.

The Minamata Convention will take effect 90 days after ratification by at least 50 countries.

The convention was named after the Japanese city where industrial emissions of the toxic substance caused a poisoning disease affecting thousands of people in the 1950s.

The treaty maps out measures to curb health and environmental damage caused by mercury, recognizing the substantial lessons of Minamata disease, sometimes referred to as Chisso-Minamata disease, a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning.

It aims to address eight major sources and uses of mercury, namely: supply sources and trade; mercury-added products; artisanal and small-scale gold mining; emissions and releases; interim storage of non-waste mercury; mercury wastes and contaminated sites; mercury cell chlor-alkali production; and mercury air transport and fate.

The use of mercury and mercury compounds in the Philippines is limited to uses like pharmaceuticals, dental amalgam, mining, electrical apparatus design and management, and, paint manufacturing, among others, as mandated by DENR Administrative Order No. 1997-38 (Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds).

In 2008, the Department of Health issued an administrative order directing a gradual phase-out of mercury in healthcare facilities and institutions. A similar directive was issued by the Department of Education and the Department of Energy covering the education and energy sectors, respectively. ###

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje extended his deepest gratitude to the men and women of the DENR as he credited the significant gains of the agency to their hard work during his six-year term.

"You have supported this department beyond what you can. We have shown that not only do we do our best. We better our best," Paje said in his message after the Thanksgiving Mass in celebration of the Department's 29th year anniversary.

Under Paje's leadership, the Department was able to finish the Cadastral Survey Program of the government and planted 1.3 million hectares with trees as of December 2015 under the National Greening Program (NGP), raise the DENR's ratings and place it on a higher bar in terms of performance of government agencies.

"In 2010, 97 years after the Cadastral Survey Program started, the program was only 46% complete. In six years, we have completed the remaining 54%. The whole country has been surveyed. The program is now completed."

He added that the NGP is expected to cover 1.6 million hectares by end of this year.

"If trees were life, we have added almost a billion lives in this world," he said.

"We are blessed to be part of DENR because if natural resource is life, then we are adding life every day because of what we do."

Paje further said that when he signed the Paris Agreement in New York in March on behalf of 104 million Filipinos, it signified the country's commitment to reduce global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius.

"If everyone does his part, then by 2050, we will be on the dot."

Paje also took the chance to remind all employees to preserve these gains and encouraged them to "let the good define the image of this Department."

It was the last time for Paje to celebrate DENR's anniversary with the impending change in the Department's leadership following the start of the new administration. ###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has taken a crucial step to further protect the rich marine biodiversity within two of the country's most famous diving spots by declaring these sites as water quality management areas (WQMAs).

In two separate administrative orders signed by Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje earlier this month, the DENR designated the Sabang Bay in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro and the Coron Bay in Palawan as WQMAs, bringing the total number of WQMAs in the country to 25.

The initiative is seen to boost efforts to protect the bustling biodiversity within the two water bodies from the unwanted effects of tourism activities in those areas.

Both Sabang Bay and Coron Bay are world-class diving sites with great visibility and masses of underwater life, making them as among the favorite destinations for tourists and diving enthusiasts.

"These latest WQMA designations are critical to effectively address development issues on safeguarding the areas’ ecosystem qualities from the rapid growth of tourism activities in the towns of Coron and Puerto Galera, while sustaining the economic benefits for the local host communities," Paje said.

As diving tourism and the associated residential and commercial developments "exert a considerable pressure on the ecological fabric" of the two bay areas, Paje said there is absolutely a need to ensure that their water qualities comply with the standards prescribed under Republic Act No. 9275, or the Philippine Clean Water Act.

He added that strong reliance on healthy and attractive coral reefs makes the tourism sector in Coron and Puerto Galera "particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."
According to the environment chief, the WQMA designation would provide the DENR, local government units, communities and other stakeholders identify the water quality problems, sources of pollution and the beneficial use of Sabang Bay and Coron Bay.
It would also help stakeholders determine what control measures to institute to effectively achieve water quality objectives or improvements.

The Coron Bay WQMA covers the bay itself and eight of the 23 barangays comprising the entire town of Coron.

An analysis of Coron’s water resources and its distribution showed that the rivers traversing the town drain into a drainage area of 5.5 hectares located inside the eight coastal villages.

The aquatic views from the sunken World War II Japanese ships in Coron Bay are listed in Forbes Traveler Magazine’s top 10 best scuba diving sites in the world.

On the other hand, the Sabang Bay WQMA covers the bay itself, which is part of the world famous Verde Island Passage, and the whole Barangay Sabang covering 449 hectares.

West of Sabang Bay, separated by the Batangas Channel, is the Muelle Bay which is the only bay in the Philippines listed in the “Club of the Most Beautiful Bays of the World” by the Paris-based Club Des Plus Belles Baies Du Monde in 2005.

Despite its relatively small size, Barangay Sabang is critical to the bay’s overall water quality as 283 hectares or 63 percent of its land area serves as the drainage site for all the surface water from Puerto Galera’s 12 other barangays. ###

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje renewed his call for Filipinos to help in the fight to save and protect the majestic Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), as the nation celebrates the Philippine Eagle Week (PEW) from June 4-10.

This developed as the juvenile Philippine eagle earlier rescued after being accidentally caught in a trap in Aurora province was formally turned over to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Thursday, giving conservationists hope for the critically endangered raptor.

“The Philippine eagle is a unique heritage, found only in this part of the world that needs to be nurtured as it is the Filipino people’s gift to the global community,” Paje said, as the DENR gears up for the weeklong celebration of PEW, with the theme “Saving eagles, Protecting forests, Securing our future: Stop the Killings.”

