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As a former senator and member of the House of Representa-tives, Heherson T. Alvarez succeeded in getting important social and environmental laws passed. The Clean Air Act and the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act are just a couple of landmark legislation he helped guide through the legislative mill. He was also instrumental in the ratification of important environmental treaties.

His appointment as Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in March 2001 gave him the opportunity to administer these laws and treaties.

In addition to nurturing the seeds he planted in the legislative branch of government, Alvarez viewed his leadership of the DENR as an opportunity to respond to the Filipino people's demand for good governance and poverty reduction.

As DENR Secretary, Alvarez implemented initiatives aimed at making the DENR a more efficient and effective agent for sustainable development in this new millennium. The Department acquired a clear-cut policy direction under his leadership. He adopted new thrusts and directions, particularly on poverty alleviation.

He established cooperative ties with civil society and the private sector. He restored the confidence of the foreign door community in assisting the DENR. He pursued reforms that restored meritocracy, transparency, and decision-making based on social acceptability, rules, and science.

From March 2001 to December 2002, the DENR, under Alvarez's leadership, accomplished the following:

1. Vigorously Protected, Rehabilitated and Expanded our Natural Resource Base:

•  Reforested 45,567 hectares of open and denuded areas (including watersheds) with approximately 113.9 million trees which will eventually bring many benefits to our people.

•  A single mature tree holds 80 to 100 gallons of water. The area reforested therefore will eventually yield a supply amounting to 7.3 to 9.1 billion gallons of water. This is equivalent to 172 million drums, critical for our irrigation, power, and potable water needs.

•  The reforested area will also be capable of absorbing 4,553,600 tons of carbon (based on estimate of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that 50% of the wood being produced by trees is carbon). This will lead to a cleaner and healthier air quality and help mitigate global warming.

•  The reforested area will allow for the return of many forest-dwelling wildlife species enhancing biodiversity in an area the size of Mt. Kitanglad Range Protected Area which is home to the endangered Philippine Eagle, and lessen the threat of soil erosion, flooding, and siltation.

To speed up reforestation and at the same time attract investments, the DENR pursued the establishment of large-scale industrial tree plantations, starting with a 120,000 hectares co-production sharing agreement with a consortium of foreign and local investors in CARAGA. This is expected to generate US$100M in investments, create jobs and income, and enhanced livelihood opportunities in the uplands.

Established an initial 17 nurseries nationwide using clonal technologies. This will speed up production of premium timber species (like narra, almaciga, etc), fruit trees and ornamental trees and supply massive amount of trees of our reforestation efforts and private tree plantations. The technology will generate superior planting seedlings in 45 days compared to 4-6 months using regular technology. Its tree production capability is also 300% better. This innovation will lead towards doing away with wood importation and even allow for exports.

To protect our forests and deter further destruction, the DENR aggressively pursued the enforcement of forestry laws and hit hard on those responsible for the despoliation of our forest.

•  Confiscated a total of 21,126 cubic meters of illegally-cut forest products valued at P63M, the highest over a three year period. This is equivalent to about 900 fully-loaded 10-wheeler trucks.

•  Filed 323 cases in court against these violators.

•  To prevent encroachment in our forest areas, the DENR delineated and monumented 4,833 kilometers of forest boundaries.

•  Pushed for the enactment of the Chain Saw Act which gives teeth to the DENR in going after illegal loggers by regulating chain saws used in the pillage of our forests in the same way that guns are regulated to minimize or curb crime.

•  To further protect and enhance our rich biodiversity, the DENR facilitated the passage into laws of 4 protected areas: Batanes Protected Landscape and Seascape in Batanes Islands, Mt. Kanlaon Natural Park in Negros Occidental, Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in Isabela and Sagay Marine Reserve in Negros Occidental.

•  Facilitated the passage into laws of Wildlife Resource Conservation and Management Act and the Cave Resources Act and signed ten (10) agreements with local and international institutions for the protection of our endangered species. These are expected to protect our wildlife, which are critical for the propagation of plants and trees, control of agricultural pests, and sources and food and livelihood.

