Pena: Environmental highlights of 2019

As 2019 is about to end, let me highlight significant environmental events, both local and international, that made it to the headlines.

A rainy New Year’s Eve. The first in several decades. The cause of the New Year’s revelry spoiler is the low pressure area which used to be Tropical Depression Usman and the northeast monsoon or hanging amihan. The rain dampened the New Year’s Eve celebration. The Department of Health (DOH) said that firecracker-related injuries nationwide were 80 percent lower than the five-year average partly due to the rainy weather.

On January 27, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) led by Secretary Roy Cimatu re-launched the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Project. The DENR, inspired by their success in cleaning Boracay, wants to fast-track the clean-up. DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the efforts of mandamus agencies to clean up the bay have not been visible or felt during the last 10 years. He blamed previous unsuccessful efforts to “weak coordination and collaboration among mandamus agencies.”

On May 10, more than 180 nations agreed in Geneva to add mixed plastic scrap to the Basel Convention. Under the amended treaty, exporters must first obtain consent from the governments of receiving nations before shipping the most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste.

After six years, the remaining 69 containers of garbage from Canada were finally “re-exported” on May 31. The waste fiasco took six years to resolve. The Canadian government paid the $1.14-million shipping cost as the company that originally shipped it no longer exists.

In June, a pair of Philippine Eagles, Geothermica and Sambisig, were brought to the Jurong Bird Park in Singapore under an agreement between the DENR and Wildlife Reserves Singapore. In addition to creating awareness about the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said the wildlife loan agreement is a biosecurity measure to ensure the survival of the species and as a fallback population in the event of catastrophic events like disease outbreaks or extreme natural calamities taking place in their Philippine habitats.

Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez passed away on August 19. Sec. Gina’s stint at the DENR was short. In May 2017, the Commission on Appointments voted against her confirmation, ending her 10-month tenure. In February 2017, she ordered 23 mines shut and five others suspended. She also canceled 75 contracts for mining projects located in watersheds.

In September, Costa Rica received a 2019 Champions of the Earth award, the UN’s highest environmental honour, for its role in the protection of nature and its commitment to ambitious policies to combat climate change. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognized Costa Rica in the policy leadership category.

After serving Central Luzon for seventeen years, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) regional director Lormelyn Claudio moved to Central Visayas in November. The new Central Luzon director is Wilson L. Trajeco, a native of Tacurong City in Mindanao.

President Rodrigo Duterte abolished the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission through Executive Order 93 issued on November 08. Main reason cited was to “to consolidate ongoing rehabilitation efforts in all river systems and tributaries within the Manila Bay Region and streamline rehabilitation functions by transferring them to agencies with relevant core mandates.”

I hope that 2020 will be a better year for the environment. Together, we can help make that possible. Happy New Year everyone!


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