Press Releases

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has called on all protected area management boards (PAMBs) across the country to give priority to forest fire prevention in their management planning strategy to ensure the protection of the nation’s biodiversity and their habitats.

Paje made the statement in light of the series of grassfire outbreaks in the four of the country’s most important protected areas: Mt. Apo in Davao; Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato; Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon; and Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island. The fire in Mt. Apo remains unabated.

“Aside from tourism development, PAMBs should also come up with their respective forest protection plan and allocate funds for the establishment of fire lines and other forest fire prevention activities like training for technical staff and volunteers,” Paje said.

The environment chief also underscored the need to intensify the public awareness campaign against forest fire, especially before the onset of the dry season.

“The public, particularly the local communities within or near the protected areas should be reminded to exercise extra vigilance against the risk of forest fires as protected areas, including natural parks and wildlife sanctuaries, are considered as the last remaining representatives of the country’s habitats and ecosystems,” he said.

At the same time, he also appealed to campers and trekkers in protected areas to be more responsible by exercising caution when building bonfires and making sure these are completely extinguished before leaving the place.

According to Paje, even if the responsibility to suppress forest fires was already transferred to the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provides technical support to joint fire fighting teams of BFP and other government agencies, and volunteer groups.

He has also instructed his regional directors to heighten their coordination with concerned local government units (LGUs) and people’s organizations to ensure the safety of people and forest vegetation, particularly in areas covered by the government’s National Greening Program.

As of December 31, 2015, around 1.3 million hectares have been planted with various species of forest trees and agroforestry crops under the NGP, according to DENR report.

Paje also said he had coordinated with Director Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) following a report from DENR Region 11 Director Joselin Marcus Fragada that sulfur deposit on Mt. Apo may be causing the continuous fire.

Fragada said the Philippine Air Force has already used crushed ice to stop the fire, but to no avail.

The Philippines has a total of 113 proclaimed protected areas, of which 84 are terrestrial PAs with an area of 2.20 million hectares. ###

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has deployed at least 40 technical personnel to assist in the containment of forest fire that erupted on Mt. Apo since Saturday.

As this developed, DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje directed DENR Region 11 Director Joselin Marcus E. Fragada to discuss with concerned local executives the plan to temporarily close the country’s highest peak to campers to prevent a repeat of the fire incident.

“Upon hearing about the incident, we lost no time mobilizing our personnel from our provincial and community environment and natural offices in Digos City to help prevent the spread of forest fire in nearby areas,” Paje said.

The environment chief said that the DENR regional office in Davao City has been providing equipment and technical support to composite teams of concerned local government units, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) that were tasked with suppressing the wildfire.

“Each of the seven composite teams now up in Mt. Apo has DENR personnel providing technical assistance, particularly in the use of geographical position system or GPS and control maps, including the establishment of fire lines to prevent the fire from further spreading,” Paje said.

A fire line is a gap in vegetation or other combustible materials that will act as barrier to slow down or stop the fire from spreading.

Paje also reported that a Super Huey chopper from the Philippine Air Force was deployed in the area on Tuesday morning to conduct water bucket operation.

“Water dropping commenced at 9 a.m. on Tuesday but ended at 11:30 a.m. due to poor visibility. A total of 10 buckets equivalent to 30 drums have been dropped,” he said.

The DENR chief noted that the risk of fire had increased as the long dry spell and high temperatures left large amounts of flammable debris in forest areas. #

Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has expressed hope that Filipinos made use of the Holy Week as a time to reflect on the importance of conserving the environment, which is actually part of God's creation.

He said the final week of Lent should have reminded everyone of the solemn duty to care for the environment, including the forests and water -- two elements whose importance were recently observed around the world.

“Holy Week is an opportunity to remember that Mother Earth matters so much to God that He once came to live with us in it and was able to drink water, eat food, and breathe air,” he pointed out.

Paje said that "environmental stewardship should find expression in the solemn commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ."

The environment chief said it was good coincidence that the observance of the International Day of Forests (IDF) and the World Water Day (WWD) fell on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, respectively.

For this year, IDF and WWD were celebrated on the theme "Forest and Water" and "Water and Jobs."

"The recognition of forests and water are particularly special as the countries the world over come together as one in paying homage to forests as a key element to human life, and it is quite fitting that water best exemplifies this connectivity between human life and forests," Paje said.

He said the twin celebrations underscored the need for greater commitment from Christians and the rest of the world to protect the forests, which serve as a critical source for local communities not only of food and medicine, but also sustainable livelihood and protection against the effects of climate change.

Paje said the observance of Holy Week was "auspicious as it accentuates the sacredness of environment stewardship as a paramount Christian duty."

Meanwhile, Paje said the awareness level among Filipinos on the importance of forests has never been more evident of late as a result of the government’s significant progress toward addressing climate change.

