The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is partnering with civil society organizations (CSOs) to enable the marginalized to improve their lives through the agency's programs, particularly the National Greening Program (NGP).

Secretary Gina Lopez said the DENR will tap the knowledge, experience and expertise of CSOs, which are often at the forefront of poverty reduction efforts and promotion of social justice.

Last Thursday, Lopez met with leaders of civil society organizations across the nation, for a planned convergence toward helping marginalized communities. The meeting was dubbed as Salu-salo at Ugnayan para sa Kalikasan or SALUGNAYAN.

The DENR has identified at least 14 areas throughout the country which CSOs can adopt and provide with livelihood opportunities to ultimately serve as "models of entrepreneurship".

Lopez is eyeing the NGP as a tool to improve the lives of people living in poverty. She is also looking into mangrove and bamboo plantation programs because of the environmental benefits and the economic potential that these plants offer. Mangroves minimize typhoon damage and bamboo aids in carbon sequestration. Bamboo is also a source of premium construction material, particularly with the availability of technologies for making “engineered” and laminated bamboos.

She also wants community-led eco-tourism projects that generate incomes and economic activities similar to Ugong Rock in Palawan.

"I want to make an economic impact through the NGP. We will utilize the power and the money to bring forward social justice," Lopez said during the meeting which was also attended by DENR Undersecretary for Civil Society Nicanor Perlas.

The DENR chief maintained that social justice is in action if the resources of the country are enjoyed by its people.

She also said that the planned convergence, which is a government function, will be both developmental and regulatory. "It will give income to the people to make them self-sustaining and at the same time provide quick action on complaints and environmental issues," she pointed out.

The convergence areas include South Upi, Raja Buayan, Haran and Marilog in Mindanao; Sorsogon City; Sibuyan Island in Romblon; and the provinces of Batangas, Oriental Mindoro, Guimaras, Antique, Palawan, Nueva Ecija and Zambales. #