DENR, Smart award country’s top eco-friendly schools

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013


VISAYAS State University, Ateneo de Davao University–High School, and Dubinan Elementary School led the roster of winners in the 2013 National Search for Sustainable and Eco-friendly Schools.

The competition is a joint activity of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and has been supported by Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart) since its launch in 2009.

Now on its third run, the nationwide search is held every other year to recognize and affirm the efforts of educational institutions from the college, high school and elementary levels with the most comprehensive environmental programs and activities.

The need for schools to develop skills and understanding to initiate active response and increase community awareness and involvement on environmental issues became even more crucial in the wake of events preceding this year’s awarding ceremonies.

“Yolanda proves that climate change is here. We know how important it is to be environmental friendly in everything we do,” says Atty. Juan Miguel T. Cuna, OIC-Director of EMB.

He is hopeful that with more schools participating in the search, and with their eco-friendly practices being recognized, other schools will be encouraged to replicate “what our winners” are doing.

In his acceptance speech, Visayas State University (VSU) President Dr. Jose L. Bacusmo, shared how the brute force unleashed by Yolanda in the Visayas did not spare the university and its external campuses.

“The evaluation for this award happened a few weeks ago when the campus was dark green from all the canopies of trees growing all over the campus. Sadly, that was a stark contrast to how the university looks right now. The campus is brown rather than green. It looks like a war zone,” Bacusmo said.

The university, located in Baybay City, Leyte, is not about to let the calamity squash or dampen their spirits.

As it embarks to “remove vestiges of the calamity” and to bring back normalcy in the campus, VSU vows to continue to “persistently and passionately integrate in its three fold functions of instruction, research and community engagement numerous programs toward environmental conservation and enhancement.”

Bacusmo, who spearheads the clean-up and restoration, is hopeful after seeing buds emerging from twigs and branches even from fallen trees.

“The sight is enough to assure us that nature is on its way to protect and care for us again as much as we, our school, will continue to protect and care for Mother Nature,” he says.

VSU, which placed second in the 2009 National Search, takes pride in coining the word “rainforestation” before it became widely accepted as the most appropriate approach in bringing back forests in tropical countries.

It advocated the accreditation of timber-species nurseries. It implements conservation and rehabilitation of watersheds in Visayas and Mindanao.

The university is also one of the very few accredited and recognized Dark Green Schools in the country by the Environmental Education Network of the Philippines (EENP).

According to Bacusmo, the award is an affirmation of the university’s environmental programs and actions.

The school has decided to use the cash incentives from the award to support some of the students from Yolanda-affected areas that wish to continue studying this semester.

Fr. Michael I. Pineda, S.J., High School Principal of Ateneo de Davao, reveals that the school will also be donating most of its winnings to help those affected by the super typhoon.

“We are happy to receive the award, but we were not thinking about it. Environmental protection is a specific mission of the school. Our youth must learn to appreciate and value the gift of nature and to protect it,” Pineda said.

Ateneo de Davao – High School implements an environmental program dubbed “Ecoteneo.” It envisions a community that is lush and verdant in greenery, where the air is clean, the water is fresh, its building energy-efficient, and its grounds waste-free.

First placers VSU, Ateneo de Davao University – High School and Dubinan Elementary School in Santiago City each received P50,000 in cash prize and a plaque of recognition.

Joining the national level topnotchers in the honor roll are the 2nd and 3rd placers in their respective categories – Miriam College and Ateneo de Manila University (college level);

Doña Remedios Trinidad High School in Bulacan and Diadi National High School in Nueva Vizcaya (high school level); Koronadal Central Elementary School II in South Cotobato and Kibawe Central School in Bukidnon (elementary level). They were awarded P40,000 cash for second place and P30,000 cash for third place, plus plaques of recognition.

“It’s a total package from our policies, vision-mission, curriculum, campus management, outreach, and research,” is how Dr. Angelina P. Galang describes Miriam College’s whole-school approach in environmental education.

Galang, a professor from the Environmental Studies Institute and the President of Green Convergence, was part of the Miriam College contingent that attended the awarding. She commends the DENR-led search for promoting this kind of comprehensive method.

Galang credits the progressive Maryknoll Sisters, who instructed that environmental modules on pollution be taught in the school way back in the 1970’s, for the school’s pioneering efforts in environmental education and awareness.

Miriam College is one of the few institutions in the country with undergraduate and post graduate degrees in Environment. It is also a recipient of the prestigious “Dark Green School” citation from the EENP.

This year, a total of 45 private and public schools, selected as regional winners, went on to compete in the finals.

A cash prize of P15,000 and a certificate of recognition were given to each of the regional winners in the elementary, high school and college levels.

Introduced this year were the special categories “Nestle Water Leadership Award”, aimed at recognizing and promoting the water management solutions and practices of schools; and the “Meralco Energy Leadership Award”, aimed at recognizing and promoting electrical safety, energy efficiency and conservation.

The national winners for the “Nestle Water Leadership Award” included Kasibu Central School for elementary, Sumuroy Agro-Industrial School in Northern Samar for high school, and Ateneo de Manila University for college.

Those for the “Meralco Energy Leadership Award” included Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City, Matin-ao National High School in Surigao Del Norte, and VSU.

National winners for both special categories received P20,000; while P10,000 was awarded to the regional winners.

Formal awarding was done during the culminating ceremony held at the SM City North EDSA Activity Center as part of the celebration marking November as National Environmental Awareness Month.

“There are very good ideas that could be introduced to other schools, especially because some of these are easy to follow and implement,” notes Dr. Catherine Genevieve B. Lagunzad of the Department of Biology of Ateneo de Manila University who sat as judge in the high school category.

Elenida del Rosario-Basug, Chief of the Environmental Education and Information Division of DENR-EMB, underscores the importance of involving educational institutions in the DENR’s efforts to raise environmental consciousness in the country.

“Students spend most part of their waking hours in school. What they pick-up from school has a huge influence on them,” Basug said.

Basug is glad that the search is expanding its reach and as a result more schools are coming in.

She cited the Facebook application created by long-time partner Smart that helped increase awareness about the competition.

The telco has been supportive of initiatives that promote conservation and protection of the planet.

For its part, Smart has taken initiatives that enable it to take a lead role in addressing climate change.

“As the country’s leading wireless services provider with facilities strategically located nationwide, Smart recognizes that it plays a key role in contributing to efforts to institutionalize sound environmental practice in the telecoms industry,” says Darwin Flores, Department Head for Community Partnerships, Public Affairs Group, Smart.

Smart is joined by another affiliate under the First Pacific Group – One Meralco Foundation – in supporting the 2013 national search. Other partners from the private sectors this year are Nestle Philippines and Petron Foundation. (PR)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 03, 2013.

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