Regional Releases

A total of 140 sacks of garbage were collected during a joint clean up operations led by the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Palawan on Friday.

DENR-MIMAROPA Director Henry Adornado said the heaps of garbage, believed to have originated from other countries based on the markings on the plastic bottles, were reportedly seen drifting at the Secret Lagoon in Miniloc Island, and were washed up to the shores of El Nido by the strong current brought about by the monsoon rains that prevailed over the province recently.

A waste classification report issued by the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area (ENTMRPA) indicated that majority of the garbage or 70% consisted of plastic bottles while 30% were a mix of Styrofoam, rubber scraps, plastic wrappers, nylon and other trash.

Despite the rough seas, Adornado mobilized additional teams to scour the beaches of Big Lagoon and Small Lagoon in Miniloc island, Natnat Beach in Cadlao Island, including the farther islands of Matinloc and Tapiutan.

“Since it is already rainy season, let us expect the accumulation of marine debris in the shorelines of Palawan and its islands. This should remind us that whatever we dumped in the oceans, will come back to us,” he said.

He then called on the public to diligently practice the 3Rs of ecological waste management - reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Adornado attributed the success of the clean-up operations to the cooperation extended by representatives of other government offices and the private sector, notably the Philippine Coast Guard, the local government unit of El Nido, the El Nido Chamber of Commerce, El Nido Resorts, El Nido Travel and Tours Association and other private organizations.

Meanwhile, a juvenile bearcat found caught in a trap during the clean-up operations was set free into the wild. Locally known as Binturong, the local bearcat is listed as a ‘vulnerable species’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to its population decline resulting from habitat destruction, local use and wildlife trade. ### 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified about 53 cave areas in Central Luzon and urges the public to protect and conserve these resources, which serve as home to important animal species and potential ecotourism site, environment officials announced yesterday.

Paquito Moreno, Jr., regional director of DENR-Region 3 said caves are critical part of an ecosystem which is rich in biological, historical and geological resources.

“Central Luzon is rich in caves. This natural ecosystem is one of the wonders of nature and part of our natural heritage. It is usually hidden in the mountains and exhibit awesome rock formations of stalactites and stalagmites,” he explained.

He said caves must be protected and sustainably managed as it contains valuable natural resources which can provide numerous educational, historical, cultural, economic, scientific and aesthetic benefits to our communities.

According to Arthur Salazar, deputy director for Technical Services, caves are home to some important species of frogs, bats, mammals, birds, reptiles, crabs and even microorganism.

“This unique ecosystem also contains specialized mineral formations, including calcite, limestone, and gypsum,” he said.

He said out of the 53 identified caves in the region, 27 of these can be found in Bulacan, ten are in Nueva Ecija, eight in Zambales, six in Aurora and two are in Tarlac.

The DENR has also officially classified eight caves in Aurora and Bulacan into Class 1 and 2, which are now being managed by the local government units (LGU), he added.

These caves are Sinag, Tikbalang and Layang-layang caves, all in San Luis town in Aurora; Puning cave in Dona Remedios Trinidad town, Bayukbok, Pebbles and Madlum caves in San Miguel town, and Pinagrealan cave in Norzagaray town, all in Bulacan.

According to DENR cave classifications, class 1 caves are those with delicate and fragile geological formations, threatened species, archeological and paleontological values, and extremely hazardous. Allowable use may include mapping, photography, educational and scientific study.

Class 2 are those caves with areas or portions which have sections that have hazardous conditions and contain sensitive geological, biological, archeological, cultural, historical, and biological values or high-quality ecosystem. It may be necessary to close sections of these caves seasonally or permanently. It is open only to experienced caves or guided educational tours or visits

Class 3 are caves generally safe to inexperienced visitors with no known threatened species, archeological, geological, natural history, cultural and historical values. These caves may also be utilized for economic purposes such as guano extraction and edible birds nest collection.

“We urge the public especially those cave enthusiasts, mountain climbers and eco-tourist to protect and conserve our cave areas in the region because this is one of our pride and natural heritage,” Moreno said.

