Press Releases

Environment officials, scientists, and researchers in Southeast Asia have agreed to establish a regional network that will explore the vast potential of bamboo for environmental sustainability and economic resiliency in the midst of climate change.

The establishment of the ASEAN Bamboo Network was the most prominent feature of the resolution adopted by participants to the first-ever ASEAN Bamboo Congress held in Iloilo City from August 12 to 16.

Organized by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the five-day event brought together government officials, scientists and researchers within the ASEAN region, as well as representatives from the World Bamboo Organization, Brazil, Qatar and Peru.

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu described the resolution as a “decisive output” of the conference as it enabled formal commitment of the signatories towards “a sustainable and climate resilient future for the entire region.”

“With this resolution, we are assuring that we will put our utmost endeavors in the continuous research and development in bamboo production technologies, as well as stronger linkages within the ASEAN region,” Cimatu pointed out.

Bamboo is widely recognized as a “versatile renewable resource” that protects the environment, improves the microclimate, controls soil erosion, protects riverbanks, reduces flash floods, serves as windbreak, and sequesters atmospheric carbon efficiently.

It also has good properties comparable to most wood species and offers a variety of uses either in its unmanufactured form or as processed into engineered products, and as such, reduces the demand burden for wood-based products from the forests thereby arresting deforestation.

The attendees to the regional conference were convinced that engaging into bamboo production and the manufacturing of bamboo products provide job opportunities and steady income source among farmer groups, local communities, artisans and workers along the value chain.

However, they also recognized the fact that promoting bamboo for climate change adaptation and mitigation, economic stability and environmental sustainability entails innate challenges that need science-based decision-making, linking up with all possible stakeholders and dialogue partners.

This is exactly what the congress participants want to address to achieve enhanced technical collaboration, efficient resource mobilization, inclusive development strategies, clear and effective regulations, broad public awareness and enhanced capacities.

The signatories to the resolution have resolved to enhance partnership to come up with science-based strategies in improving the conditions of bamboo forests and dependent industries in the region.

They also agreed to share best practices to increase the appreciation and acceptance of bamboo as a cost-effective green product as alternative to plastic, metal and wood materials.

At the same time, they approved of the plan to hold the Bamboo Congress every three years to sustain the efforts on expanding ASEAN bamboo concerns in the world map, re-examine the strategies that have been undertaken, and bring into active discussion the new and emerging challenges on bamboo that the region may have to engage in.

ERDB Director Sofio Quintana, who signed the resolution on behalf of Cimatu, expressed hope the conference would result in stronger regional collaboration on the promotion of bamboo for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

“We hope that the resolution presented and signed during the 1st ASEAN Bamboo Congress marks strengthened partnerships and research breakthroughs among bright minds as One ASEAN for better climate change adaptation strategies and actions toward environmental sustainability and economic resiliency,” Quintana said. ###

The Philippines will continue to play a major role in achieving sustainable development through environmental protection among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu made this promise as the country celebrates August as the ASEAN Month to commemorate the 52nd founding anniversary of Southeast Asia’s premier intergovernmental organization.

According to Cimatu, the Philippines has been a leader in promoting environmental protection to achieve sustainable development in the ASEAN region during the last five decades.

The country’s involvement in the ASEAN, he said, has resulted in “significant contributions to laying a foundation for common actions of cooperation on sustainable development” among the 10 member countries.

“Of note is the role the Philippines has played to put forth the gains ASEAN has made in promoting sustainable development and deepen the organization’s progress to improve the region’s environmental quality in the spirit of equality and solidarity,” Cimatu said.

The Philippines is one of the founding members of the ASEAN, which was created on August 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand primarily to spur economic and socio-cultural growth in the region through joint undertakings to strengthen the foundation for a thriving and peaceful community of Southeast Asian nations.

The ASEAN Community has three pillars: political-security; economic; and socio-cultural.

According to Cimatu, the Philippines played a key role in advancing ASEAN’s motto “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” with the DENR’s involvement in ASEAN dialogues and consultation mechanisms, particularly the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community through the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Environment (AMME).

