The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Friday celebrated its 32nd founding anniversary with Secretary Roy A. Cimatu giving the entire DENR workforce a pat on the back for contributing immensely to the agency’s recent major achievements—from the rehabilitation efforts in Boracay and Manila Bay to the return of illegal waste shipment to Canada.

“I am truly honored to receive kind words and praises from different sectors, my co-secretaries, industry partners and the public for what we have accomplished thus far,” Cimatu said in his speech during the anniversary celebration held at the DENR central office in Quezon City.

He added: “The honor is not mine alone, I share all the good words and praises with you my co-workers in the DENR. I am just your leader but the knowledge, the hard work and the perseverance are all from you. I draw my strength and confidence from all of you.”

According to Cimatu, this year is perhaps the most meaningful of the agency’s anniversaries since its creation in 1987 because “at no other time in our history has the DENR been entrusted with responsibilities as heavy as now.”

“The trust and confidence reposed in our competence by our President and nation is at an all-time high,” said Cimatu, who had been personally picked by President Rodrigo RoaDuterte to head the inter-agency task forces created to bring Boracay and Manila Bay back to their former glory.

The DENR, along with the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force and the Duterte administration in general, earned praises for turning Boracay from a cesspool to a model for sustainable ecotourism in just six months of rehabilitation.

The DENR did well in Boracay that the President gave it a much bigger challenge: the restoration of Manila Bay and its heavily polluted waters to a quality suitable for bathing, swimming, boating, fishing and other forms of contact recreation.

Cimatu said the so-called “Battle for Manila Bay” will probably take years to win but the DENR is up for the challenge, “deeming it a great honor to be entrusted with such a mission.”

Although the government is not even on a quarter mark in terms of its plan for Manila Bay, Cimatu said the public could already see visible results of the initial efforts.

“I firmly believe that the Battle for Manila Bay is indeed a winnable battle. We are on the right track,” Cimatu said, as he noted how the government gained the trust of major corporations to support the cleanup and rehabilitation efforts.

Among these corporations that signed up for the DENR’s Adopt-An-Estero program and committed to rehabilitate the filthy creeks and other water bodies draining into Manila Bay were San Miguel Corp., SM Prime Holdings, and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

Just recently, the DENR was tasked to coordinate with the Canadian government to solve a problem that had persisted for six years, which is the return to Canada of 69 international container units of solid waste illegally imported into the Philippines by being misdeclared as waste plastics for recycling.

Cimatu said the Philippines did not accede to the Canadian government’s request to further delay the shipment of the waste back to their country.

“The expenses for the shipping of the wastes were shouldered by the Canadian government. So that’s another feather in our cap,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu said the Philippines also started a new chapter in biodiversity conservation by entering into an agreement with Wildlife Reserves Singapore for the loan of a pair of the majestic Philippine eagle—Geothermica and Sambisig—for conservation breeding and public education and other conservation-related purposes.

The loan agreement should also serve as a biosecurity measure to ensure the survival of the critically endangered raptor in case of catastrophic events like disease outbreaks or extreme calamities taking place in their Philippine habitats.

Cimatu said these achievements would have not been possible without the “determined, qualified and competent persons” that make up the DENR family, from the undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, directors and division chiefs, down to ordinary employees.

“I congratulate and commend each and every one of you, for a job well done, and more jobs that will be done better. Let us take pride in being members of the DENR family,” Cimatu said.

The environment chief also rallied the DENR officials and employees to “level up to the expectations of the President and nation” given the formidable tasks ahead, particularly the protection of biodiversity and marine ecosystems in the West Philippine Sea and Philippine Rise.

Cimatu underscored the need to produce effective and science-based strategies and policies for managing the environment and natural resources in the West Philippine Sea and the Philippine Rise in the face of climate change. ###