Philippines outranks US, South Korea in environmental governance

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THE PHILIPPINES is a globally strong performer in environmental governance, according to the recently released 2012 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) of Yale and Columbia Universities.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the country outranked the United States, Australia, Singapore and South Korea at number 42 spot out of 132 countries in the EPI list.

“The Philippines moved up from number 50 two years ago and maintained its 8th position in the Asia-Pacific region,” he revealed.

He attributed the country’s marked improvement in environmental performance to concrete programs on environmental protection that mostly involved community participation.

The EPI studies data to analyze the global community’s performance on certain policy issues against environmental pressures, and it is used to steer countries toward environmental sustainability.

In Central Luzon, the implementation of a moratorium on logging on natural and residual forests under Executive Order 23, and the continuing implementation of the National Greening Program (NGP) under Executive Order 26 complemented government’s thrusts on environmental protection and restoration.

Intensified forest protection and mopping up operations of the DENR here resulted in the confiscation of 212,517 board feet of assorted forest contraband worth at least P7 million last year.

This brought to at least four million board feet the total volume of forest contraband already confiscated by the DENR since it embarked on a massive campaign in 1995 to save the remaining forests of Central Luzon.

Of this, a total of 133,608 board feet of lumber were donated to the Department of Education (DepEd) for the improvement of school buildings and construction of learning facilities in the region.

More than 85,000 hectares of Central Luzon’s denuded forestlands have also been reforested through various schemes since 1994, topping the annual reforestation average of 6,000 hectares, explained newly installed executive director Maximo Dichoso of the regional DENR here.

He said about three million indigenous forest and fruit trees, mangrove propagules and bamboo cultivars were planted last year in over 5,000 hectares of protected watersheds, agroforestry, mangrove and urban areas under the NGP.

“NGP aims to rehabilitate 1.5 million hectares of denuded forestlands in six years, from 2011-2016, and is expected to contribute substantially to carbon sequestration and mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change,” said Dr. Sofio Quintana of the regional forest management services.

A total of 3,887 kilometers of forestlands in the region were also delineated with 8,196 concrete markers to address the issue of squatting and illegal titling in public forests, he added.

The DENR has earlier forged a Memorandum of Agreement with BGen. Alan Luga of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, to step up the government’s campaign against illegal logging in Central Luzon.

Since the creation of special “Green Courts” four years ago, 18 illegal loggers have already been sent behind bars in the region.

The Supreme Court has designated at least 117 “Green Courts” that exclusively try environmental law offenders in the country in a bid to put more teeth in the implementation of environmental laws and ordinances.