DENR yearend report: Saving lakes and wildlife
Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - January 11, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — In early 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a final appeal to operators of fish pens in Laguna de Bay to dismantle their structures to clear the lake.

The DENR’s National Anti-Environmental Crime Task Force (NAECTF) dismantling operations included the fish pens and cages whose permits expired in 2016 as the department implemented a moratorium on the renewal of permits starting Jan. 1.

The NAECTF noted that the only way to save the lake and give access to small fishermen is to dismantle all illegal structures there.

The task force also said these structures obstruct the natural flow of water, which is necessary to cleanse the lake of pollutants from households and industries, and even from chemical components of fish feeds.

Then environment secretary Gina Lopez bared plans to convert Laguna de Bay into a vibrant ecotourism area and bring it back to its old glory.
The lake is among the 29 priority areas included in the DENR’s Sustainable Integrated Area Development, an area development approach that aims to provide alternative sources of livelihood that promote the protection of the environment and the sustainable development of natural resources.

Lopez later set her sights on mining firms and ordered the closure of 23 metallic mines and suspended five more for environmental violations discovered during the industry-wide audit conducted by the DENR starting July 2016.

The DENR assured the mining sector and the general public that due process was “meticulously observed” in the audit of all existing metallic mines nationwide.
Lopez said that a “green economy” could provide more jobs and replace destructive mining operations.

She said that available government data would show that mining produced only 234,000 jobs as against the 4.7 million jobs created by tourism in 2014.

Although she admitted that mining has indeed created jobs, the industry remains widely regarded as having adverse effects on the environment and communities.

On Valentine’s Day, Lopez announced the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements for mining sites within watershed areas.

Lopez said show cause orders have been issued to these mining companies to allow them to explain why their MPSAs should not be cancelled for threatening watersheds, a major source of drinking and recreational water for many communities.

As expected mining companies ganged up on Lopez and protested the cancellation of 23 mining concessions due to violations of environmental laws.

On May 3 the Commission on Appointments finally decided on Lopez’s fate and rejected her appointment as secretary of the DENR.

Enter Cimatu

President Duterte appointed former Armed Forces chief Roy Cimatu as new DENR secretary.

Cimatu immediately called for solidarity in protecting the country’s environment and natural resources during the turnover ceremony held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

At the same time, Cimatu said he wouldn’t hesitate to expose and punish corrupt DENR officials and employees, as he has zero tolerance for corruption.

Last August, the DENR, under the leadership of Cimatu, turned down the request of the Quezon City government to allow its sanitary landfill in Payatas to reopen, citing numerous environmental violations and susceptibility to trash slide.

In a letter to Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, the DENR noted the adverse findings of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau against the continued operation of the Payatas dumpsite.

In a separate report, the MGB said that the landfill was “highly susceptible to trash slide.” On Oct. 4, the bicameral CA voted unanimously to approve the nomination of Cimatu as secretary of the DENR.

Before the month of October ended, the biggest wildlife conservation meeting for the year opened at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City with DENR as the lead organizer of the event.

The 12th Session of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals or CMS-COP12, brought together experts, advocates and policymakers from more than 120 countries worldwide to discuss the direct link between migratory wildlife species and humans.

Cimatu presented the country’s programs that contribute to the global conservation of migratory species and their habitats, and urged stronger ties among members of the CMS to achieve the convention’s goals.

Before the convention came to a close, the delegates adopted all five resolutions submitted by the Philippines, including the resolution to provide greater protection for certain migratory species such as the whale shark or butanding.

Besides the whale shark resolution, the COP also adopted the resolutions on Christmas Island frigatebird, yellow bunting, worcesteri sub-species of the black noddy and white-spotted wedgefish.

The Manila Declaration acknowledges the significant contribution of migratory wildlife to sustainable development, especially in the areas of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, tourism, energy, transport and trade.

The DENR said the Manila Declaration is consistent with the sustainable development goals set by the United Nations to ensure prosperity for mankind and protection of the planet.

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