MANILA, Dec 28, 2007 (Asia Pulse Data Source via COMTEX) --
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) adopted this year several initiatives aimed at further enhancing environmental protection and sustainable use of the countrys natural wealth.
These include forestry policies to better curb illegal logging as well as regulations covering allowable development in protected areas as well as on vehicle emissions.
In October this year, DENR Secretary Lito Atienza banned small-scale miners from cutting down trees in their areas of operation.
Such was among initial moves of Atienza who succeeded in August 2007 former Environment Secretary and now Energy Chief Angelo Reyes.
Well no longer issue them tree cutting permits as their operations dont warrant such since they generally work with hand tools and not heavy equipment, Atienza said after learning mining companies allowed to undertake small-scale mining secured permits to cut down thousands of trees in Romblon province.
He noted the order will help further bolster governments thrust towards promoting responsible mining nationwide.
To help further rationalize such operations, he said DENR will review all existing small-scale mining permits.
Atienza cited as basis for his order Republic Act 7076 enacted in 1991 which defines small-scale mining as mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment.
To help bolster forest protection, DENR intensified its watch on renewing operation permits the agency issued to existing wood processing plants (WPPs) nationwide.
This developed as DENR said forest cover accounted for some 24 percent of the Philippines' total land area in 2002 due to government's reforestation efforts after dropping to 18.3 percent in 1988 from 70 percent around 1900 because of unabated logging.
Based on DENR Administrative Order 13, DENR's regional executive directors (REDs) can't renew permits for WPPs unless each has an approved regional wood processing plan upon which to base such action.
Such plans are required before DENR issues permits to establish and operate new WPPs.
In September, DENR began requiring stakeholders concerned to forge with protected area management boards special use agreements in protected areas (SAPAs) before allowable development there can commence.
Such is provided in Department Administrative Order (DAO) 2007-17 which DENR began implementing this month to promote sustainable development and biodiversity conservation so ecological balance there can be maintained.
SAPAS will be cancelled if warranted, DENR warned.
DENR also issued Administrative Order 2007-7 requiring compliance with revised emission standards for motor vehicles with compression-ignition (diesel) engines and spark-ignition (gasoline) engines.
This aims to help improve the countrys air quality as emissions, which are composed of measurable air contaminants, pollutants, gas streams or unwanted sounds from known sources, are passed into the atmosphere.
DENR said the revisions will cover new, in-use, rebuilt and imported used motor vehicles nationwide.
As specified in AO 2007-27, all new motor vehicles introduced in the market beginning January 1 next year must comply with EURO 2 emission limits.
EURO 2 refers to requirements defining acceptable limits for new vehicles exhaust emissions as provided for in EC96 and Directives 94/12/EC or 96/69/EC, DENR said.
In August, Atienza said he will look into whether DENR can streamline further its processing of mining permit applications.
If the objective is productivity, then lets cut short unnecessary steps involved in processing permit applications, he said.
Among matters he committed to study is lessening the number of officials signatures required for an application to be processed completely.
Atienza decided on such move to help generate nationwide more mining that can contribute to the countrys development, particularly since government identified such activity as an economic driver.
DENRs Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) projected a bullish performance for mining this year as it reported the industry posted in 2007s first quarter a 56 percent surge in metallic mineral production value (MMPV) to PhP17.38 billion from PhP11.13 billion during the same period last year.
MGB also said Philippine minings MMPV in 2006 was PhP55 billion or about 48 percent more than 2005s PhP37 billion.
This is by far the highest growth rate to be recorded for the last 20 years, MGB said.
2007 was also a year of advocacies for DENR.
Among these are more technology transfer among countries to help address climate change or global warming, harmonizing government action on global warming and establishing an environmental ombudsman to help ensure public officials action on environmental protection.
DENR Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi said technology transfer is needed so developing countries can access and use technologies these find to be either cost-effective or commercially preferential for climate change monitoring, adaptation and mitigation.
Such could be done through enhanced international cooperation so existing and new environment-friendly technologies could be made available to developing countries through preferential commercial transfer and/or flexible innovation and knowledge access regimes rather than full market-based conditions, he said.
He also noted several incentives can be promoted to help hasten technology transfer.
These include levying tax on carbon, adopting new product licensing rules, providing special pricing so poor countries can access patented technologies of developed nations and abolishing subsidies that arent environment-friendly.
Atienza said harmonized action is needed so the country can better prepare for adverse effects of global warming.
Theres no doubt effects of climate change (CC) are being felt in the Philippines already, he said.
He noted harmonizing output of public entities created to address CC will help government generate the best possible course of action on this matter.
Atienza created through DENR Special Order 2007-653 a council to advise the agency and recommend policies on CC mitigation, adaptation and information communication.
He is heading this eight-man council with ex-senator and environment secretary Heherson Alvarez as co-chairperson.
Atienza also said establishing an environmental ombudsman aims to help ensure public officials action on environmental protection.
We want to punish those who neglect their duties, he said.
He also noted this is in line with Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 which mandates local officials nationwide to help protect the environment.
Atienza said Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is open to the idea of establishing an environmental ombudsman.
Shes very supportive of this, he said.
DENR undertook several major projects this year to help hike public awareness and participation in environmental protection.
In Norzagaray, Bulacan this August, DENR held regional launching of its Trees for Life (TFL) project on planting 20 million trees nationwide.
This aims to help further bolster Malacanangs Green Philippines Program on reforestation, reef and waterways preservation, anti-pollution and energy independence.
Atienza, Bulacan Third District Representative Lorna Silverio, Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Administrator Lorenzo Jamora, Manila Water Company president Antonio Aquino and Maynilad Water Services Inc. president Rogelio Singson were among officials who each planted a tree during the launching.
DENR chose Norzagarays Ipo watershed as launching site since TFL is focused this month on greening protected areas and watersheds nationwide.
The agency said TFL supporters will plant in some 13,000 hectares of protected and watershed areas nationwide about 10 million indigenous and endemic tree seedlings.
In June, DENR signed with Department of Education (DepEd), Quezon City government and non-government organization Pablo P. Reyes Sr. Foundation a memorandum of agreement for the Environment-Friendly Schools (EFS) Project.
EFS seeks to promote public environmental protection awareness through tree planting activities in Philippine public schools and to support governments Green Philippines program on planting some two million trees so denuded areas nationwide can be reforested.
All good things in life come to an end but life itself will end if we dont care about our environment, former environment chief Reyes said during a program marking EFS launch at Quezon City High School in Kamuning District.
He, DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus, Quezon City 4th District Councilor Ariel Inton representing Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and PPRSr president Dr. Josefina Perlado signed the agreement during the program.
Also in June, DENR and Philippine Association of Refrigerant Importers Inc. (PARII) led groundbreaking for construction of the Philippines first reclamation facility for refrigerants.
This project aims to support governments thrust towards reducing and eventually stopping nationwide importation of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), said Teresita Peralta, project manager of the National CFC Phase-Out Plan DENR is implementing through the Philippine Ozone Desk.
The country committed to phase out CFC by 2010 as scientists said this odorless, inert, non-flammable, non-corrosive and non-toxic chemical compound is depleting the ozone layer which protects the earth from the suns ultra-violet rays.
Authorities also expect equipment for this project to minimize venting of other ozone-depleting substances.
DENR also commenced this year planning for redevelopment of Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center (NAPWC) in Quezon City.
Atienza aims to transform this area into governments environmental showcase to help increase peoples knowledge about Philippine natural resources so these can be protected better and tapped more sustainably for economic purposes.
NAPWC can be a model for other centers of flora and fauna nationwide, he said.
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