The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) “made concrete strides toward its goal of sustainable development of the environment and natural resources” in 2008 and sees 2009 as a promising year for the country.
“The last 12 months saw the DENR launching programs that are firsts in terms of quality and benefits for the people, especially the poor. We also scored victories on the legal front on numerous environmental issues,” DENR Secretary Lito Atienza said.
He attributed the department’s achievements to the support of President Arroyo for its programs and projects.
He said the DENR embarked on a massive reforestation, a “no non-sense” cleanup of coasts and bodies of water, enhancement of people’s preparedness against natural disasters, and broadened people participation in coping with climate change.
He stressed that the most important “many firsts” the DENR accomplished is the task of promoting the protection, preservation and the proper use of the country’s natural resources.
Atienza also cited two unanimous decisions of the Supreme Court, which upheld the DENR’s defense of Boracay Island as a forestland and state property, except for titled portions, and the ordering of all concerned government agencies to coordinate with the restoration and preservation of Manila Bay.
“We must now translate these legal victories into actual and living ecological triumphs,” he said.
He noted that in 2008, the DENR was able to include a representative from the local government units (LGUs) in the minerals development council and establish 16 regional minerals development councils.
It also implemented an SC decision, which has not been executed for 40 years, that redefined the boundaries of the Zobel de Ayala’s Calatagan hacienda and file a case against a local official, Mayor Ceciron Cawaling of Malay, Aklan for allowing the construction of a hotel-resort in a mangrove protected area in Boracay.
Last year, the DENR led the demolition of illegal fish pens in Laguna Lake and the Cavite portion of Manila Bay and fast-tracked the setting up of wastewater treatment facilities by Manila Water and Maynilad.
Atienza said the DENR also planted 15.9 million seedlings in 19,561 hectares of forestland, in addition to the 30 agro-forestry projects implemented last year, benefiting 5,238 families.
The DENR was also able to rehabilitate critical river systems and water bodies such as the Manila Bay, Laguna Lake, and Pasig River with the support of governors and Metro Manila mayors in cities, municipalities, and provinces surrounding these vital bodies of water.
Atienza said 45 LGUs were provided with technical assistance in coastal resource assessment, while 18 were assisted in preparing their coastal resource management plans.
“These go beyond the annual coastal cleanup of rivers and other water bodies,” he claimed.
On the geo-hazard project, which aims to boost disaster preparedness of people and communities, especially in the countryside and upland areas, Atienza reported that the DENR completed its geo-hazard assessment and mapping of 220 municipalities.
Through the project, the DENR identified areas prone to landslides and flooding, enabling it to forewarn communities of impending disasters.
Atienza said that 95 percent of the communities frequently visited by typhoons already have completed their geo-hazard maps.
While he thanked stakeholders from all sectors of society, the DENR chief enjoined the public and all “partners” to maintain their support in keeping the country’s environment clean.
He reiterated his call for the protection and sustainable development of the country’s natural resources.–Katherine Adraneda, Philippine Star