Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines 2001 - 2010

GREEN PHILIPPINES ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE ENVIRONMENT SECTOR: 2001-2010

The state of the environment plays a critical role in the pace and sustainability of the country's development. A clean and healthy environment (air, water and land) contributes to a healthy workforce and productive natural resources. These natural resources in turn provide food, medicine and other basic necessities to our people, raw materials to our industries, and investment opportunities in tourism and other ecological and cultural activities. The critical role of the environment has been recognized by the Constitution (Section 16), which provides that "The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."

Numerous challenges, however, confront the environment sector. The onset of global warming and climate change pose the greatest threats – stronger typhoons and the resulting floods, landslides and destruction; droughts; sea level rise; damage to ecosystems (upland, coastal and marine) and plant and animal species. Other threats include rapid urbanization, deforestation, illegal trade of wildlife species, and introduction of alien invasive species.

It is therefore important to prevent and minimize greenhouse gas emissions, implement measures to adapt to the effects of climate change, expand the protection of natural resources and intensify the enforcement of environmental laws. For these reasons, the environment is one of the priority 3E's of Government – Economy, Education and Environment.

A. FORESTRY MANAGEMENT:

Major strides have been achieved in reforestation. A total of 244,022 hectares were reforested since 2001. This is more than 3 times the size of Singapore. Last year, P1.5 billion was allocated for reforestation, the biggest single-year allocation from regular budget in the history of forestry. As a result, a total of 50,024 hectares were planted, which generated 50,024 jobs. In addition, the forest protection program was intensified. Since 2001, a total of 170,318 cubic meters of illegally-cut forest products (equivalent to about 11,354 ten-wheeler trucks) were confiscated and 1,864 cases were filed in courts. As a result, 7,168,400 million ha (of the total 30 million ha Philippine land area) , or 24% of the entire country, is now covered by forests.

Sustainable forest management has been adopted as a national policy, pursuant to Executive Order No. 318, dated June 9, 2004, focusing on community-based forest management and complemented by private tree plantations. This was further enhanced with the issuance of Executive Order No. 606 dated February 27, 2007, on sustainable upland development with focus on food production, economic productivity, and provision of jobs and income to upland dwellers. Enforcement was also strengthened with the passage of R.A No. 9175 or the Chainsaw Act in 2002, which regulated the ownership, sale and use of chainsaw.

The increase in forest cover may be expected to result in the following ecological benefits: reduced carbon dioxide and methane (greenhouse gases responsible for global warming) which are emitted when forestlands are degraded; reduced greenhouse gases and air pollutants in the atmosphere through absorption by more trees; reduced flooding through greater water absorption by more trees, which also leads to increased groundwater and reduced soil erosion; and increased habitat for plant and animal species. In addition, more forests means more sources of food and medicines, raw materials for industries, and better eco-tourism destinations.

B. SANCTUARIES AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT:

The Philippines is rich in biological and genetic resources, or biodiversity. The country is one of the 18 mega diverse countries in the world. Majority of the plant and animal species in the country are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. These are sources of food, medicines, industrial raw materials, fishery and eco-tourism. They also represent the natural heritage of the country and a rich source of customs, traditions and cultural identity. However, Philippine biodiversity also used to be one of the most threatened in the world.

Under the Arroyo administration, biodiversity protection has been expanded and intensified. A total of 25 protected areas were established since 2001, covering 1 million hectares; thereby, increasing the total areas under protection by 44.6%. The Philippines now has 109 protected areas covering 3.46 million hectares, or 11.5% of the country's total land area. Areas placed under protection in the past 9 years include Subic in Zambales, Panglao in Bohol, Samar Island, Northern Panay, Mount Isarog in Camarines Sur, Tubbataha Reef in Palawan, and Central Cebu. Out of a total 7,134 hectares of mangroves rehabilitated over the past 23 years, 87.3% or 6,228 hectares were rehabilitated just in the last 8 years.

Numerous laws were passed under President Arroyo to strengthen the protection and conservation of Philippine biodiversity: R.A No. 9072 in 2001, to manage and protect caves and cave resources; R.A No. 9147 or the Wildlife Act in 2001, to conserve and protect wildlife resources and their habitats; and R.A No. 3751 in 2004, to prohibit the cutting and destruction of plants and growing trees. In addition, ten (10) Protected Areas were passed into laws, such as Mt. Apo in Davao, Central Cebu, Sagay Marine Reserve in Negros, Northern Sierra Madre and Mt. Kanla-on in Negros, and Tubbataha Reef in Palawan. Before 2001, by comparison, there were only two (2) laws passed on Protected Areas.

The operating policies and strategies for these laws were provided in various issuances. Executive Order No. 578, in 2006, established the national policy on biological diversity to protect, conserve and sustainably utilize biological diversity. It also revitalized the management of rich fishing grounds like the Sulu Celebes Seas and the Verde Island Passage, considered as the center of marine shorefish diversity in the world. The Philippines also signed and actively participated in the protection and sustainable management of the Coral Triangle, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.