“Although there’s a multitude of special days honoring the dependence of human life on forests and water, this recognition has become an everyday endeavor in countries most vulnerable to climate change such as the Philippines,” Paje said.

He cited the National Greening Program, the logging ban and the modernization of forest and biodiversity protection efforts as among a slew of policies the Aquino administration has been aggressively pursuing since 2010.###

Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje has called on the public to be climate-conscious and use water more efficiently during the Holy Week and the rest of the summer season amid a strong El Niño phenomenon.

“The prevailing heat nowadays should remind people that we are experiencing a longer and hotter dry season. This is aggravated by El Niño and will continue as long as we do not take concrete personal steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Paje said.

He added: “Let us also not forget that while we are enjoying the scenery and the time with our loved ones, there are those who are losing a lot of their livelihood because of the heat and dry spell.”

Farmers bear the brunt of drying effects of El Niño, with agricultural losses have reached more than P5 billion, covering over 200,000 hectares of farmland, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The country’s water supplies are also under close watch as reservoirs begin to dry up and rivers carrying less water.

Paje, meanwhile, urged the public to take measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño like conserving energy and water.

“Enjoy the beauty of our natural wonders, which our country has been blessed with so many of. But remember to keep the environment in as clean and pristine state as possible, or contribute to its improvement, not deterioration,” he said.

He also gave the following tips for climate-friendly summer:

• Use only as much water as needed. Any excess can be used for animals to drink, to water plants, flush the toilets, or clean floors or cars

• Use reusable food-grade containers, not disposable plastic, for food and drinking water to minimize waste

• Keep surroundings clean to reduce the use of energy and water that may be needed to clean them up

• Switch off and unplug electrical appliances, devices or fixtures when not in use

• Keep vehicles well-maintained to lessen pollution, and

• Patronize fuel-efficient vehicles that can transport more passengers at a time. This not only saves on gas but reduces emissions that worsen the heat and contribute to air pollution.

The environment chief also encouraged communities to start cleaning up waterways in their areas to prevent possible flooding after the country’s weather bureau warned of possible onslaught of La Niña when El Niño ends.

La Niña is a phenomenon that usually follows El Niño, bringing above normal rainfall, stronger monsoons, and more storms. ###

Efforts to keep the forests of Panay Island alive got a boost on Thursday as the German government formalized its financial grant for a forest protection project being undertaken by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in one of the largest islands in the Visayas region.

With German Ambassador Thomas Ossowski in attendance as witness, GIZ Director and Principal Advisor on Climate Program Dr. Bernd Markus Liss signed, in behalf of GIZ Country Director Dr. Andreas Kalk, the implementation agreement with DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, of the Forest and Climate (FORCLIM) Protection Panay Phase II, agreeing to provide 4 million euros or roughly P200 million for the project.

With the accord, Panay Island is assured that its forests and their biological diversities are well protected during the next three years and nine months.

Panay Island is the sixth largest island in the country and the third largest in the Visayas, next only to Samar and Negros Islands. It is comprised of four provinces, namely: Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Iloilo.

“We are deeply appreciative of the continuing assistance of the German government to the country, particularly the DENR to ensure the protection of the remaining blocks of forests in the Panay Mountain Range, including the varied biodiversity therein,” Paje said shortly after signing the agreement at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.

He added: “Germany has remained consistently involved in the country’s forest conservation efforts not only through GIZ but also other multilateral funding organizations like the Global Environment Facility which is a significant contributor to our foreign-assisted projects on forestry.”

For his part, Amb. Ossowski said the project is another step in the “excellent cooperation” between the two countries, adding that the Philippines has become a “strategic partner of Germany in biodiversity protection and climate change efforts.”

He also described the country’s rich biodiversity as a “garden of Eden, where one can really admire God’s creation, and worthwhile to protect.”

The FORCLIM project seeks to conserve the last remaining larger block of natural forest with globally important biodiversity on Panay Island.

It is also seen to boost the country’s compliance with its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity, as well as the implementation of its intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) to global greenhouse gas emission reduction under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“Despite limited resources, the Philippines has been making remarkable strides in the fight against climate change, among which is the National Greening Program which enabled us to expand our forest cover by more than 1.3 million hectares from 2011 to end of December last year,” Paje said.

He added: “Yet, at the same time, we will continue to seek, along with other developing countries, for assistance whether financial or technology transfer in order for us to attain our INDC of 70 percent emission reduction.”

Paje represented the country in the Convention of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, France in December last year, where he strongly pushed for the inclusion of adaptation finance in the global climate deal.

The project will be jointly implemented by DENR’s Forest Management Bureau, Biodiversity Management Bureau and Western Visayas regional office, the GIZ, local governments and people’s organizations. ###