Within the ASEAN framework, the development of environmental cooperation is discussed at the AMME and is convened every three years.

For monitoring and harmonization of environmental preservation efforts among Southeast Asian countries, the ASEAN Senior Officials on Environment (ASOEN) was established in 1989. Outputs the ASOEN conferences are reported to the AMME.

Under the ASEAN Cooperation on the Environment, Secretary Cimatu acts as the Philippine Official to AMME while DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones is the designated Senior Official to the ASOEN.

The DENR also represents the Philippines in seven ASEAN Working Groups (AWGs), namely on climate change, coastal and marine environment, chemicals and waste, environmental education, environmentally sustainable cities, natural resources and biodiversity, and water resources management.

Cimatu said the country’s active participation in these AWGs have yielded “numerous benefits to the government’s environment conservation and protection efforts ranging from projects, grants, and hosting of center of excellence—the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity in Laguna.”

From 2006 to 2019, the country hosted five important AMME-related events such as the AMME Environmental Summit held in Cebu City in November 2006. The DENR also hosted several ASOEN meetings, including those held in Boracay in 2007 and 2017, with the latter coinciding with the country’s hosting of the 50th ASEAN Founding Anniversary.

Last month, the DENR hosted two major regional environmental events—the 22nd ASEAN Senior Officials on Forestry (ASOF) Meeting and the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable Discussion on Clean Air, Health and Climate Change.

The ASOF Meeting sought to discuss measures on how to further strengthen regional cooperation to address transboundary threats to forests and development of internationally compliant forestry-based products within the region.

Cimatu himself participated in the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable Discussion held in Makati City on July 24-25. High on the agenda were initiatives and insights toward global climate action and clean air and health to meet the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The roundtable meeting provided a platform for an interactive discussion, in a high-level setup, on the opportunities and challenges of coming up with a regional approach to air pollution and climate change.

The two-day event also gathered policy experts and scientists in the ASEAN region and beyond to share local initiatives and insights toward achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the nationally determined contributions of each country.

During the event, the ASEAN member countries were called upon to respond collectively to the Special Report on Global Warming 1.5°C published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October 2018. ###

 

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has emphasized that making the Philippines a mercury-free country is a shared responsibility of the government, private sector, civil society and the general public.

“Each of us has a role to play, and with the Philippines’ upcoming ratification of the Minamata Convention, it is incumbent upon us to properly manage mercury and its wastes in an environmentally sound manner,” Cimatu said during the recent launch of the country’s National Action Plan (NAP) for the phase-out of mercury-containing products and wastes.

The Minamata Convention is the world’s first legally binding treaty to phase out mercury, a highly toxic substance that poses threats to the environment and human health.

The NAP was crafted under a project jointly implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Funded by the Swiss government, the project also assisted the Philippine government in the management of mercury-containing products with a life cycle approach in accordance with the Minamata and Basel Conventions.

A copy of the NAP was turned over to the DENR and it was received by the agency’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service Director Lourdes Wagan on behalf of Cimatu during a ceremony held last July 30 in Mandaluyong City.

“The NAP is a crucial and important document that will enable us to successfully carry out the elimination of mercury from consumer products and other materials utilized in the industry, greatly reducing the risk to human exposure and contamination of the environment,” Cimatu said in a speech delivered by Wagan.

The NAP is a product of collaboration among 10 government agencies, and provides a detailed 5-year full implementation document of the activities and actions that the government will undertake.

“The completion of the NAP likewise increases confidence in the country’s readiness for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Cimatu pointed out.

In 2013, the Philippines was one of the 128 countries that signed the Minamata convention, which regulates the use and trade of mercury.

The convention is named after the Japanese city where industrial emissions of the toxic substance caused a poisoning disease affecting thousands of people in the 1950s.

The Philippine Senate has yet to ratify the convention, which entered into force in August 2017.

Cimatu said that the DENR has “spearheaded the ratification process in consultation with the relevant government agencies and stakeholders.”