Government has adopted integrated coastal management as a national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country's coastal and marine environment and resources, through Executive Order No. 533 issued in 2006. The protection of the whale shark was intensified with the issuance of Administrative Order No. 282 on March 16, 2010, which provided for the following added protections for whale sharks: mapping of their migratory pathways, mandatory rescue, intensified investigation and prosecution and provision of rewards.

As a result of the above initiatives, better management of endangered species has been implemented. The tamaraw population in the wild has increased to 239 heads in 2007, 263 heads in 2008, and 274 heads in 2009. In 1999, only about 20 cockatoos were observed in the wild; ten years later, about 100 cockatoos were recorded. Since 2001, at least 24 new species of plants and animals were discovered in the Philippines: new species of bats, parrot, mice, rats, frogs, butterflies, a giant golden-spotted monitor lizard, and rafflesia – the world's largest flower -- reaching 10 species and now surpassing Malaysia and Indonesian stocks. These new species were discovered in the mountains of Cagayan, Camiguin, Cordilleras, Quezon, Palawan, and Mindoro. The expansion in the areas for protection will also provide added protection and better adaptation of our plant and animal species against the impact of climate change.

In recognition of the leading role of the Philippines in biodiversity conservation, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) decided to establish the ASEAN Center of Biodiversity (ACB) in the Philippines in 2005. The ACB is the center for excellence and coordinating body for regional cooperation on biodiversity. It is the first regional center of its kind in the world. ASEAN is among the richest areas in the world in biological resources. It occupies only 3% of the earth's land area but is home to 18% of all known plant and animal species. About 1/3 of all coral reefs in the world can be found in the ASEAN.

Just recently, the President was conferred the Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) for her innovative leadership to protect oceans and preserve biodiversity of the Coral Triangle.

C. CLEAN ENERGY:

Majority of greenhouse gases emitted in the Philippines come from the energy sector. This is due to the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants using fossil fuels (e.g., oil and coal). The government, therefore, accelerated the shift to renewable energy sources, such as wind, water, geothermal, and solar. This will also enhance energy security since reliance on other countries for energy/fuel will be lessened.

The government is implementing a bio-fuels program, where extracts from agricultural products are mixed with motor fuel to produce cleaner fuels. The program includes the manufacture of ethanol from sugar cane and the extraction of oil from the jatropha plant. The bio-fuels program received a big boost with the passage in 2007 of Republic Act No. 9367 or the Bio-Fuels Act.

Pursuant to the Clean Air Act, which specified mandatory reductions in the polluting content of fuels, the government reduced the sulphur content of diesel fuels. Excessive sulphur in the atmosphere causes respiratory diseases. The sulphur content was reduced from the 4% normal content to 0.05% for automotive use (reduction of 98.7%) and to 0.3% for industrial use and in power plants (reduction of 92.5%).

Republic Act No. 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act was also passed in 2008 to promote investments in and use of renewable sources of energy generation. The law is the first and most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia. Thus far, the share of indigenous and renewable sources in the country's energy mix has increased from 45% in 2001 to 57% in 2007. The target is to achieve 60% energy self-sufficiency this year.

D. ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY (Air, Water, and Solid Waste Management):

The air quality in the Philippines is generally clean, especially in the rural areas. The country is not affected by the haze coming from forest fires in mainland Southeast Asia. The Philippines is also not affected by the sand storms raging in China that are affecting neighboring countries.

The air quality in urban areas, however, is a major challenge, especially in Metro Manila. About 65% of the air pollution in Metro Manila is due to vehicular emissions. There have been steady improvements in the air quality in Metro Manila under this administration. Total suspended particulates, or the amount of dust particles in the air, has declined from 162 micrograms/normal cubic meter in 2003 to 134 micrograms/normal cubic meter in 2009. This is due to efforts of the government at clean energy and strict enforcement. However, the amount of air pollution is still beyond what is considered to be healthy--90 micrograms/normal cubic meters.

Majority or 80.3% of the rivers in the country have clean water. However, most of the river systems in the major urban areas, especially Metro Manila, are considered polluted. There have been some improvements in the water quality of major rivers; such as Marilao River, Bocaue River, and San Juan River. Their Biochemical Oxygen Demand or BOD (amount of oxygen necessary to sustain aquatic life) has improved in the past 6 years. Pasig River is now undergoing comprehensive dredging that will remove 2.83 million cubic meters (equivalent to 24.4 million drums) of silt and debris and will increase the average water elevation from 12.8 feet to 19.2 feet. The dredging will be completed by October this year.

A milestone in the fight against water pollution was the passage of the Philippine Clean Water Act in 2004. The law provides for a comprehensive strategy and measures focusing on sanitation and sewerage to clean the wastewater coming from households and industries. To improve water quality, reduce flooding and improve navigation, the dismantling of illegal structures (e.g., fish pens, fish cages and "baklads") has been undertaken. Since 2008, a total of 5,125 illegal structures have been demolished in Taal Lake and Laguna de Bay. In Manila Bay, 96% of illegal structures have already been removed.

