Press Releases

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. #

 

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the Philippines should embrace bamboo as a substitute for wood timber if it wants to increase the nation’s forest cover and fight climate change.

Cimatu said that using bamboo as an alternative to traditional hardwood building materials would eliminate the need to cut trees in the forest, which helps lessen climate change impacts by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“We are envisioning to produce engineered bamboo as a substitute for actual lumber instead of cutting trees that are there in the forest so that we will increase our forest cover in the next several years or decades to catch up with our ASEAN neighbors,” Cimatu said in his speech during the first-ever ASEAN Bamboo Congress held in Iloilo City on August 13.

The environment chief noted that only 23 percent of the country’s total land area is covered by forest, which makes the Philippines having one of the lowest forest covers in Southeast Asia. The average forest cover in other countries in the region is between 30 and 35 percent.

“We are not competing that we should be the highest—that we should be there at the top of the forest cover, but it is a necessity for us because we used to have the biggest forest cover in the ASEAN, in Southeast Asia. But not now because of our overuse of our timber,” Cimatu pointed out.

Cimatu said that bamboo—technically a grass, not a tree—is not only a sustainable alternative to wood, but also has the potential to significantly offset carbon emissions.

“Bamboo reduces the need for timber resources, and helps greatly in carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and low-cost rehabilitation of degraded lands,” he added.

Cimatu further said that bamboo not only provides food and raw materials for construction, but it also generates local jobs, creating new income streams; lessens flooding, erosion and rising sea level; and is a great source of clean fuel.

He reiterated that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is eyeing Panay Island in Western Visayas to be the center of bamboo production in the country.

Cimatu said he already directed the DENR regional office in Western Visayas to conduct an inventory of bamboo plants on the island, particularly in Maasin town in Iloilo province that produces the most number of bamboo plants.

He also ordered the prioritization of bamboo over other tree species to be planted on denuded and degraded forest areas covered by the Enhanced National Greening Program, the government’s flagship reforestation initiative.

The 1st ASEAN Bamboo Congress was organized by the DENR’s Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) to promote partnership among the participating ASEAN countries in improving the conditions of bamboo forests and dependent industries in the region.

ERDB Director Sofio Quintana said the congress allowed the participants to share knowledge on bamboo that they can use in their own countries.

“There may be a lot of efforts on bamboo research, but knowledge sharing and collaboration are the genuine keys to making research information and technologies useful and of high quality,” Quintana said.

The bamboo congress also sought to promote a strong collaborative undertaking on bamboo research and development in the ASEAN region and share the best practices to increase appreciation and acceptance of bamboo as a green product. #

The Boracay Inter-Agency Rehabilitation Management Group (BIARMG) will step up its information campaign on the “do’s and don’ts” for tourists visiting the world-famous resort island in the wake of a viral beachfront pooping incident.

The BIARMG, which is headed by Director Natividad Bernardino of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), is currently looking into a video circulating on social media involving two female foreign nationals—one allowing child to defecate in Boracay’s waters and the other burying a used diaper in the white sand.

“This move should send a strong message to local and foreign tourists to uphold the government’s advocacy for sustainable tourism and to observe the rules and regulations being implemented while enjoying the island paradise,” Bernardino explained.

According to Bernardino, the BIARMG is considering some new measures to help tourists comply with the rules and regulations in Boracay, particularly the anti-littering ordinance that prohibits littering, urinating, defecating, spitting and dumping trash in public places.

“We are planning to give pamphlets through the airline on the do’s and don’ts on the island especially on the proper way to throw garbage and the policy against defecation at the Boracay beach,” Bernardino said.

Bernardino said they are also mulling the inclusion of other foreign languages in the signages installed at the beachfront against littering, smoking and carrying of glass bottles, among others.

“Majority of the foreign visitors are from China and South Korea,” Bernardino noted. “Considering the great proportion of Chinese and Korean visitors relative to the total number of Boracay’s visitors, we should now perhaps include Chinese and Korean languages in the signages, which presently carry warnings only in English.”

Records from the Malay Municipal Tourism Office (MMTO) show that out of the 619,934 tourists who visited Boracay from January 1 to April 15 this year, 357,041 or 57 percent are foreigners, majority of whom are Chinese and Koreans.

Local tourists account for 240,745 while overseas Filipino workers number 22,148.

The rest of the foreign tourists came from Japan, Russia, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
MMTO records also show that 1,043 violators were reported from January to March this year led by Chinese tourists at 605 violators; followed by South Koreans, 220; and Filipinos, 173.

Bernardino said the foreign nationals featured in the viral poop video are examples of irresponsible tourists who have no respect for Boracay, the locals and their fellow tourists.

“Although it may be considered an isolated incident, we are nonetheless taking this seriously, which is why my office is seeking out to the person who uploaded the video so that substantial information can be made and appropriate actions can be taken on the matter,” Bernardino said.

Citing reports from the Boracay Enhanced Security Strategy and Tactics (BESST) Police, Bernardino said apprehensions of violators in Phase 1 beachfront have dropped from 270 in April 2019 to 74 on June 8, 2019 , while those in Phase II, main road area have decreased from 527 to eight for the same period.

The BIARMG is tasked to monitor Boracay’s rehabilitation works which include regular water quality assessment on the beach and the road rehabilitation being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways, among others.

In the morning of August 14, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu gave instructions to cordon off the beachfront area in Station 1 where the viral video was taken.

The area was temporarily closed for swimming for 48 hours or until water quality tests show safe levels for human contact. ###