President Duterte sets high hopes for Filipino, ASEAN peoples alike


President Duterte sets high hopes for Filipino, ASEAN peoples alike

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          The country was all abuzz last week as leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-countries flocked to the Republic’s capital, Metro Manila to attend the 30th ASEAN Summit. The Philippines also had the honor of Chairmanship coincide with the celebration of the 50th year of the Association since its foundation, and so we witnessed work and classes suspended, traffic re-routed and security tightened for this momentous event.

           The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 4A through its representatives were given the opportunity to witness the opening ceremony of this year’s 30th ASEAN Summit on April 29.

            It was indeed a great privilege to walk the halls of the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), be inches from some of our government’s agency heads, and be in the same room where esteemed world leaders are sitting. But the cherry-on-top of this experience is hearing the President of the Philippines deliver his opening ceremony statement in person.

             On that day, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was seen stripped off of his usual candid self as he calmly but firmly emphasized in his speech that it is a day “to reaffirm our aspiration for an ASEAN that works to effect positive change in the lives of our peoples.”



          He said that the peoples of ASEAN want to make sure that their rights and welfare are protected and promoted. A stable source of livelihood, a roof over one’s head, quality education for their children, affordable healthcare, a peaceful and stable government, and a dynamic economy, according to him, are indexes of prosperity that uplift and dignify the human person. “Today I say our peoples deserve these and more,” Duterte said.

          Moreover, the President, while showing his concern for our very own Filipinos, did not forget to stress the importance of supporting migrants and other vulnerable sectors of society. “As we continue to build an ASEAN Community that is rules-based, people-centered and people-oriented, we have the opportunity to do our part in addressing these concerns,” he added.

            “During our time of greatest need, you were there. We are eternally grateful. Today, I say the Philippines will do its own part to help those who are in need in our region and beyond,” Duterte said, thanking fellow ASEAN countries for the timely assistance they provided after Typhoon Haiyan hit the archipelago in 2013.

             This spirit of cooperation, unity and solidarity perfectly fits the Chairmanship theme “Partnering for Change. Engaging the world”. These values, the President said, “changed the course of the history of our region” characterizing the ASEAN as an organization which “has a compelling narrative of positive change [that] we can hold up to the world.”

             As the President ended his speech, he enjoined everyone to take part in realizing a better and stronger ASEAN: “Let us with brave hearts and firm mind resolve to do all we can to make all our aspirations a reality. [This] will be the lasting legacy of ASEAN not just for our peoples but for the whole world.”

             Where does the DENR enter the big picture, then?

             Recently, the DENR has been restructuring its priority thrusts to be “of the people and for the people”. Gina Lopez, the Department’s Secretary, is a staunch advocate of social justice and ensures that projects and programs of the DENR serve the Filipino people’s interests.

            The National Greening Program (NGP), one of the prominent programs of the Department, has been extended until 2028 and is now called Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP). ENGP employs the principle of convergence and area-based management. In this scheme, the DENR encourages partnership with stakeholders such as other government agencies and highly prioritizes the cooperation of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and People’s Organizations (POs).

            Secretary Lopez wants the ENGP to be a ring of economic growth, and be the agency’s contribution with regards to poverty alleviation. At present, the Department is in collaboration with 135 POs in the CALABARZON region.

            Just a few days ago, the DENR Region 4A, through the Sustainable Integrated Area Development (SIAD) Coordinating Office, launched its bamboo development project which aims to establish a total of 1,200-hectare bamboo plantations along the shoreline of, and streambanks draining to the Laguna Lake. This project, which will aid in the rehabilitation of the Laguna Lake, also saw support of the People’s Organizations who will be its primary beneficiaries. 

            The bamboo plantation set up in Barangay Looc of Calamba City, Laguna is the first among the other sites to be established in the future.

           The Department is also partnering with various agencies and sectors for the integrated area development and management within the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor (VIPMC) in Batangas, which highlights the development of biodiversity-friendly enterprises for the local communities. Such enterprises include mud crab and sea cucumber farming, mangrove enhancement, artificial reef production, rock salt production, organic farming, Philippine Teak nursery establishment, and bagoong and patis-making. Underlying the said initiative is the continuous effort to safeguard the rich marine biodiversity in the VIPMC.

           On May 11, the ASEAN member countries will have a meeting to discuss matters pertaining to coastal and marine management.