In the picturesque bay of Barangay Sta. Ana, Calatagan, Batangas, a group of resilient women is making waves in the local fishing industry. Meet the Samahan ng Kababaihang Mangingisda ng Sitio Manuel Uy (SKSMU), a thriving People’s Organization (PO) established in 2019 with the mission to not only make a living out of seaweeds but also to promote sustainable practices in the coastal and marine ecosystem.

Supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) CALABARZON, SKMSMU operates under the Biodiversity-Friendly Enterprise (BDFE) Project within the Verde Island Passage as part of the Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Management Program (CMEMP). Comprising 11 dedicated female members, the organization has become a beacon of success in the region.

BDFEs, as envisioned by DENR, are enterprises that champion the sustainable use of biological resources, create wealth and value, and foster equitable sharing of benefits among stakeholders. SKMSMU has embraced this vision, focusing on the production of seaweed crackers and chips delicacies that have gained popularity not just within the community but beyond.

The delectable seaweed crackers and chips with optional flavors (plain, cheese, barbecue, and sour cream) are sold at affordable prices, ranging from 40-50 pesos per piece.

This has not only contributed to the community's delight but has also translated into a significant profit for the PO.

Ms. Rosaly Acosta, the passionate president of SKMSMU, attests to the transformative impact of the BDFE Project. She states, "Malaki ang naitulong ng BDFE sa aming People’s Organization…Ang aming kinikita po ay nakakatulong na makabili ng aming pangangailangan tulad ng bigas at pang-ulam."

However, SKMSMU recognizes the need for continuous improvement and development. Through the valuable assistance of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Calaca, Batangas, the PO has undergone various training programs in Marketing Management, Packaging and Labeling Products, Organizational Structure Strengthening, Pricing, Bookkeeping, and Product Development. Ms. Umali highlights the importance of enhancing their skills “insert direct quote from PO president”

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DENR CALABARZON's Conservation and Development Division has been instrumental in providing ongoing support to strengthen the People’s Organization. The offerings of the PO took center stage at multiple regional and national events, including the 4th Philippine Environmental Summit and the Local Food Bazaar hosted by DENR CALABARZON in 2023. These exhibitions played a crucial role in promoting the products of BDFE POs, assisting the SKMSMU in effectively marketing their products.

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Currently, SKMSMU is at level 1 development based on the monitoring conducted by CENRO Calaca and transitioning into level 2, showcasing the positive strides made in terms of organizational growth and sustainability. At the moment, the production of the PO operates on a made-to-order system. To expand their production, the PO is in need of additional equipment.

Akin to many other entities, SKMSMU encountered obstacles in its organizational structure. These challenges have led to a temporary halt in the organization's production. Taking charge in addressing these issues is DENR CENRO Calaca, actively extending support to the PO in resolving the current predicament. Upon successful resolution, SKMSMU is poised to resume its regular operations.

As SKMSMU continues to navigate the waters of economic empowerment and environmental stewardship, their story stands as a testament to the transformative impact that grassroots initiatives can have on communities. Through the synergy of dedicated women, government support, and a commitment to sustainability, SKMSMU is not just a fishing organization; it is a beacon of hope and progress for Barangay Sta. Ana and beyond. ###

Meet Forester Ronita America Unlayao, the first female Assistant Regional Director for Management Services (ARDMS) at DENR CALABARZON. Unlayao's illustrious career in government service commenced in 1982 at the Bureau of Forest Development Region IV, now DENR CALABARZON, where she began as a Forester.  She ascended through various key positions such as Senior Forester, Forest Management Specialist II, Senior Forest Management Specialist, Supervising Forest Management Specialist, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer (CENRO), Planning Officer V, and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) at DENR CALABARZON.  In her time as a public servant, she was awarded with a certificate of appreciation for her exemplary performance and contribution to the success of the Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) Program Implementation.

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In 2007, For. Unlayao was designated as the Regional Planning Officer. While she was appointed as the CENRO of Lipa City in 2015, she still took charge of the Planning and Management Division where she continuously sought the improvement of DENR CALABARZON. She was steadfast in proposing for DENR Office building in all field offices as well as the DENR CALABARZON office building. In 2019, the DENR CALABARZON office building was inaugurated.

