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(SALUTATIONS)

GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE, AND WELCOME TO THE CELEBRATION OF DENR’S 32ND ANNIVERSARY!

THIS IS PERHAPS THE MOST MEANINGFUL OF OUR DEPARTMENT’S ANNIVERSARIES SINCE ITS CREATION IN 1987. I SAY THIS BECAUSE AT NO OTHER TIME IN OUR HISTORY HAS THE DENR BEEN ENTRUSTED WITH RESPONSIBILITIES AS HEAVY AS NOW. THE TRUST AND CONFIDENCE REPOSED IN OUR COMPETENCE BY OUR PRESIDENT AND NATION IS AT AN ALL-TIME HIGH.

A YEAR AGO, WE ACCEPTED THE CHALLENGE OF OUR PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE TO HEAD AN INTER-AGENCY TASK FORCE FOR THE REHABILITATION OF BORACAY ISLAND, TO TRANSFORM IT WITHIN 6 MONTHS. EXACTLY ON THE 6TH MONTH, WE WERE ABLE TO TURN BORACAY FROM A CESSPOOL TO A MODEL FOR SUSTAINABLE ECOTOURISM.

OUR BORACAY EXPERIENCE HIGHLIGHTED OUR CAPABILITY. WE DID SO WELL IN BORACAY THAT THIS YEAR PRESIDENT DUTERTE GAVE US A MUCH BIGGER CHALLENGE -- THE BATTLE FOR MANILA BAY -- THE RESTORATION OF THE BAY AND ITS HEAVILY POLLUTED WATERS TO A QUALITY SUITABLE FOR BATHING, SWIMMING, BOATING, FISHING AND OTHER FORMS OF CONTACT RECREATION. MANILA BAY IS ANOTHER TESTING GROUND FOR DENR AND WE ARE UP FOR THE CHALLENGE!

THE MAGNITUDE OF THE TASK IS IMMENSE, BUT WE WELCOME THE CHALLENGE, DEEMING IT A GREAT HONOR TO BE ENTRUSTED WITH SUCH A MISSION. WE ARE NOT EVEN ON A QUARTER MARK IN TERMS OF OUR PLAN FOR MANILA BAY AND YET WE ALREADY SEE VISIBLE RESULTS OF OUR INITIAL EFFORTS.

I FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT THE BATTLE FOR MANILA BAY IS INDEED A WINNABLE BATTLE. WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. WE HAVE IN FACT GAINED THE TRUST OF MAJOR CORPORATIONS IN THE COUNTRY THAT COMMITTED TO SUPPORT OUR CLEAN UP AND REHABILITATION EFFORTS. WE ARE NOW BACKED BY THE COMMITMENT OF SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION, SM PRIME HOLDINGS, AND METRO-PACIFIC INVESTMENTS CORPORATION, AMONG OTHERS, THROUGH OUR ADOPT-AN-ESTERO PROGRAM, A PROGRAM THAT WILL ULTIMATELY BENEFIT MANILA BAY.

ALSO RECENTLY, WE WERE TASKED TO COORDINATE WITH THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE A PROBLEM THAT HAD PERSISTED FOR 6 YEARS: THE RETURN OF 69 INTERNATIONAL CONTAINER UNITS OF SOLID WASTES TO CANADA, WHICH WERE ILLEGALLY IMPORTED INTO OUR COUNTRY BY BEING MISDECLARED AS WASTE PLASTICS FOR RECYCLING. AT THE END OF MAY, THE LOADING OF THE CONTAINERS ON THE SHIP BOUND FOR CANADA WAS COMPLETED, AND THE SHIP DEPARTED SUBIC BAY THAT SAME DAY FOR VANCOUVER, CANADA. WE DID NOT ACCEDE TO THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT’S REQUEST TO FURTHER DELAY THE SHIPMENT OF THE WASTE BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY. THE EXPENSES FOR THE SHIPPING OF THE WASTES WERE SHOULDERED BY THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT. SO THAT’S ANOTHER FEATHER IN THE NATION’S CAP.