Section 7 of Republic Act (RA) No. 9072 or the National Caves and Cave Resources Management Act, prohibits the destroying, disturbing, defacing, marring, altering, removing, or harming the speleogem or speleothem of any cave or altering the free movement of any animal or plant life into or out of any cave.

The law also prohibits the gathering, collecting, possessing, consuming, selling, bartering or exchanging or offering for sale without authority any cave resources.

Anyone found guilty of violating Sec. 7 of RA 9072 shall be punished by up to six years of imprisonment and a maximum fine of P500,000.

DENR defined cave as any naturally occurring void, cavity, recess or system of interconnected passages beneath the surface of the earth or within the cliff or ledge and which is large enough to permit an individual to enter whether or not the entrance, located either in private or public land, is naturally formed or manmade. It also includes cave resources therein, but not any vug, mine tunnel, aqueduct or other man-made excavation. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – MIMAROPA kicked off the comprehensive cleanup of the Zapote river in Brgy. Molino 3, Bacoor City on Wednesday (May2), at the start of the local celebration of May as Month of the Ocean.

“Today marks not only the start of our celebration of May as the Month of the Ocean but also to kick off the comprehensive clean up of the Zapote River. Pag sinabing comprehensive cleanup, talagang ‘yan ay matindi,” DENR-Region 4A Director Sofio B. Quintana said as he addressed the participants to the cleanup activity.

Quintana said that he was supposed to join President Duterte to Bondoc Peninsula in Mulanay, Quezon to distribute Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) but he opted to join the cleanup, saying “It is but my official and moral obligation to be here. Kasi ito pong usapin sa Zapote River ay nasimulan noong isang taon, July 2017, noong ako’y nasa National Capital Region kasama ng ating mahal na kalihim, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu,” Quintana explained.

During that time, Quintana said, Sec. Cimatu had instructed him to clean the filthy river. And since the river, according to him, is the boundary between the National Capital Region and the CALABARZO Region, he immediately contacted Bacoor City Environment and Natural Resources Officer (ENRO) Rolando Bucalan, who agreed to undertake a joint comprehensive clean up of Zapote river.

Bucalan, who was also present in the cleanup activity, called on the residents of Brgy. Molino 3 to have a sense of responsibility to maintain the cleanliness of the river once it is cleaned.

“Hindi dahil may pumupulot ng basura ay may karapatan na ang mga tao na magkalat. Sana naman po, pag-alis namin dito, meron po kayong responsibilidad na panatilihing malinis ‘yong aming mga nilinis,” Bucalan said.

He added: “Kasi ang pagtatapon po sa ilog ay seconds lang, pero araw po ‘yan para angatin, para mawala. Ganoon po kahirap ‘yan, kaya sa komunidad po, napakasuwerte ng barangay na ito na mayroong maglilinis ng manwal ditto. Ito po ay isang goodwill at example po. Sana po sa mga taga-rito, i-maintain nyo po ang mga nilinis ng ating mga kasama.”

Meanwhile, DENR-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) for Cavite Reynaldo Belen emphasized the importance of discipline in maintaining the cleanliness in the area. He also appealed that the clean-up be done not only in the barangay but also in the whole province as the wastes disposed at the upper areas will eventually flow down the low-lying ones. ### 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Region 12 (DENR-R12) has renewed its partnership agreement with three business establishments within the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS).

DENR-Region 12 Director Nilo B. Tamoria signed the memorandum of agreement for joint efforts in the management, protection and conservation of the protected area with Bayani B. Fredeluces, senior vice president of RD Fishing Industry Incorporated; Engracio Sestina, vice president and general manager of Philbest Canning Corporation; and Dr. Delfin Besquillo, Jr., owner of Coco Beach Resort.

Sarangani Gov. and co-chair of SBPS Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) Steve Chiongbian Solon witnessed the signing of the said MOA.

Under the MOA, the DENR and the business enterprises shall jointly manage, protect and conserve as well as develop and enhance the resources potentials of SBPS for the benefit and enjoyment of the communities as well as the general public.

Specifically, the companies shall implement all programs, projects and activities identified in the Comprehensive Development and Management Plan, which was prepared in accordance with the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.

