Press Releases

cleanAirSummit front webThe Philippines is playing host to a regional meeting tackling best mining practices in East and Southeast Asian regions.

The week-long event, which began on June 22, is organized by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Geologists and mining engineers, representing mining regulatory agencies from nine member-countries of the Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP), are in Manila for the meeting.

CCOP is an intergovernmental organization whose mission is to facilitate and coordinate the implementation of applied geoscience programs in order to contribute to economic development and improvement of the quality of life in the two regions.

The ongoing meeting provides a forum to engage in meaningful dialogue on mining with focus on mine rehabilitation and decommissioning.

MGB Assistant Director Elmer Billedo said the Philippines stands to benefit from the meeting, which aims to facilitate greater knowledge sharing on best mining practices, given the country’s vast and rich mineral resource deposits.

Billedo said the meeting is also part of the country’s proposal and commitment to come up with a coffee table book highlighting success stories of developing previous mine affected areas.

He said the book, which will compile the best stories from the CCOP member-countries, will prove that “there is life after mining.”

Billedo, meanwhile, underscored the need to shift public perception to mining as a “constructive” activity, as most of the economic and material needs of a country are supplied by the mines.

“It is also high time for us to see that mining of areas is only temporary. After mining, it is entirely possible to convert the use of the land into something that is more sustainable for the community and for the environment,” Billedo said.

The MGB official explained that re-vegetation, if not feasible, was not the only option in rehabilitating mined areas, as practiced in other countries.

He cited the case of Malaysia, which successfully converted some previously mined areas into theme parks, recreational and residential areas.

Billedo said the coffee table book is targeted for production by October 2016, and may be distributed to local governments of CCOP member-countries, as funding allows.

The ongoing regional meeting allows participants to share experiences on other aspects of mine rehabilitation, such as installing facilities to prevent pollution, and passing or amending existing legislations.

Participants will also tour various mining areas in Palawan, including those administered by the Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. and Coral Bay Nickel Corp. Both companies are implementing “progressive rehabilitation” of their respective mined areas.

They will also visit the mining site of the Palawan Quicksilver Mines Inc. (PQMI) in Puerto Princesa City, which used to yield mercury. The site has been abandoned by the PQMI and is currently being rehabilitated by the government.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is urging the public to continue supporting government efforts to reduce air pollution as it launched a new public information campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care and use of clean fuel.

At the 7th Annual Clean Air Forum held on Tuesday at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) in Quezon City, DENR Undersecretary and concurrent Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Director Jonas Leones announced the launching of Perwisyong Usok! Pigilancampaign, with the tagline, Konting Abala, Laking Ginhawa.

“Konting Abala refers to simple acts like proper vehicle maintenance and the use of clean fuel, while Laking Ginhawa refers to benefits like less harmful smoke being emitted by vehicles, which in turn, cause less health and financial burdens. We believe that summing up doing even little acts, goes a long way,” Leones said.

Leones said the campaign will escalate in the coming months with more newspaper advertisements, billboards and even celebrity endorsement.

“We seek the support of our various government organizations, civil society, private sector, academe and media, to own this campaign, implement it in our respective spheres, expand dissemination of the same, use the campaign symbols, to enjoin more sectors’ awareness about it,” he said.

He added: “We want to strengthen appreciation of our people of the need to achieve clean air, so commitment becomes strong, and enforcement becomes effective.”

A joint undertaking by the DENR and the Partnership for Clean Air Inc., the Clean Air Forum was established to review on a yearly basis the progress of Republic Act No. 8749, or the Philippine Clean Air Act. This year’s theme is “Towards Identifying the Economic Benefits of Clean Air: A Call to Action.”

Leones said the DENR has been zeroing in on motor vehicles, which contribute about 70 to 80 percent of air pollution in Metro Manila.

“The number of vehicles plying the streets of Metro Manila has truly increased, especially in this day and age where purchasing vehicles has been made easier and more affordable. But along with the convenience that it brings, we sometimes overlook the major inconvenience, which is air pollution,” Leones said.

According to the DENR official, it is imperative to know not only the health benefits but also the economic benefits of having clean air.

“Using cleaner fuel, for example, not only cleans the air. It is also very economic since it prolongs the life of your engine, reducing maintenance costs. Breathing cleaner air also reduces the risk of diseases like lung cancer,” Leones said.