He also revealed that the ratification document is already endorsed by the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Office of the President.

“We made the cleanup of Boracay and the rehabilitation of Manila Bay possible. Managing our mercury waste is also certainly possible with every one of us working together,” Cimatu said. ###

"I JOIN THE NATION IN MOURNING THE UNTIMELY DEMISE OF FORMER SECRETARY, REGINA PAZ “GINA” L. LOPEZ.

GINA WAS A PURE CHAMPION OF THE ENVIRONMENT, BOLD AND FEARLESS IN HER ADVOCACIES, REGARDLESS OF THE CONSEQUENCES. SHE WAS UNCOMPROMISING IN PROTECTING WATERSHEDS AND IMPOSING HIGH STANDARDS OF RESPONSIBILITY ON THE MINING INDUSTRY. AT THE SAME TIME, GINA WAS COMPASSIONATE FOR THE UNDERPRIVILEGED, AND FOR THEM PROMOTED ECOTOURISM AS A WAY OUT OF POVERTY.

SHE WAS AN INSPIRATION TO MANY, A PERSONIFICATION OF OUR HOPES FOR A SUSTAINABLY GREENER ENVIRONMENT WITH BOUNTIFUL NATURAL RESOURCES FOR ALL. THE DENR FAMILY WILL REMEMBER HER WITH FONDNESS, RESPECT, AND LOVE. WE WILL HONOR HER BY BUILDING ON HER LEGACY." ###

After their collaboration in Boracay, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is once again partnering with the Aboitiz Group, this time for the rehabilitation of San Juan River, one of Metro Manila’s main river systems and a major tributary of Pasig River.

San Juan River, which runs from Quezon City to the cities of San Juan, Mandaluyong and Manila, is considered as one of the most polluted waterways in the metropolis.

The DENR, represented by Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, recently signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEVI) and the Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (AFI) for the development and implementation of the San Juan River Rehabilitation Plan.

The MOA aims to lower the pollution levels in San Juan River, which ultimately drains into the Manila Bay, through dredging and cleanup activities.

“Today, we take a solid and resolute step towards winning the Battle for Manila Bay with the signing of a [MOA] among the DENR, Aboitiz Equity Ventures and Aboitiz Foundation for the sustainable clean up and rehabilitation of San Juan River,” Cimatu said during the MOA signing held at the DENR central office in Quezon City on August 16.

Aside from Cimatu, other signatories in the MOA are AEVI president and CEO Erramon Aboitiz and AFI trustee Sabin Aboitiz.

The MOA signing took place a year after the DENR and the Aboitiz Group teamed up for the rehabilitation and development of the one-hectare Wetland 4 in Boracay, transforming it into a linear urban park for a period of three years.

“Let us applaud the DENR-Aboitiz Group partnership and hold it aloft as a model for more partnerships to follow,” Cimatu said.

He pointed out that the DENR could not accomplish the mission of rehabilitating Boracay and Manila Bay “by itself” that’s why it “took the initiative of reaching out to existing and potential partners.”

The rehabilitation of the 11-kilometer San Juan River will run for three years and renewable for another year. It will be implemented by AFI, the social development arm of the Aboitiz Group.

The rehabilitation plan would have at least three components: social preparation and mobilization involving concerned local government units; dredging and cleanup; and regular water quality monitoring activities on selected points of the river identified by the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau.

Under the agreement, the AEVI pledges to fund the rehabilitation and cleanup of the river and provide the needed equipment and materials needed for the undertaking.

For his part, Sabin Aboitiz said the Aboitiz Group was honored to be entrusted with the San Juan River.

He said the latest DENR-Aboitiz Group partnership “is the benchmark program that can be replicated for other tributaries of Manila Bay.”

“There is no doubt that Manila Bay is a symbol of our country with its world-famous sunset and we congratulate the implementing agencies on carrying out this directive of the President,” he added.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte had entrusted Cimatu to lead the rehabilitation efforts both in Boracay and Manila Bay. #