LAST MAY 20, 2019, WE STARTED A NEW CHAPTER IN PHILIPPINE BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION BY ENTERING INTO AN AGREEMENT WITH THE REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE. UNDER A WILDLIFE LOAN AGREEMENT, THE DENR ENTRUSTED TO THE WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE A PAIR OF OUR MAJESTIC PHILIPPINE EAGLES, BOTH CAPTIVE-BRED: THE 15-YEAR-OLD MALE GEOTHERMICA AND THE 17-YEAR-OLD FEMALE SAMBISIG. THESE EAGLES WILL BE ON LOAN TO THE WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE FOR CONSERVATION BREEDING, PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OTHER CONSERVATION-RELATED PURPOSES. THE PHILIPPINE EAGLE, A CRITICALLY-ENDANGERED SPECIES, IS AN IDEAL AMBASSADOR OF PHILIPPINE BIODIVERSITY, A PERFECT SYMBOL TO GENERATE AWARENESS ON THE URGENT NEED FOR CONSERVATION, AND TO ENCOURAGE INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT FOR CONSERVATION PROGRAM. THIS LOAN AGREEMENT SHOULD ALSO SERVE AS A BIOSECURITY MEASURE, TO ENSURE THE SURVIVAL OF THE SPECIES IN CASE OF CATASTROPHIC EVENTS LIKE DISEASE OUTBREAKS OR EXTREME NATURAL CALAMITIES TAKING PLACE IN THEIR PHILIPPINE HABITATS. THE SIGNING OF THE AGREEMENT ALSO COMMEMORATED THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PHILIPPINE-SINGAPORE FRIENDSHIP DAY.

ON JUNE 4, GEOTHERMICA AND SAMBISIG WERE FLOWN TO SINGAPORE. THIS EVENT SERVED AS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE PHILIPPINE EAGLE WEEK CELEBRATION.

EARLIER LAST MONTH, THE SUPREME COURT ALSO ISSUED A WRIT OF KALIKASAN, TO COMPEL THE ENFORCEMENT OF PHILIPPINE LAWS IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA, PARTICULARLY IN THE SCARBOROUGH SHOAL, ALSO KNOWN AS PANATAG SHOAL, THE AYUNGIN SHOAL, AND THE PANGANIBAN REEF, ALSO KNOWN AS MISCHIEF REEF. THIS WAS AFTER A PETITION WAS FILED DURING THE ELECTION SEASON IN THE SUPREME COURT BY THE INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES AND SOME FISHERFOLK GROUPS, AGAINST VARIOUS RESPONDENTS WHICH INCLUDE THE DENR, THE PHILIPPINE NAVY, THE MARITIME GROUP OF THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE, THE PHILIPPINE COAST GUARD, AND THE BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES.

BUT MIND YOU, MY DENR FAMILY, THE ISSUANCE OF THE WRIT OF KALIKASAN DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE PETITIONERS HAVE ALREADY WON THEIR CASE. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE RESPONDENTS WERE FOUND BY THE COURT TO HAVE FAILED TO PERFORM THEIR RESPECTIVE DUTIES. IT MEANS ONLY THAT THE PETITION IS SUFFICIENT IN FORM AND SUBSTANCE, AND THAT THE RESPONDENTS MUST RESPOND TO THE PETITION WITHIN THE TIME SET BY THE COURT. THE COURT, THEREFORE, HAS YET TO RULE ON THE MERITS OF THE PETITION. BUT WRIT OR NO WRIT, WE WILL SEE TO IT THAT PHILIPPINE ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA ARE PROPERLY ENFORCED.

THE DEPARTMENT, EMPHASIZING THE NEED TO PRODUCE EFFECTIVE AND SCIENCE-BASED STRATEGIES AND POLICIES FOR MANAGING OUR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA, HAS BEEN INTENT ON THE CONDUCT OF RESEARCH IN THE AREA, THROUGH 2 SCIENTIFIC EXPEDITIONS IN 2017 AND 2019. THE STUDIES AND SURVEYS CONDUCTED NOT ONLY REVEALED WHAT NATURAL RESOURCES ARE FOUND IN THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA, BUT ALSO SHOWED HOW IMMENSE THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE IS AND HOW INTIMATELY CONNECTED THESE THREATENED ECOSYSTEMS ARE WITH OTHER ECOSYSTEMS, AND HUMANS. IT IS THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF OUR ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES GENERATED FROM SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH THAT WE CAN DEVELOP EFFECTIVE AND APPROPRIATE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES AND POLICIES.