According to the environment chief, the Philippine eagle has continued to brave the challenges to its survival, particularly habitat destruction and hunting.

The wildlife conservation community has been shocked with recent news of Philippine eagles being killed, the latest of which was Pamana, a three-year-old raptor that was found with a bullet hole in its right breast in Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental, in August last year.

“There is a need to usher in a renewed commitment to protect the eagle and other wildlife from extinction and allow them to perpetuate for future generations,” Paje pointed out.

He added: “If we wish to sustain our ecosystems that support human lives, we need to embrace a new paradigm that upholds respect for all forms of wildlife, not only as food source but more so as co-creatures worthy of preservation.”

Meanwhile, the rescued juvenile Philippine eagle was received by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), which is now assessing the raptor before transferring it to a cage inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City for rehabilitation.

The eagle was brought to the NAPWC by DENR community officer Jimmy Aberin all the way from Dingalan town in Aurora. Aberin said the raptor was accidentally ensnared in a trap meant to catch monkeys in a forested area in the nearby town of San Luis.

The trapper, a certain upland farmer named Eugene, rescued the eagle and later sought help from their barangay captain who promptly informed the DENR.

BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim was pleased with the rescue of the eagle, which seemed relatively unharmed, saying it “bodes well for the country’s conservation program.”

She commended the locals for showing their awareness of the Philippine eagle, including the possible consequences of keeping it captive.

The magnificent raptor is considered the country’s national bird and is protected by Philippine laws particularly Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Under the law, killing or harming the eagle, considered to be critically endangered, carries maximum penalties of 12 years imprisonment and a fine of P1 million.

“The presence of a healthy juvenile eagle in Aurora means that a pair of adult eagles has successfully bred and raised their young as well as our hopes for the species’ continued presence in the Sierra Madre region,” Lim said.

The BMB chief also underscored the importance of protecting known habitats of the world’s largest eagle. “This is a species which largely depends on the availability of viable forest habitats to survive. We should therefore do all we can to protect and increase our forest cover.”

To enhance public awareness on the country’s flagship endemic species, the BMB has collaborated with the management of Enchanted Kingdom (EK) in Sta. Rosa Laguna for the PEW’s kickoff program on June 4.

Fun learning activities have been prepared by the EK production team, including an Agila costume contest, online art competition, eagle dance parade, interactive storytelling, the “Agilaro Challenge” that mimics the Amazing Race, and a Philippine eagle photo exhibit.

The festivities will be covered and featured on ABS-CBN’s science-environmental educational program “Matanglawin.”

The NAPWC will also host educational activities on June 4 and 5. The BMB, in partnership with the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, will hold coloring, face painting, guided tour and storytelling activities for kids.

DENR field offices nationwide are likewise scheduled to carry out intensified campaigns on the conservation of the Philippine eagle.

The celebration of June 4-10 as Philippine Eagle Week was declared through Presidential Proclamation No. 79 issued in 1999. ###

There should be no letup in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.

This was the message of Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje as he leads the local celebration of the World Environment Day (WED) for the sixth and final time on June 5. This year's theme is "Go Wild for Life, Combat Biodiversity Loss."

It will be a fitting end to Paje's six-year term as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which under his watch has made remarkable strides in the campaign against poaching and illicit trade of wildlife species.

"This is an advocacy that we hold close to our hearts," said Paje, who is scheduled to step down from office on June 30 to give way to the next administration.

Since 2010, the DENR has been successful in seizing elephant tusks, marine and forest turtles, Palawan pangolins and other endangered animals from poachers and illegal wildlife traders.

Paje said the fight against illegal wildlife trade must continue, noting that the "extinction of species is irreversible and losses are permanent."

The DENR has been implementing programs to conserve threatened species such as the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta), marine turtles, Philippine tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis), and Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis).

These conservation efforts have increased the population of tamaraw to 405 in 2015 from 382 in the previous year, and the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) to 535 in 2015 from 239 in 2010. Sightings of the majestic Philippine eagle also increased from 39 to 47.

Between 2010 and 2015, at least 70 new wildlife species were also discovered, which include birds, reptiles, amphibians and rodents.

To combat ivory smuggling and other illegal wildlife trade and support the international community in these causes, the Philippines made a historical breakthrough in 2013 when it became the first non-elephant range country and the pioneer in Asia to destroy more than four (4) tons of illegal elephant ivory and created a task force called Philippine Operations Group on Ivory (POGI).

Since then, twelve countries have followed this bold step. These are the United States, China, France, Chad, Belgium, Hongkong, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Congo, United Arab Emirates and Thailand.

“It was not easy but we stood up because we know it was the right thing to do. We were able to convey our strong message to the world that the Philippines condemns the killing of elephants for ivory harvest and we do not tolerate illegal ivory trade,” added Paje.

The DENR also intensified its enforcement of wildlife laws, which led to the filing of 75 cases and eight convictions.

"We recognize the help of vigilant citizens and organizations which have led to the arrest, prosecution and conviction of the culprits behind this despicable act," Paje said.

Despite these achievements, Paje said more needs to be done to combat illegal wildlife trade.

"Driven by high profits, illegal wildlife trade continues. Thus, we must continue, expand and intensify efforts to curb this illicit business, including the importation to the country of invasive species," Paje pointed out.

The environment chief likewise rallied the public to continue supporting the government’s campaign against illegal wildlife trade.

WED is a part of the effort of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) to create worldwide awareness and action for the environment. It was first celebrated in 1973 in the United States and since then has been hosted by different cities of the world. Today, it is widely celebrated in more than 100 countries. ###