“Some of us may think of these as short-term benefits, but in the long run, having cleaner air, is not just good for our health, but also for our pockets. The time and effort we invest in cleaning the air are definitely worth it.”

He said that strong public support is crucial in ensuring the success of anti-air pollution programs being implemented by various government agencies, with help from civil society organizations, the private sector, the academe, student leaders and other sectors.

Leones also shared the following initiatives undertaken by the DENR and its partners in combating air pollution:

· Installation of non-stop automated air quality monitoring stations in each of the 17 local government units in Metro Manila. Real time results are available online at the EMB’s website.

· Cancellation of the licenses of 28 erring private emission testing centers and suspension of 49 others. Show cause orders had also been issued against 165 emission testing centers.

· Expansion of roadside anti-smoke belching operations in major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, especially at night where air pollution rates are high.

· Strict monitoring of ongoing major construction projects for total suspended particulates or pollutants that have adverse effects like respiratory diseases, when inhaled.

· Issuance of a DENR administrative order that requires oil companies to ensure the availability of Euro 4 fuels by July 1, 2015, and compliance with Euro 4 emission standards by all new vehicles by 2016. Euro 4 fuels contain less sulfur content and emit less harmful substances in the air. #

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has welcomed a nature and adventure park in Negros Oriental province as its newest partner in wildlife conservation and in the fight against illegal wildlife trade and poaching.

The DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) recently forged an agreement with Dreamland Nature and Adventure Park in Amlan town, which agreed to become a repository of animals rescued and confiscated from wildlife traffickers.

Owned and managed by the municipal government of Amlan, Dreamland attracts tourists and local folk with its nature and wildlife adventures. The 16-hectare park recently acquired wildlife species, including wild cats from the Middle East and camels from Australia.

BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim and Amlan Mayor Bentham dela Cruz signed the agreement during simple rites held at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City. Negros Oriental Rep. George Arnaiz, Amlan Vice Mayor Gino dela Cruz and other BMB officials witnessed the signing.

Lim said the partnership was part of the BMB’s continuing management and improvement of its wildlife rescue centers (WRCs), which rehabilitate injured, sick and orphaned native wildlife and releases healthy animals to their natural habitat.

She explained that the BMB has the authority to dispose of some of the animals in its custody through different modes, including partnership with zoos and other animal centers.

“Some of our confiscated protected species cannot be released back to the wild, so one of our options is to turn them over to qualified institutions for co-management,” Lim pointed out.

According to the BMB chief, the collaboration would boost government efforts to educate the public on the importance of preserving wildlife.

For his part, Mayor Dela Cruz said the initiative would serve as Amlan’s contribution to wildlife conservation. “If we don’t do this now, future generations may be able to see only in pictures what some of our wildlife look like,” he said.

Under the agreement, the BMB will “loan” to Dreamland “certain species and quantity of wildlife fauna” from its other WRCs. The bureau will also document and monitor Dreamland’s care of the animals, and provide the necessary technical assistance.

Dreamland, on the other hand, will assume full responsibility, including shouldering all expenses for the transfer and care of the animals.

The facility will also be allowed to acquire additional species from authorized sources, but the loaned animals and its future progenies or offspring will remain as government property.

The agreement shall remain in effect for five years and is renewable.

Dela Cruz said the municipal government is expected to gain a 10 percent share in the income of the park which, aside from being a wildlife facility, is also being developed for other recreational purposes. ###

The Philippines will celebrate this year’s World Water Day (WWD) with a focus on the vital role of water in achieving sustainable development.

A series of activities leading up to the WWD 2015 on March 22 is planned by organizers led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

This year’s theme, “Water and Sustainable Development,” seeks to emphasize the importance of water in relation to health, ecosystems, urbanization, industrial processes, energy, food and equality.

The annual celebration kicks off with the 2015 Water and Sustainable Awards, which will recognize “water champions” consisting of organizations and individuals who are helping out their communities in addressing water issues and promoting sustainable development. It is co-presented by the DENR and water concessionaire Maynilad and will be held today at the UP Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman, Quezon City.

For March 17, the Laguna Lake Development Authority will hold a tour of Lake Pandin in San Pablo; the DENR-Region 3 will conduct simultaneous river cleanup in the provinces of Pampanga, Bulacan and Bataan, as well as portions of the Manila Bay; and the DENR-National Capital Region (NCR) and Manila Water will begin a two-day lecture series on the importance of water.

