Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin, singer Pops Fernandez, and screen actor Derek Ramsay are among the stars who have joined the campaign to protect peatlands in the country.
In a video message, Baldwin explained why peatlands are crucial to fight climate change.
“They are large, often forested swamps that can be found all over the world. They matter for the planet because they actually store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forest together while covering less than three percent of the land surface,” said Baldwin during a virtual event on Nov. 6 where Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)—through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and CARAGA Regional Office— in partnership with digital services provider PLDT Inc. (PLDT) and its wireless unit Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) presented its latest program – for the conservation of peatlands in the Caraga region.
“But peatlands are being degraded and lost at a dramatic pace to the logging, drainage, agriculture, and burning. And when they are destroyed they release a massive amount of greenhouse gases and the unique often endangered plants and animals that they housed are lost as well,” the Hollywood actor added.
The 62-year-old actor and political activist also underscored that peatlands matter for people because “smoke release from peatlands fires is toxic and has the worst impact on the most vulnerable groups – our children and the elderly.”
Held to kick off the Climate Change Consciousness Week in the latter part of the month, the web activity hosted representatives from PLDT and Smart at their Makati City headquarters along with hosts and Gabay Kalikasan volunteers Pops Fernandez and Derek Ramsay. DENR representatives from the Central Office, BMB, and Caraga Regional Office, as well as provincial government representatives of areas covered by the project, joined in via live video call.
A pioneering program for wetlands conservation in the Philippines, this DENR and the PLDT Group project aims to protect, conserve, and restore the Caimpugan Peatland in the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS). Located in Agusan del Sur, the Caimpugan Peatland holds the only recorded remaining intact peat swamp forest—the largest of its kind—in the Philippines.
During the virtual launch, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that the DENR continues to fight climate change despite the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“Climate change is a reality that will continually grip us if we do not take action,” Cimatu said in his speech delivered by Undersecretary for Attached Agencies and Chief of Staff Rodolfo C. Garcia during the web event.
According to Cimatu, the DENR is “further committed to address climate change and reverse its impacts through the Program for Environment and Natural Resources for Restoration, Rehabilitation, and Development.”
“Protecting the country’s peatlands is a solid step that the Department is taking to help reverse the impacts of climate change,” Cimatu said.
Involving communities in protecting and managing the natural resources is a solid foundation not only in attaining the goals, but ensuring the sustainability of the efforts, according to the Environment Secretary.
In his speech, Cimatu also reiterated the calls for the private and public sectors to work together for the environment especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This landmark partnership with PLDT-Smart reinforces the call for the public and private sectors to work together to realize aspirations especially for the environment,” Cimatu said.
The DENR chief also emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic will not “hinder DENR in relentlessly pursuing its mandate and attaining one of the Ambisyon 2040 goals of having an efficiently managed natural resources and environment.”
Technology for biodiversity communities
While peatlands are not much known to many, peatlands act like a foam that absorbs water. Agusan del Sur’s Caimpugan peatland also serves as a reservoir for 22.9 million tons of carbon.
For his part, PLDT Inc. Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan said that “the PLDT will be leveraging in digital technology and its networks to protect the mangroves and rainforests.”
“It is our responsibility, as our business works to make our marketing and merchandising materials more eco-friendly, shirting away from plastics, moving to recyclable materials, and reducing our carbon footprint,” Pangilinan said.
The PLDT and Smart will also support peatlands conservation and management strategies by equipping the Bantay Danao volunteers with digital and communication tools such as radio devices, mobile phones, and drone equipment to support them in their enforcement activities.
The volunteers are under the Bantay Danao Conservation Group which was formed in 2017 deputized by DENR- CARAGA to protect the AMWS.
The DENR, on the other hand, will be providing technical assistance to the conservation of the peatlands in the area.