IN THE FACE OF THE WORLD’S CLIMATE CRISIS, THE PHILIPPINES IS PROUD TO HAVE ONE THE MOST UNIQUE AND PRISTINE ECOSYSTEMS IN THE WORLD, THE PHILIPPINE RISE. LAST MAY 15, 2018, PRESIDENT DUTERTE,THROUGH PROCLAMATION NO. 489, DECLARED 352,390 HECTARES OF THE 13-MILLION-HECTARE PHILIPPINE RISE, FORMERLY KNOWN AS BENHAM RISE, AS A MARINE RESOURCE RESERVE, OF WHICH ALMOST 50,000 HECTARES COMPRISE A STRICT PROTECTION ZONE, WITH THE REMAINDER COMPRISING A SPECIAL FISHERIES MANAGEMENT AREA. THIS HUGE MARINE RESOURCE RESERVE WAS PLACED BY THE PRESIDENT UNDER THE ADMINISTRATIVE JURISDICTION AND CONTROL OF THE DENR IN ACCORDANCEWITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE ENIPAS ACT AND ITS 2019 REVISED IRR AND IN COORDINATION WITH THE BUREAU OF FISHERIES AND AQUATIC RESOURCES AND OTHER RELEVANT AGENCIES. WE HAVE SINCE CONDUCTED TWO EXPEDITIONS IN 2018 AND 2019 TO THE PHILIPPINE RISE MARINE RESOURCE RESERVE AND ITS ADJACENT ECOSYSTEMS TO GENERATE VALUABLE BASELINE DATA AND KNOWLEDGE FOR APPLICATION TO MANAGEMENT AND POLICY. SOME OF THE MANY FINDINGS AND FOOTAGE FROM THESE STUDIES ARE PUBLISHED IN A DOCUMENTARY – YAMAN SA KAILALIMAN, WHICH SHOWS US JUST HOW PROSPEROUS WE CAN BE WHEN WE VALUE, MANAGE, AND PROTECT OUR NATURAL RESOURCES.

FROM THE FOREGOING, WE CAN SEE THAT THE TASKS AHEAD OF US ARE FORMIDABLE. BUT I AM CONFIDENT THAT WE CAN LEVEL UP TO THE EXPECTATIONS OF OUR PRESIDENT AND OUR PEOPLE. WE ARE A FAMILY OF DETERMINED, QUALIFIED AND COMPETENT PERSONS, FROM THE UNDERSECRETARIES, ASSISTANT SECRETARIES, DIRECTORS, AND DIVISION CHIEFS, DOWN TO ORDINARY EMPLOYEES. AND WE WORK AS A TEAM, BUILDING ON EACH OTHER’S STRENGTHS.

SO, I AM SURE THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO LIVE UP TO EXPECTATIONS, AND THAT WE WILL CONTINUE TO ENJOY THE SUPPORT AND PARTICIPATION OF OUR PARTNERS AS WELL AS THE GENERAL PUBLIC IN OUR PROGRAMS AND PROJECTS, FROM THE ENHANCED NATIONAL GREENING PROGRAM, TO BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION AND OUR PROGRAMS FOR CLEAN AIR, CLEAN WATER, SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT, MINERALS DEVELOPMENT, LAND ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, AND THE REST OF OUR OTHER MANDATES.

I AM TRULY HONORED TO RECEIVE KIND WORDS AND PRAISES FROM DIFFERENT SECTORS, MY CO-SECRETARIES, INDUSTRY PARTNERS, AND THE PUBLIC FOR WHAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED THUS FAR. THE HONOR IS NOT MINE ALONE, I SHARE ALL THE GOOD WORDS AND PRAISES WITH YOU MY FELLOW CO-WORKERS IN DENR. I AM JUST YOUR LEADER BUT THE KNOWLEDGE, THE HARD WORK, AND THE PERSEVERANCE ARE ALL FROM YOU. I DRAW MY STRENGTH AND CONFIDENCE FROM ALL OF YOU.

LET ME REITERATE WHAT I STATED DURING OUR FIRST MONDAY OF THIS MONTH’S FLAG RAISING CEREMONY-- I AM VERY PROUD TO LEAD THE DENR. I AM PROUD TO LEAD ITS WORKFORCE, THE WORKFORCE THAT HAS STOOD BY ME AND MADE POSSIBLE THE ATTAINMENT OF OUR TARGETS AND MORE. I TAKE PRIDE IN WEARING AND SHOWING OFF OUR DENR LOGO.

ON THIS NOTE, I CONGRATULATE AND COMMEND EACH AND EVERY ONE OF YOU, FOR A JOB WELL DONE, AND MORE JOBS THAT WILL BE DONE BETTER. LET US TAKE PRIDE IN BEING MEMBERS OF THE DENR FAMILY!

IKAW, AKO, TAYO ANG KALIKASAN!

MARAMING SALAMAT AT MABUHAY ANG DENR!