A noteworthy accomplishment in 2016 was her attendance to the Training on Philippine Environmental Governance, a collaborative program between DENR and the University of the Philippines, where she ranked 3rd among the program graduates.

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Through her dedication and hardwork, she rose through the ranks and was appointed as a Provincial Environment and Natural Resources (PENR) Officer in 2018 and was assigned as to lead the province of Cavite for three years. Under her leadership, PENRO Cavite garnered national recognition under the Environmental Awards for Governance and Leadership Excellence (EAGLE) for being one of the top 3 for the Implementing PENRO Category. In 2021, she was then designated as the OIC ARDMS of DENR CALABARZON and at the same time Chair of the Gender and Development Focal Point System of the Region.

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During her stint as OIC ARDMS, she steadfastly upheld a commitment to equality, spearheading initiatives across diverse environmental programs. Her advocacy for equal opportunities extended to the enhanced National Greening Program (eNGP), Forest Protection, Biodiversity Friendly Enterprise (BDFE), Protected Area Development and Management, Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Management Program (CMEMP), and Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program. In these realms, numerous individuals, especially women, found employment, and People’s Organizations experienced empowerment.

In addition to her environmental endeavors, she took the lead in various Gender and Development (GAD) efforts. Noteworthy initiatives included orchestrating the Juanapbuhay Bazaar, hosting Women’s Hour with a series of fora on Entrepreneurship, Wealth and Estate Planning, overseeing the installation of lactation/breastfeeding stations in Regional and Field Offices, conducting Gender Sensitivity Trainings, and providing continuous support to the 18-Day Campaign to End Violence Against Women. Her multifaceted approach exemplified a holistic commitment to fostering inclusivity and gender equity within the environmental landscape.

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Unlayao, a Cum Laude graduate in Forestry, holds a Master's Degree from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. With accolades such as being a Management Aptitude Test Battery Passer and passing the Forestry Licensure Examination and Career Service Professional exam, she has proven her excellence in her field.

Born on April 7, 1960, in Infanta, Quezon, Unlayao is not just a distinguished professional but also a devoted leader and family woman, married to Gerardo Unlayao and blessed with four children. Her more than 40 years of service for the people and the environment is a testament to hard work, dedication, and the transformative impact one woman can have in breaking barriers and making a lasting mark in environmental leadership.###

DENR-PENRO Cavite reclaimed the forestland in So. Mamba, Brgy. Pinagsanhan B, Maragondon from unlawful forest occupants after a year-long effort to protect the same. For years, the verdant area had been subjected to illegal tree cutting and irresponsible charcoal production, leaving the land scarred and depleted. Nature is already reclaiming what was lost now that the unlawful settlers have been compelled to vacate the said forest area. This hard-fought victory gives the DENR a reason to be optimistic that with commitment and perseverance, together as a team, its workforce can undo the damage of the past and ensure the health of our natural resources for future generations.

The efforts of the Provincial DENR to preserve the said forestland area have paid off after a year of safeguarding this natural sanctuary. The forestland is on its way to being a lush, verdant paradise once more. The number of observed bird species in the area is increasing and traces of Philippine Warty Pigs are often seen during LAWIN patrolling, suggesting that the destruction and disturbance in the area have decreased.

Currently, the former occupants are peacefully residing in urban areas. They occasionally visit the upland area to check on their remaining crops and to harvest during the appropriate season.

On July 25, 2023, another case was filed against the three occupants who are occupying the portion of the Protected Area known as the Mts. Palay-Palay-Mataas-Na-Gulod Protected Landscape (MPPMNGPL). The unlawful occupation is a clear violation of  Republic Act No. 11038, also known as the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018. Said legal action aims to ensure the protection of the area and prevention of further destruction, which is crucial for the biodiversity present in the Protected Area. By the power of the court, the three (3) occupants have self demolished their structures in the area, hence as of now the Office is still waiting for the resolution from the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 22, Imus City for further actions that the office must undertake.  