Tamoria also said the participating establishments will also help in addressing environmental problems facing the Sarangani Bay. “The DENR will strictly monitor the compliance of business establishments and the tourism business providers to environmental laws. We will be issuing Notice of Violations (NOVs) to those who would violate environmental laws,” he said.

SPBS Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) Iskak Dipatuan said that prior to the signing of MOA, a series of assessment and re-assessment were conducted by the DENR- PASu team.

“We had conducted appraisal/re-appraisal of the existing land being occupied by them and the improvement and structures introduced. Based on the re-assessment report, we favorably endorsed to SBPS-PAMB, through a resolution, the renewal of the MOA for special uses within SBPS,” Dipatuan said.

The MOA serves as a binding instrument between the PAMB and the owners and operators of business enterprises for the occupation and use of foreshore/coastal areas of SBPS as defined under Presidential Proclamation No. 756, and pursuant to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the NIPAS Act.

Sarangani Bay is known for its rich biodiversity, harboring a wide variety of ecosystems ranging from mangroves to seagrasses to the varying depths of its coral reefs. Sarangani Bay was declared a protected seascape by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 756, dated March 5, 1996. ### 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is giving 75 business owners 30 days to remove and self-demolish their structures built on the waters and within the easement zones of Coron, Palawan.

The directive is cited in the Notices to Vacate served by Task Force Coron on Thursday to erring establishments located in four barangays, namely Tagumpay, Poblacion 1, Poblacion 3, and Poblacion 5. These establishments include hotels, restaurants, dive shops, laundry shops, and lodging and boarding houses.

The Notice to Vacate specified provisions of the Water Code of the Philippines which prohibit occupation of river banks, sea shores and lakes within a zone of three meters in urban areas and 40 meters in forest areas. Barangay Tagumpay is classified as timberland, the rest as urban areas.

The Notice also cited the Civil Code of the Philippines which defines shores “and others of similar character” as property of public dominion. The Civil Code also declares as nuisance “establishment, business or condition of property, or anything else which obstructs or interferes with the free passage of any body of water.”

“Malinaw po sa batas na wala dapat nakatayong mga istruktura sa mga ganitong lugar. Ipinapatupad lang po namin kung ano ang nasa batas para maprotektahan at mapanatiling malinis, maayos, at maganda ang bayan ng Coron,” Engineer Roman Legaspi, head of Task Force Coron said.

Coron is famous for its pristine island beaches and breathtaking landscapes. It receives an increasing number of tourists every year, with an estimate of 178,000 tourists recorded in 2016. The influx of tourists prompted proliferation of business establishments, some of which do not only encroached easement zones, but were also found to have contributed to water pollution by discharging untreated wastewater directly into Coron Bay.

This aggravated Coron’s water problem, which is mainly attributed to the town’s lack of a centralized wastewater treatment facility.

“Kaya hindi lang encroachment ang tinitingnan natin. Sinisiguro rin natin na sumusunod ang mga business establishments sa mga batas ukol sa tamang paraan ng pagtatapon ng basura at maruming tubig, at iba pang batas na nagpoprotekta sa ating kalikasan,” Legaspi expressed.

DENR MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan) created Task Force Coron on February 26, 2018 in response to a marching order of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to ensure enforcement of environmental laws in the country’s prime beach destinations. Task Force Coron is composed of representatives from DENR and Environmental Management Bureau and coordinates with the local government of Coron and other agencies, such as Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, Department of the Tourism, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Navy, and Philippine Coast Guard.

In a related development, DENR MIMAROPA cautions establishment owners affected by the cleanup drive in Coron and elsewhere in the region not to deal with impostors posing as DENR officials.

“We urge you not to deal with people who obviously want to extort from business owners,” says DENR MIMAROPA Regional Director Natividad Bernardino.

“The DENR does not authorize anyone to deal with business owners other than members of the Task Forces, which were tasked to lead the cleanup and rehabilitation of beaches in Coron, El Nido, and Puerto Galera,” she adds.

The warning came about following reports that DENR field officials in Oriental Mindoro and Palawan were receiving calls and text messages from unknown persons identifying themselves as Secretary Cimatu, and seeking copies of establishments which were issued Notices.

The Office of Secretary Cimatu has been informed about the incident, which then advised DENR MIMAROPA to take appropriate security measures. ###