Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje has expressed hope that Filipinos made use of the Holy Week as a time to reflect on the importance of conserving the environment, which is actually part of God's creation.

He said the final week of Lent should have reminded everyone of the solemn duty to care for the environment, including the forests and water -- two elements whose importance were recently observed around the world.

“Holy Week is an opportunity to remember that Mother Earth matters so much to God that He once came to live with us in it and was able to drink water, eat food, and breathe air,” he pointed out.

Paje said that "environmental stewardship should find expression in the solemn commemoration of the death and resurrection of Christ."

The environment chief said it was good coincidence that the observance of the International Day of Forests (IDF) and the World Water Day (WWD) fell on Holy Monday and Holy Tuesday, respectively.

For this year, IDF and WWD were celebrated on the theme "Forest and Water" and "Water and Jobs."

"The recognition of forests and water are particularly special as the countries the world over come together as one in paying homage to forests as a key element to human life, and it is quite fitting that water best exemplifies this connectivity between human life and forests," Paje said.

He said the twin celebrations underscored the need for greater commitment from Christians and the rest of the world to protect the forests, which serve as a critical source for local communities not only of food and medicine, but also sustainable livelihood and protection against the effects of climate change.

Paje said the observance of Holy Week was "auspicious as it accentuates the sacredness of environment stewardship as a paramount Christian duty."

Meanwhile, Paje said the awareness level among Filipinos on the importance of forests has never been more evident of late as a result of the government’s significant progress toward addressing climate change.

“Although there’s a multitude of special days honoring the dependence of human life on forests and water, this recognition has become an everyday endeavor in countries most vulnerable to climate change such as the Philippines,” Paje said.

He cited the National Greening Program, the logging ban and the modernization of forest and biodiversity protection efforts as among a slew of policies the Aquino administration has been aggressively pursuing since 2010.###