Provincial Releases

Apart from helping combat the effects of climate change, bamboo can also help increase the country’s forest cover, said Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu in his Keynote Speech during the Opening Ceremonies of the 1st ASEAN Bamboo Congress held at the Iloilo Convention Center in Iloilo City on August 12 to 16, 2019.

Bamboo, touted as the Earth’s tallest grass, has great potentials to pull the countryoff its environmental woes, especially as a strategic tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“Bamboo has been proven to adapt well to the changing climatic conditions of the world and has made significant contributions to mitigate the causes and effects of climate change,” said Cimatu.

The environment chief said increasing bamboo plantations and making Panay Island the Bamboo Capital of the Philippines in terms of manufacturing engineered bamboo will ease the pressure on the country’s forests. He added that engineered bamboos are as sturdy as the lumber products.

Among the South East Asian nations, the Philippines ranked lowest in terms of forest cover, with an estimated 7,014,155.71 hectares or 23.38 percent of its official total land area of 30 million hectares covered with trees.

“Bamboo reduces the need for timber resources, enhances carbon sequestration, biodiversity preservation and low-cost rehabilitation of degraded lands. We envision producing engineered bamboo products as a substitute for actual lumber requirement of our country, instead of cutting trees from our forests,” Cimatu said.

Engineered bamboo, he said, will slowly increase the forest cover of the Philippines for the next several years or decades.

“We have already conducted surveys as to the available areas which are potential for bamboo plantations in the region. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 6 has also allotted a budget of Php 10 million for this year to implement the plan,”said Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.

The 2019 Php 10-M budget targets to prioritize the planting of bamboos under the Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP) implemented by the DENR. The budget includes the expenditures for establishing three nurseries for priority provinces namely: Iloilo, Negros Occidental and Capiz; production of 100,000 bamboo seedlings; and capacity building for priority stakeholders and DENR personnel.

The bamboo industry has been considered a “sunset industry” but with the government’s plan to revive it, hopes are high that it will again prosper.

The local government of Bambang in Nueva Vizcaya has strengthened solid waste management as it recently inaugurated its PhP65-million sanitary landfill (SLF).

Sanitary landfills are engineered facilities that serve as final disposal site for solid and residual wastes providing a leachate management system simultaneously storing solid waste while decomposition process takes place thus, protecting the underlying groundwater against contamination. These facilities also prevent air pollution and diseases.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Cagayan Valley Regional Executive Director Atty. Antonio A. Abawag, who represented Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, led the inauguration of the engineered waste management facility which is the first of its kind in Region 2.

In his message delivered by Director Abawag, Secretary Cimatu congratulated the municipality for coming up with the SLF to address the garbage situation in the locality.

"Whether we like it or not, garbage will always be with us and its volume will increase correspondingly as the population grows, hence, we need a right place to dispose our garbage in a proper manner without any risk to public health,” Secretary Cimatu said.

The country’s environment top official also reminded the local officials that there must be a conscious effort to change the culture of insensitivity and indiscretion among the people. “Conceiving and enforcing ways to keep our surrounding clean will be futile as long as some people and entities remain thoughtless and wanton in the disposal of their wastes,” he added.

For his part, lawyer Abawag pinned his hope that other municipalities will follow suit in properly managing solid wastes for a clean environment. He also reported the river and estero cleanups which are now regularly conducted by the DENR with the stakeholders.

Bambang outgoing mayor, Atty. Flaviano Balgos Jr., said waste segregation should start at source for the facility to last. He also challenged the incoming administration to be forward-looking and always consider the future of the children as he emphasized that the government is serious in the enforcement of environmental laws.

To ensure the protection of public health and environment, the local government units (LGUs) are mandated to be primarily responsible in the implementation and enforcement of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management of 2000 within their respective jurisdictions. It likewise mandates the LGUs to construct, operate and maintain waste disposal site.###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources MIMAROPA has issued Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) against business establishments in Palawan found polluting Bacuit Bay in El Nido and Coron Bay in Coron, two of the country’s prime tourist destinations undergoing massive rehabilitation.

Ordered to stop from undertaking any activity and/or from operating machines and equipment that cause pollution were View Deck Cottages, Lagun Hotel, Spin Designer Hotel, La Casa Teresa Tourist Inn, Inc., and Mansion Buenavista Guest House, all located in El Nido.