For our coastal areas, we rehabilitated and instituted a more rational management of our coastal resources.

•  Rehabilitated 164 hectares of degraded mangroves and established an additional 10,473 hectares of mangrove plantation. As sanctuary of our marine resources, these are expected to propagate fish species and increase the catch of small fishermen.

•  To complement coastal development, the DENR is pursuing the capability building of coastal communities and LGUs to effectively manage their coastal resources through our Coastal Resources Management Program in 81 sites nationwide.

2. Protected the Quality of the Environment:

•  Implemented a strict enforcement of standards for hazardous waste and toxic chemicals. The DENR was able to reverse the steep increase in the importation of ozone depleting substances or ODS (e.g., freon for airconditioners) that went beyond the Country Program during the last administration.

ODS depletes the ozone layer in the atmosphere and allows the entry of substantial dose of ultra violet rays that cause skin cancer and blindness, among others. In 2000, ODS importation went beyond the maximum quota of 20.0%. For year 2001, ODS importation was only 65.0% of the allowable quota. We are now back on track with the Country Program to eliminate ODS by 2010.

•  Strictly monitored hundreds of hazardous waste generators and intercepted illegal shipments of toxic chemicals. With the Bureau of Customs, the DENR raided a warehouse with illegally imported 29,835.2 kilos or 29.83 metric tons of ODS amounting to P2.56 million. This was the first seizure of ODS ever made.

•  Issued sixty six (66) Cease and Desist Orders (CDOs) for violations of environmental laws and withdrew the Environmental Compliance Certificates (ECCs) and permits of projects like the Pulupandan Coal Power Plant and Aglubang Mining Corporation that were found to be potentially harmful to the environment and threaten the health of the people.

•  Completed the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. In line with the law and to safeguard the health of the population, the DENR closed down 20 dumpsites of 9 municipalities and 5 cities. The DENR also assessed 205 potential landfill sites and assisted 131 LGUs in converting to a safer and less polluted controlled dumpsites. For next year, JBIC has provided US$206 million in soft loans to enable 47 cities and municipalities to achieve an integrated solid waste management program.

•  Negotiated successfully for the payment of damages and rehabilitation by Placer Dome Technical Services amounting to US$13.0M for the Marcopper disaster. The President advanced P20M for a technical study by the US Geological Service on how to best clean up and rehabilitate the river system in Marinduque. The DENR also established a P197M liability and rehabilitation fund for environmental protection and monitoring of mining sites.

•  Strongly advocated for the utilization of cleaner energy fuels. The DENR is at the forefront of advocacies for the use of natural gas and bio-diesel as fuel for vehicles. The Department received support from the various transport groups in the use of cleaner fuels, especially from the Inter-City Bus Operators Association and Integrated Metro Manila Bus Operators Association.

•  Signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Senbel Fine Chemicals Co. Inc. and Total Petroleum Corporation for a joint project in the utilization and distribution of biodiesel, a mixture of coconut oil and diesel that substantially reduces the emission from motor vehicles, first for all DENR vehicles and next, to nationwide distribution centers.

3. Provided Wider, More Equitable Access to Natural Resource to All:

•  For the marginal fishermen, the DENR promoted equitable access to coastal resources. The Department established the 15-kilometer municipal coastal boundary for almost 900 coastal communities, through Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 17, in June 2001. This reserves municipal waters for the use of small-scale fishers who operate boats of less than 3 gross tons.

This is expected to result in increased catch for about 1.3 million small fishermen and further benefit 7 million people that the fishermen directly support, without resorting to destructive fishing methods. It may be noted that a 2-hour operation of a commercial fishing vessel is equivalent to the small fisherman's 6-month catch.

In addition, this policy of exclusivity will allow for the rehabilitation and regeneration of coral reefs and coastal ecosystem, which will result to enhanced fish population and thus higher catch and income.

•  Allocated 160,588.95 hectares of alienable and disposable public lands to 124,200 families or about 621,000 family members. This is 150% of the target and commitment of the President during her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year. The DENR surpassed its batting average of 45,000 hectares per year over the last five years. Most of the public lands allocated were in Mindanao.