DENR PENRO Cavite’s hard-won victory demonstrates what can be achieved when communities come together to protect the environment. As part of this endeavor, a report/manifestation summarizing the monitoring findings will be submitted to the Prosecutor's Office for evaluation and  decision on the matter. ###

The DENR-CENRO Calauag, Quezon, through its Conservation and Development Section and the Protected Area Management Office (PAMO) for Alabat Watershed Forest Reserve (AWFR), held a tree growing activity on 14 September 2023 in partnership with the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Alabat District along streambanks of Boong River in Brgy. Villa Victoria, Alabat, Quezon.
The said activity aims to encourage individuals to conserve and enhance the status of the ozone layer and promote environmental well-being to safeguard the health and safety of the community in Barangay Villa Victoria.
This further incorporates this year’s advance celebration of two significant environmental events, the International Day for the Conservation of Ozone Layer, originally celebrated every September 16 , and the World Environmental Health Day which is observed every September 26. Themes for this year are: "Montreal Protocol, Fixing the Ozone Layer and Reducing Climate Change" and, "Global Environmental Public Health, Standing Up to Protect Everyone's Health Each and Every Day," respectively.
Prior to the tree planting, FT I Allan P. Panganiban, the CENRO Calauag National Greening Program (NGP) Assistant Focal Person, demonstrated the proper planting of seedlings in the site.
Afterwards, participants proceeded to the planting site along portions of Boong River which was then followed by an environmental awareness campaign at the barangay hall of Villa Victoria, Alabat, Quezon.
Forester III Romel David D. Rama, APASu of AWFR, emphasized that the activity was not just for the celebration of the environmental events, but also for the engagement of the community to support the DENR in caring for the environment and to put the same into practice.
Likewise, the Principal of Alabat Central Elementary School, Dr. Antonio O. Luna, DH, PhD iterated that the activity should not only focus on the actual planting but rather on the sincerity that one puts towards such activity. He added that the success of tree-growing activities depends on the dedication of individuals who continuously participate in such undertakings.
Dr. Luna also encouraged the barangay residents to tirelessly support the same activities related to the growing of trees to improve environmental health. He added that the residents of Villa Victoria and their students in ALS were fortunate since they became involved with the personnel of DENR-CENRO Calauag in celebration of two of the significant environmental events.
Furthermore, AWFR APASu Rama headed the discussion of topics related to the conservation of the ozone layer and environmental health during the awareness campaign. Some of the topics tackled were the Montreal Protocol, Effects of Ozone Depletion, Updates on Ozone Layer, Climate Change, Public and Environmental Health, Human Activities Affecting Environmental and Human Health, AWFR Profile, and salient features of some environmental and forestry laws.
Forester II Aleli C. Alvarez, on behalf of CENR Officer Joselito D. Barros, believed that the participants gained knowledge on the importance of the ozone layer in protecting the Earth. She stressed that their acquired knowledge is important to maintain and improve the environment’s health for the welfare of living organisms inhabiting the environment.
Forester Alvarez also explained the meaning of “tree growing,” wherein the DENR encourages the people not only to plant trees but also to initiate activities for the survival of the planted trees.
She added that it is significant to know the vital purpose of the community in maintaining and improving environmental health since its status has a direct effect on the people and other organisms existing therein.
A total of 100 Lipote and Narra seedlings were planted along the streambanks of Boong River, Brgy. Villa Victoria, Alabat, Quezon by volunteers from the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Alabat District; ALS Cluster 7, Alabat, Quezon; Alabat Central Elementary School; BLGU and residential area of Brgy. Villa Victoria; and DENR-CENRO Calauag.
Meanwhile, Brgy. Councilor Virginia Intoma expressed a positive impression to CENRO Calauag and concerned academic offices for choosing their barangay to celebrate the International Day for the Conservation of Ozone Layers and World Environmental Health Day this 2023. According to her, Brgy. Villa Victoria is looking forward for possible related activities in the future.###

DENR PENRO Cavite through the Production Forest and Management Unit, facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the creation of the Watershed Management Council (WMC) for Timalan River Watershed (TRW) to strengthen the collaboration efforts of DENR and other critical stakeholders in sustainable management of watersheds. Said MOA signing was held on September 12, 2023, at Hotel Dominique, Tagaytay City, Cavite.