The establishments were found to be discharging wastewater that exceeds the allowable DENR effluent standards, a violation of Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004.

The wastewater drains to Bacuit Bay through Masagana, Buena Suerte, Maligaya and Corong-corong outfalls which have recorded high fecal coliform counts.

On August 1, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat announced that El Nido shall remain open during its rehabilitation but swimming will not be allowed in selected areas in Bacuit Bay particularly those near the two outfalls.

The identified beach areas have been cordoned off and signages installed to remind the public of the “no swimming policy.”

In Coron, the DENR MIMAROPA also served a CDO against Busuanga Sea Dive Resort, Corto Del Mar, Coron Gateway Hotel, Sophia’s Garden Resort, and Pearl Vista De Coron Resort for releasing wastewater into Coron Bay that resulted to high coliform counts in portions of the bay.

Coron and Bacuit Bays are classified as Class SB waters suitable for ecotourism and recreational activities such as bathing, swimming and skin diving. However, the encroachment of easement zones and waterways by commercial establishments and households have led to the poor water quality of the bays and prevented their beneficial use.

“Makikita po natin na kagagawan din ng tao kung bakit marumi ang ating mga katubigan at hindi natin ito napapakinabangan ng husto,” said DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado.

“Kung tao ang dahilan, tao rin ang makakagawa ng paraan para malinis ang ating karagatan. At gagawin natin ‘yan sa pagpapatupad ng batas sa sinuman napatunayang lumapastangan sa ating kapaligiran, tulad nga ng paghahain nitong mga CDO,” Adornado added.

In 2016, Coron Bay was designated as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA), an integrated water quality management system designed to protect and save bodies of water through the collaborative efforts of the government and various stakeholders.

Bacuit Bay is in the process of being declared a WQMA. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) MIMAROPA has conducted meetings to orient stakeholders on the stages of establishing a WQMA and the present water quality of Bacuit Bay.

“We have to start at educating our stakeholders on their duties in protecting the environment, and the accompanying sanctions should they fail to fulfill such,” said EMB MIMAROPA Regional Director Michael Drake Matias.

“We hope that the public, especially the business sector, would understand that what we are doing, the stakeholders forum as well as the issuance of the CDO against erring establishments, form part of our shared responsibility to protect nature and preserve it for future generations,” he concluded.

The CDO was served by a team from EMB MIMAROPA, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office of Palawan, Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of Taytay, CENRO Coron, and the El Nido Protected Area Management Office with the Municipal Governments of El Nido and Coron.

A public notice on the nature of the violation was posted in the premises of the erring establishments and their water lines and facilities sealed to prevent wastewater discharge. (With reports and photos from EMB MIMAROPA and El Nido PAO) ###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources Soccsksargen (Region 12) secured the safety of a Brahminy kyte after it was turned over to the region by a concerned citizen on July 29.

According to Evangeline Marfil, Brgy. Chairperson of Katipunan, Sto. Nino town in South Cotabato, Raymond Tejada, a concerned citizen found the raptor weak and wet after a heavy rainfall.

The barangay officials immediately coordinated with Brigada News FM in Koronadal City which asked the assistance of DENR 12 to get hold of the raptor.

After careful inspection, DENR personnel confirmed that it is a young Brahminy kyte.

Forester Mangayao C. Macapodi, DENR 12 Protected Area Management and Biodiversity Conservation Section Chief said the raptor is domesticated.

“The bird is now being kept in the newly-opened Regional Wildlife Rescue Center (RWRC) in Sultan Kudarat State University (SKSU) Lutayan Campus to ensure its safety and protection,” Macapodi said.

SKSU-Lutayan Campus Veterinarian Dr. Neil Velasco said the raptor is dehydrated and will undergo thorough medication.

Macapodi added that the RWRC will secure, protect and rehabilitate all wildlife species especially those that are turned over, abandoned, surrendered or confiscated.

“We are advising the public not to capture any wildlife species if they are healthy and in good condition. Let them live in their natural habitat,” Macapodi stressed.

“If they are injured, immediately turn over the species to the nearest DENR offices – the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, the Protected Area Superintendent and the regional office to ensure their well-being,” he added.

