Guided by the saying “there is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)- Ilocos Region Regional Executive Director Atty. Crizaldy M. Barcelo led the team together with EMB Region 1 Regional Director Engr. Ma. Dorica Naz-Hipe, and Dr. Chester O. Casil, OIC-CENR Officer to a courtesy visit to Congressman Arnold F. Celeste

and brought to the table the priority programs of the department in partnership with Cong. Celeste of the 1st Congressional District of Pangasinan.  Cognizant of a daunting task for the environment, RED Barcelo’s group was not thwarted by the pandemic in building a pleasant working relationship with the different congressional leaders in the region.

RED Barcelo presented the status of the National Greening Program established to alleviate poverty among upland and lowland households through working contracts for maintenance and protection of established NGP sites. Currently, a total of 493 hectare established NGP is located in Western Pangasinan managed by People’s Organizations.

It can be noted that on 2019, Municipality of Bani adopted Forest land Use Planning to maximize the potential use of forest resources. The department is counting on the commitment of other municipalities to include FLUP while developing their Comprehensive Land Use Plan to perfectly manage their forest lands.

It is remarkable that through the support of the LGU executives Land Disposition has also been intensified to attain the departments commitment to issue thousands of residential and agricultural patent titles by 2022. By 2019 alone, 394 residential and 294 agricultural patents has been issued in Western Pangasinan which benefitted mostly low-income households. By partnering with the local government, identification of remaining untitled lots workable for titling will speed up the process and could bring out more potentials.

Re-appraisal of foreshore areas has become one of the priorities as the country faces a national issue on public health because of the Corona Virus. The national government is very keen on income generation to support various intervention measures and recovering programs to address the needs of the people. In Western Pangasinan, various businesses and service sectors are thriving on natural resources for years without any regards on occupation fees. With the assistance coming from the local government, the department can be able to hold the operators accountable and earn what is due for the government. In relation to this, Pacific Farm located in Bolinao whose Lease Contract expired on June, 2005 is being eyed as one of the biggest potential collection amounting to 64 Million Pesos if it can be worked out. As agreed by both parties, Pacific Farm will be summoned for a meeting the soonest possible time.

While recovering foreshore and salvage zone as the implementation of re-appraisal accelerates, illegal settlers living along the foreshore was pointed out. The local government will have to consider relocation areas for these residents to ensure their welfare.

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Environmental Management Bureau-1 Regional Director Ma. Dorica Naz-Hipe cited installation of Waste Water Treatment along the coastal areas of the province. Stating that stricter compliance to Clean Water Act is being pushed to meet the water standards to avoid a repetition of Boracay Closure for rehabilitation. As an agreement, representatives of Cong. Celeste will start working out with proposals to comply with the installation of waste water treatment on the following week.

EMB Regional Director Engr. Hipe regarded waste disposal facilities as one of the problems of most municipalities. Open dumpsites were ordered closure relative to the RA 9003 because of its environmental impact, yet, the preferred sanitary landfill remained indefinite because of compelling reasons of either no appropriate location or not enough funding for land acquisition. For the meantime, LGUs are reduced to “no segregation, no collection policy” in order to address solid waste management in their areas.

On the other hand, the congressman mentioned that LGU Bolinao prohibits commercial fish pens in order to protect its coastal areas in favor of its tourism industry. They are actually planning to elevate to eco-tourism as they have been in coordination with BFAR to conduct carrying capacity study for mariculture. But the water condition of its adjacent coastal area of Anda threatens the marine resources of Bolinao. The meeting has just been an opportunity to discuss possible action to address the concern.

As a committed environmental advocate, Congressman Celeste offered to support all the endeavors of the DENR which is geared to protect and conserve the environment for the interest of the citizenry. ###