The event was graced by Cavite Provincial Governor Hon. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” C. Remulla together with the City Mayor of Trece Martires Hon. Gemma B. Lubigan. Also present during the event is the Regional Executive Director of DENR CALABARZON Nilo B. Tamoria along with Cavite PENR Officer Januel R. Peras.

Likewise, several national government agencies and stakeholders of TRW  also attended the ceremonial event; these include MENR Officer Mendandro Dimaranan of Tanza; MENR Officer Antonette Digno of Naic; Engr. Romulo Angeles of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA); Engr. Rolando Valdez of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Cavite 1DEO; Mr. Ruben Perlas of the Department of Agriculture (DA); Provincial Director James Arthur Dubingco of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR); General Manager Juliet R. Ocampo of Cavite Province Association of Water Districts; Chairperson Samuel C. Plazo of Capipisa Fisherman’s Association; Chairperson Allan I. Iglip of Samahang Magtatalaba at Mangingisda; and Chairperson Francisco P. Cunanan Jr. of Trece Martires City Farmers Association Incorporated.

Cavite PENR Officer emphasized that managing the environment and natural resources is not a task of a sole agency but rather a collective initiative and effort of various groups and stakeholders as a stride to promote inclusive action and intervention towards environmental protection and conservation. PENRO Peras proudly conveyed that TRW is the first-ever watershed in the CALABARZON Region that will have a Watershed Management Council through MOA.

City Mayor Gemma B. Lubigan also rendered a message for the event.  She conveyed that the WMC shall be a collaboration of various stakeholders for the effective implementation of the plans and programs for TRW. Mayor Lubigan said that on the same day they were also celebrating the tribute for the thirteen (13) martyrs of Trece Martires hence, adhering to that day’s event, she said “bilang lingkod bayan, kailangan nating isabuhay ang mga halimbawa na tutularan ng mga kabataan—ang pagiging makaDiyos, may respeto sa kapwa at may malasakit sa kalikasan".

Meanwhile, DENR CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Nilo B. Tamoria delivered a meaningful message that focused on the essence of the watershed: its management and governance. RED Tamoria said “Ang halaga ng watershed ay hindi lamang tungkol sa tubig, kundi ito ay konektado pa sa maraming bagay—kapag atin itong pinagsama-sama, ito ang nagiging function ng isang watershed”, RED Tamoria emphasized in his message that a watershed provides a wide array of services for human consumption. Without these resources, people will barely survive in their daily lives. Hence, it is vital that we exert concrete plans and programs to conserve these resources, and the creation of WMC is one good step to begin with.

RED Tamoria added “Siguraduhin natin na ang ating pinirmahan at batay na rin sa ating kanya-kanyang mandato ay maiaambag natin sa pagsasagawa ng mga plano sa loob ng TRW”. He also reminded that the LGUs should incorporate the plans and accomplishments within TRW in the updating of their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs). RED Tamoria also reiterated that developments have implications for our environment, which is why sustainable development was coined. It ensures that all forms of development should work well without compromising the integrity of the environment. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is a success” RED Tamoria’s closing spiel.

Timalan River Watershed has a total drainage area of 4,532.05 hectares that traverses three (3) towns namely: Naic, Trece Martires City, and Tanza, and crosses nineteen (19) barangays.

The Watershed Management Council was promulgated to further strengthen the collaboration between the DENR, DILG, LGUs, NGOs, POs, and other critical stakeholders in the sustainable management of watersheds. The creation of the council aims to standardize and provide guidance on the institutionalization of existing and creation of new Watershed Management Councils to ensure the participatory, collaborative, multi-sectoral, and interdisciplinary principles of watershed management in accordance with existing laws, rules, and regulations. ###