Enforcement of anti-pollution laws has been intensified. Since 2001, a total of 7,405 Notice of Violations were issued to polluting companies and establishments nationwide, mostly on water pollution.

The first environmental law under President Arroyo, signed in 2001, was Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. The law mandated the proper and ecological way of managing our solid wastes. The objective is "Zero Basura." This is to be achieved by: 1) Reducing the garbage that we produce; 2) Reducing the garbage that we already produced, through segregation, re-use, recycling and creating new products from garbage. The law mandated the establishment of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) in all Barangays where solid wastes can be processed. 3) The remaining wastes that can no longer be processed should be disposed in a safe and ecological manner using the sanitary landfill, where garbage is dumped, treated and covered.

There are now 6,750 Materials Recovery facilities covering 7,680 Barangays nationwide, compared to only 454 in 2001. There are now 30 sanitary landfills all over the country and another 42 under construction, compared to 2 sanitary landfills in 2001. However, there is still much more to do, since many Barangays do not have MRF's and many open dumpsites are still in use.

E. FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE :

All of the country's environmental programs have an impact as well on the fight against global warming and climate change.

Cleaning the air prevents the emission of greenhouse gases (responsible for global warming and climate change). Removing greenhouse gases improves air quality since they are also air pollutants (e.g., carbon dioxide). Similarly, the proper management of solid wastes prevents the release of methane (a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, emitted during the process of decomposition. Cleaning and clearing the waterways are adaptation measures to address extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Clean water provides more usable water during drought situations, and the freer movement of water minimizes flooding during typhoons.

The Philippines is highly vulnerable to extreme weather events resulting from climate change. Strong typhoons cannot be prevented, but the loss of lives and damage to properties can be prevented or minimized. The past 9 years, the government has aggressively pursued the geo-hazard mapping of the country to identify areas prone to landslides, flooding and erosion. The geo-hazard assessment of 91% of all cities and municipalities (1,468 cities/municipalities) has been completed together with the production of 835 geo-hazard maps, covering 86% of the country. The geo-hazard assessment of the entire country will be completed this year. In addition, information dissemination in 52 provinces and 1,468 cities/municipalities were undertaken and 13,000 advisories and warnings issued to barangays.

The Philippines is also susceptible to droughts. Government has intensified the assessment and mapping of groundwater resources, to augment regular supply of water especially for irrigation. These activities are being undertaken nationwide, especially in Northern Luzon, where the present drought situation is most intense.

To provide focus on climate change initiatives, Republic Act No. 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009 was enacted. The law mandated the protection of the climate system, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations, and strengthening of the country's resilience to climate-change related disasters, among others. The law also created the Climate Change Commission to coordinate, monitor and evaluate policies and programs of government on climate change. To promote environment-friendly production processes, Executive Order No. 301 was issued in 2004 to establish a Green Procurement Program in government.

The Philippines is actively participating in international carbon trading through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects. CDM projects are activities intended to prevent or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide), such as the use of renewable sources instead of oil or coal for power generation, methane capture, etc. The amount of greenhouse gases prevented from being released into the atmosphere earn carbon credits that can be sold to countries and companies that are required by international agreements to reduce their carbon emissions.

Since the Philippines started CDM projects in 2005, there are now 40 projects approved and registered with the United Nations, making the Philippines ranked 6th in the world in terms of the number of CDM projects. These include the Northwind Bangui Bay Project in Ilocos Norte (use of windmills for power generation) and Biogas Emission Reduction Project in Payatas dump site in Quezon City (methane capture and its use for power generation). The Philippine CDM projects will prevent the emission of an estimated 1.4 million tons of carbon per year. In turn, these projects will earn about U.S$14 million per year from sales of carbon credits.

The environment is not only the concern of government. The concerted effort of all is necessary to protect our environment and safeguard our natural resources. In addition, there is a need to change habits toward a more environment-friendly lifestyle to sustain a clean and healthy environment. In this regard, Republic Act No. 9512 or the Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008 was enacted, to integrate the environment into the school curriculum in order to promote environmental awareness and effect changes in attitudes and behavior. Alongside this, the DENR through an Inter-agency Committee is implementing the road map for this Act, to include the expansion of sustainable and eco-friendly schools in the country.

The Philippines, as nominated by the DENR, is sending five (5) youth leaders from selected national and regional champion schools to the ASEAN Plus Three Youth Environment Forum hosted by Brunei with the theme, "Creating a Climate for Change." The youth delegates come from La Castellana High School, The Philippine Youth Environmental Network thru the Ateneo de Manila University, and the Clean Air Youth Alliance thru the University of the Cordilleras (in Baguio City).

Increasing the participation of youth in environmental protection depends on strengthening opportunities for young people to improve their knowledge on ecological systems and engage in actual environmental action. Thus their personal engagement in caring for the environment is encouraged as they will be the ones to inherit it.