Macapodi also said the best we can do for wildlife species is to let them live freely in their natural habitats. (Ana Leah V. Asim) | Photo by: Forester Mangayao C. Macapodi

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on July 17 disabled all water lines and facilities of Agumil Philippines, Inc., after a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) was issued against the company for violating Republic Act 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 and polluting the Calabugan River in Brooke’s Point, Palawan.

The four-page CDO, which was released by DENR’s Pollution Adjudication Board (PAB), stated that Agumil Philippines, a palm oil mill facility, has discharged wastewater that exceeded the DENR Water Quality Guidelines and General Effluent Standards pursuant to DENR Administrative Order 2016-08, a clear violation of the provisions of the said law.

As such, the company was ordered “to cease and desist from undertaking any activity and/or operating machines or equipment generating pollution during the pendency of proceedings before the Board.”

The issuance of the CDO came at the heels of a complaint filed by residents and officials of Brgy. Calasaguen in January of this year, when they saw dead fish and prawns floating in the town’s Calabugan River. The river was found coated with black and oily liquid allegedly from the processing plant of Agumil Philippines. The oil mill was located in the nearby Brgy. Maasin.

Upon investigation of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Brooke’s Point, the management of the oil mill plant explained that the pipes of their siltation pond were accidentally hit by a backhoe during their regular dredging activity causing a leak that flowed towards Calabugan River.

The CENRO observed that the damaged pipes were only covered with sacks and wrapped with rubber stripped from the interior part of a tire. Officials of Agumil Philippines said that these were temporary measures and would be replaced with a concrete mound.

The CENRO further noted that the outlet of the broken pipes was positioned towards a creek that is a tributary of the river.

Following this report, the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) MIMAROPA immediately conducted wastewater sampling on January 24. The result showed that Agumil Philippines exceeded the allowable effluent standards of Phosphate-Phosphorus, Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5), Total Suspended Solids (TSS), and Oil and Grease (O&G).

This prompted EMB MIMAROPA to issue a Notice of Violation against the oil mill on February 21; and to subject it to a technical conference (TC) on March 15 to immediately correct its violations. During the TC, Agumil Philippines committed to submit on March 22, its plant and treatment process and a comprehensive pollution control program/compliance plan. However, it failed to do so.

“The Pollution Adjudication Board saw that there is indeed a prima facie evidence that Agumil Philippines ‘has discharged pollutants that constitute immediate threat to life, and public health, safety and welfare,’ hence the immediate issuance and implementation of the CDO,” EMB MIMAROPA Regional Director Atty. Drake Matias stated.

PAB is a quasi-judicial body created under the Office of the Secretary of the DENR. It assumes the powers and functions of the National Pollution Control Commission with respect to the adjudication of pollution cases under Republic Act 3931 (National Water and Air Pollution Control Commission).

Besides stopping Agumil Philippines from generating pollution, the CDO also directed it to show cause why a criminal case should not be filed against it for using a by-pass, or a diversion of wastewater from its collection system. It also reminded the company that it may be penalized a maximum fine of Php 200,000.00 for each day of violation, which is over and above the administrative fine for other violations it has committed.

The regional EMB was tasked to closely monitor Agumil Philippines’ compliance with the Order.

“The effort to save Calabugan River in Brooke’s Point forms part of Secretary Roy A. Cimatu’s priority agenda to restore problematic bodies of water in the country and have clean water for all,” RD Matias shared.

“So we would like to remind everyone that the implementation of environmental rules and regulations is not only confined within identified tourism hot spots, such as El Nido and Coron in Palawan. We are mandated to enforce the law across the region and in the entire nation,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, DENR MIMAROPA Regional Executive Director Henry Adornado thanked the residents of Brgy. Calasaguen for their vigilance in protecting Calabugan River and its marine resources.

“We are glad that communities are getting more involved in saving the environment. What Brgy. Calasaguen did is a testimony of our shared responsibility to protect nature, a mindful act worthy of emulation,” the Adornado said.

A team from EMB-MIMAROPA handed the CDO to Agumil Philippines Mill Manager Arthur Elicanal, and also posted notices of the company’s violations as part of the execution of the CDO. (With reports and photos from EMB-MIMAROPA and CENRO Brooke’s Point.)###