Employees of the local governments of Kawit and Noveleta towns in Cavite will join the DENR and Maynilad in a two-day tree planting activity under the “Plant for Life: Save Bacoor-Cañaco-Manila Bay” program, starting March 17.

The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) will hold a symposium on “Water Security towards Sustainable Development” in Quezon City on March 18.

Three activities are lined up for March 19. These are the water education seminar for elementary and high school teachers to be held at the Air Quality Management Training Center of the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB); the “Scubasurero” underwater cleanup activity in Masinloc, Zambales, organized by the DENR-Region 3; and a roundtable discussion on possible amendments to the Water Code of the Philippines arranged by the National Water Resources Board and the Philippine Water Partnership.

Other activities are as follows:

March 19-20: DENR-NCR and Maynilad will hold interactive educational activities under the “WWD 2015 Daloy Dunong: Water Education Drive” for elementary pupils in the cities of Muntinlupa and Manila. The Local Water Utilities Administration will also conduct the two-day Buhay KYUT (health, hygiene and water conservation) program in Iloilo City.

March 22: The EMB and the River Basin Control Office will be joined by various local government units in a river cleanup in Malabon City. The WWD 2015 Run for Water and Sustainable Development, sponsored by Maynilad, will be held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex in Pasay City.

March 23 and 26: The ERDB and the Department of Education will lead the National Conference on Climate Change and Water Safety for Health, and the “Gising Diwa: Likas Kayang Gamit ng Yamang Tubig” for participants from Laguna, and Tayabas and Pagbilao towns in Quezon.

March 25-27: Water Philippines 2015 Expo and Conference and the Pipes and Tubing Philippines 2015 Expo, both sponsored by UBM Water Philippines, will be held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

WWD was first celebrated in 1993 when the United Nations declared March 22 of every year as World Day for Water. In the Philippines, the celebration lasts for at least one week by virtue of Executive Order No. 258 issued in 1996, adopting the Philippine Water Week. #

The United Nations has acknowledged the efforts of the Philippine government to address climate change.

In a bilateral meeting held Friday at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City, Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje discussed with UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner the various programs being implemented by the agency to increase the country’s natural defenses and resiliency.

Steiner applauded the leadership of the Philippines within the climate change convention and the innovation it has demonstrated at the national level.

“Ahead of the Call to Action, we are already doing our share to address climate change. The directive of President Aquino is to improve our natural defenses and to significantly increase the resiliency of communities,” Paje said.

He cited the National Greening Program, log ban in natural forests, geohazard assessment and mapping program and clean air as among the priority programs being implemented by the DENR to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Steiner, accompanied by UNEP Regional Director and Representative for Asia and the Pacific Kaveh Zahedi, met with DENR officials to discuss potential cooperation on renewable energy and climate change.

According to Paje, the UN official also expressed hope the Philippines will be among the first 50 countries to ratify the Minamata Convention and give it the legal identity it needs in order to become effective.

"The Minamata Convention is a worthy cause and it calls for leadership, so that it does not linger in the drawers of international conventions," Paje quoted Steiner as saying.

The Minamata Convention was signed by Paje, who was given full powers by President Aquino to sign the treaty on behalf of the Philippines, during a conference organized by the UNEP in Kumamoto City, Japan, on October 10, 2013.

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

Paje likewise offered for a potential presence of UNEP in the Philippines as a way to reciprocate the UN agency’s continuing commitment in providing support to various environmental programs and projects.

According to the environment chief, there are currently seven projects being implemented by the DENR funded by UNEP. These projects include invasive species management, monitoring of persistent organic pollutants or POPs, implementation of the strategic action programme for the marine and coastal environment of the South China Sea, ozone depleting substance (ODS) and the HCFC Phaseout Management Plan.

Other areas of cooperation discussed by the two officials were on the following:

• Support to the Philippines to increase investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, including the development and implementation of green energy policies;
• Work together on the valuation and integrated management of ecosystems, including through the Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystems Services (WAVES) program as well as work in the marine and coastal ecosystems through the Coral Triangle and other programs;
• Strengthen collaboration between UNEP and the Philippines, including scaling up joint work under the Global Environmental Fund 6 cycle; and
• Strategic partnerships to help support the broader ASEAN region in partnership with the Philippines. ###