In addition, the DENR directed the distribution of land patents covering 103,943 hectares benefiting 83,883 beneficiaries or families. The beneficiaries are now guaranteed ownership and security of tenure to the land they are residing and cultivating, a direct form of social justice. In addition, we distributed land titles covering 52,909 square meters to 313 World War II veterans in Makati, and for the first time in 25 years, we distributed some 192 Townsite Sales Applications covering 97,522 square meters in Baguio City. Around 200,000 hectares of untitled private agricultural land will now also be acquired and redistributed to qualified beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Meanwhile, we have assisted in the formulation and passage in Congress of the Extension of the Free Patent Act allowing for the filing of free patents or the titling of agricultural lands, until December 31, 2020. This enables government to continue distributing lands to poor farmers and the landless. We also intensified our drive against illegal land titles, investigated 1,470 land cases and filed 843 reversion cases with the Office of the Solicitor General.

•  Established an additional 71 Community-Based Forest Management Projects or CBFM covering 226,003 hectares. The CBFM provides security of tenure to the settlement of an upland community, designates them as stewards and grants them the privilege of utilizing forest products in their areas. This brings to 4,956 the total CBFM areas nationwide covering 5.7M hectares and benefiting 496,165 households or roughly 2.7 million individuals.

Mt. Diwalwal: Broadening Beneficiaries of Nation's Wealth

A typical case of the new DENR approach is the Mount Diwalwal issue. It is a case of social justice in favor of the poorer segments of the population in an environmentally critical industry that is now designed to be clean, safe, and productive.

The Mt. Diwalwal issue has dragged on unresolved for 19 years. The Arroyo administration has shown the necessary political will to finally solve the escalating problems of pollution, criminality, lawlessness and insurgency, health and safety hazards, social dislocations and injustices in the area. The DENR has been directed to take over the management of the area.

To stop the escalating violence, pollution and health related problems and secure the area, the DENR declared an emergency situation and stopped all mining operations with the assistance of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). A central tailings pond and engineered dams will be constructed to contain all the pollution coming from the mining activities, in an adjacent area that will be cost about P50M. The DENR delineated an area of mineral processing plants and common tailings disposal system.

To commence the mining operations in an equitable manner, the DENR started to contract out the mining operations to some 20 small-scale miners cooperatives. The DENR intend to rent to them the tunnels of existing big mining companies in the area; thereby generating income for these companies as well. In addition, and under the service contracts, the income sharing will be 85% for small miners and 15% for the government. Previously, the small miners only got 40% from the big mining operations.

Deliveries of the government ore share collections started in September 17, 2002 and October 2002. In December 2002, government has a gross receipts of P3.789 million from the sales of its ore share to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas - Davao City.

4. Restored the Confidence and Enhanced the Status of the Philippines in the World Arena:

•  The past 1 ½ years saw the restoration of confidence in the Department by the international donors community. In a matter of only one year, the DENR was able to generate some P2.7B in international funding.

•  Prevented the termination of critical foreign-assisted projects by international funding institutions due to poor performance. In the case of the Forestry Sector Project, the DENR prevented the cancellation of US$30M by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) when the DENR reversed the accomplishments of the Project from a poor 38.0% in 2000 to 90.2% in 2002.

•  Reinvigorated and turned-around the operation of the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) Project at a time when the World Bank was contemplating cancellation due to perceived mismanagement and missing funds. These two are now among our more successful projects.

The Philippines has gained prominent international status.

•  Through the DENR, the Philippines was the chairman and lead country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) preparation for the World Summit.

•  The Philippine Delegation to the final world meeting in Bali for World Summit and in the actual World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa were both led by the DENR, where the Philippines gained the respect of the community of nations for its sound disposition, active participation, cohesion and composition, having the civil society and NGOs as majority of its members.

•  The Philippines was elected Chairman and played very prominent role during the Ministerial Convention on Migratory Species in Germany, attended by more than 100 countries.

Effectively advocate and advance the environmental interest of the country in the international community.

