Environment Secretary Regina Paz Lopez announced on Monday a nationwide restructuring of 17 regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure the success of environmental programs and projects designed to help local communities protect their surroundings and improve living conditions.
In a statement, Lopez said the restructuring is integral to her five-year development plan for the DENR and is anchored on sustainable integrated area development (SIAD) in line with “AmBisyonNatin 2040,” a 25-year long-term vision that seeks to make the Philippines a predominantly middle-class society by 2040.
SIAD will serve as the DENR’s framework for localizing development, creating social enterprises in the countryside and building “mini economic zones” that can generate employment, livelihood and equitable income-generating activities in communities.
The restructuring will allow a more efficient implementation of the SIAD approach in environmental programs and projects, especially those that directly impact the marginalized sector such as the Enhanced National Greening Program, a massive reforestation initiative that doubles as a poverty alleviation measure, Lopez noted.
“In area development, the key thing here is people’s access to environment, and if you want to develop an area, you have to develop the people,” Lopez told a recent conference attended by all senior officials of the DENR from both central and regional offices.
The DENR chief is confident that the revamp would steer the DENR to carry out its mandate as one of the government’s social justice champions.
Named regional directors are Francisco Moreno for Region1, Gil Aromin for Region 2; Francisco Milla, Region 3; Arsenio Tanchuling, Region 4A; Natividad Bernardino, Region 4B; Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, Region 5; Jim Sampulna, Region 6; Emma Melana, Region 7; Leonardo Sibbaluca, Region 8; Felix Mirasol, Region 9; Paquito Melicor, Region 10; Edwin Andot, Region 11; Reynulfo Juan, Region 12; Charlie Fabre, Region13; Ludy Wagan, National Capital Region; Ralph Pablo, Cordillera Administrative Region; and Al Orolfo, Negros Island Region.
Undergoing evaluation are the positions for the 78 Provincial Environment and Natural Officers (PENROs), and 140 Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers (CENROs).
Stressing that “the heart and soul of the Philippine Constitution is social justice,” Lopez said the restructuring “would position the DENR on a firmer ground” to promote social justice as the SIAD approach opens up roads to efficient management of the country’s natural resources and expanding potentials for social enterprises in these mini-economic zones.
Social enterprises are types of non-profit business activities that earn steady income for community members in financially sustainable ways that do not lead to inequality in the distribution of wealth. These activities could even help solve social and environmental issues in local communities.
Initially, the DENR has designated 29 priority areas: 13 in Luzon, 6 in Visayas and 10 in Mindanao.
The ADMP areas in Luzon are Chico River and Mt. Pulag in the Cordillera Administrative Region; Zambales; Laur in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija; Sierra Madre in Cagayan; Sierra Madre in Nueva Ecija; Kaliwa Watershed in Marikina and Sierra Madre; Batangas Coastline and Verde Passage; Laguna Lake; Palawan; Sibuyan Island; Romblon; Occidential and Oriental Mindoro; and Sorsogon.
The priority areas in the Visayas are the provinces of Guimaras, Antique, Samar, Bohol and Cebu, and the city of Iloilo.
Saranggani, Caraga-Cantilan, South Upi, Marilog, Mt. Hamiguitan/Mati, Talaingog in Davao del Norte, Rajah Buayan, Dinagat Island, Tawi-Tawi, and Lanao del Sur make up the areas in Mindanao.
These areas are evaluated based on available resources, as well as needs and requirements, which will become the basis in determining possible livelihood opportunities similar to those in established ecotourism zones like the La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City and Ugong Rock and Iwahig Firefly Watching in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
Following the convergence model, the civil society, academe, business sector, concerned government agencies and the community will be brought together to help build the model ADMP areas.