•  Signed the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

•  Signed he first Regional ASEAN Transboundary Haze Pollution Agreement

•  Became a member of the Like-Minded Mega Diversity Group, composed of 15 countries that account for 70% of the world's biodiversity and 3/4 of the world's population.

•  Attended a Head of States Meeting of the Group during the World Summit.

5. Actively Pursued Good Governance:

•  Drastically streamlined the processing system for the issuance of the ECC, a requirement for practically all projects in the country. The DENR simplified and reduced the processing time by an average of 40%, and up to 60% for projects considered not very environmentally critical.

•  Strengthened the system of checks and balance and the accountability of concerned personnel/officials. The ECC streamlining is provided in Administrative Order No. 42, issued by the President on November 2, 2002. As a result, the DENR was able to issue 118 ECCs nationwide in a matter of one week. This is expected to result in substantial savings for applicants, accelerate implementation of projects and generate early revenues, promote investments and catalyze the creation of jobs, income and economic activities. This is deemed critical at this time of slow economic growth.

•  To uncompromisingly cleanse the Department of misfits, the DENR conducted comprehensive audits of major projects and operations. As a result, the Department investigated and filed administrative and criminal charges against 353 officials and personnel of the Department of various reported offenses. It also started to professionalize the staff and leadership through a more competitive promotion system and training programs.

•  Strictly pursued the user's fee strategy and increased the revenues for the National Government collected by the Department. For 2001, the DENR was able to generate revenues amounting to P555.2 million. This is an increase of P5.8 million over the collection of the previous year. For the first half of 2002 alone, the DENR already collected P315.3 million and projected to reach P630.7 million by yearend.

The DENR's increased performance is due to reforms in the income collection strategy such as more effective records management and collections and strict monitoring of mineral and forest production and sales. The Department further improved the collection of rents, fees and other charges through the implementation of the Resource Accounting Project on proper economic valuation for patrimonial properties, grasslands, protected areas and water bodies. This therefore contributed to addressing the budget deficit problem of the National Government and provided funding for the critical projects of the President.

•  Instituted a more open and comprehensive partnership with the various Peoples' Organization (POs), Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), religious, business, civil society and the Local Government Units (LGUs) in all aspects of our programs and operations.

•  Institutionalized the multi-sectoral composition in the monitoring and enforcement of environmental and forestry laws and policies.

The DENR is in the forefront and considered a leader in institutionalizing gender sensitivity in all aspects of our operations and in dealing with our clients.

•  Issued a landmark policy by allowing married women from applying for homestead applications. This amended an order issued in 1936 requiring the consent of husbands before women can apply for the purchase or lease of public lands. After 66 years of discrimination, women now have equal rights in public lands applications.

•  Provided our staff with Internet and other communication technologies, e.g. the cell phone, to make them proficient in responding to the full range of emergencies.

We have shown strong political will and have taken principled stand against efforts of some quarters to compromise our quest for a clean and healthy environment and equitable access to natural resources. We have denied or withdrawn the ECCs and permits and penalized big projects that we deemed detrimental to the environment.

We have never wavered in our stand, despite threats and character assassinations, against those who would never tend to monopolize the use of natural resources and disregarded environmental laws and regulations.

We have been uncompromising in filing charges against ranking and well-connected officials over violations of environmental policies.

We have issued landmark policies and regulation designed to better protect the environment and promote social justice in the environment and natural resources sector.

We are resolving the Mt. Diwalwal mining issues which have been resolved the past19 years. We have issued the order that will reserve for small fishermen the fishermen the right over coastal areas.

We have streamlined the ECC process in a manner that has never been successfully done, we have challenged the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants.

We have created partnerships with other public and private agencies to work cooperatively on environmental and natural resources issues of common concern. We have sought to use the DENR as a communication, coordination, and decision-making tool in the debate of issues related to the environment and natural resources.

We realize we are running against time in our quest to provide a natural environment and a physical and economic pattern of development that are rich in diversity and livable in every way for us today and for future generations. But we're confident we have taken the right steps towards sustainable development.

                                                                - Secretary Heherson T. Alvarez