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Our Natural

Environment and
the Filipino Identity
Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
24th National Convention
Philippine Institute of Environmental
November 6, 2015
AIM Convention Center, Makati City

Anthropologic Perspective in
Environmental Planning -- in view of the
Filipino Identity
Pre-colonization, affinity of
indigenous communities to
the environment
Spanish colonization, religious
considerations in planning
town centers
American colonial period, new
concepts to town planning
Current situation

DENR measures to
reimagine the Filipino city
The task at hand

Pre-colonization Era
Raw materials and the start of politico-cultural

Image from

Stone tools found in

Huluga and on
display at Museo de
Oro, Xavier University.
Image from

Photo by Elson T. Elizaga,

Nazca Graphic Design &

Pre-colonization Era
People erect their villages along sheltered bays,
coastal areas, and mouths of big river systems,
which were strategic trade and commercial points.
Another factor in choosing the location of a
settlement was the need for protection or defense
Pre-colonial society in this archipelago was
anchored on the ecological setting.

Pre-colonization Era

Bahay Kubo.

Image from

Ifugao Fale

Image from

Spanish Colonization
To facilitate administration and
control, as well as religious
conversion, the colonizers
compelled natives to relocate to the
town center or poblacion, which was
typically laid out in a grid pattern,
with the church, the town hall (casa
real), the court house and the main
square (plaza mayor) at the core.
In town planning, the parish church
on one side of the plaza became
the towns religious, administrative,
social and cultural center

Spanish Colonization
From 1768-1885 each settlement
could apply for a legua comunal,
consisting of uncultivated land
(20,000 sqm) for cattle and
timber cultivation
The Spaniards were apparently
less interested in our native flora
and fauna than in one particular
natural resource: gold.

American Colonization
Residential as well as institutional
structures in the humid tropics relied
on natural ventilation, as well as
natural illumination during daytime.
But communities also relied on
natural drainage for sewerage, by
letting sewers empty untreated water
into creeks and rivers, and ultimately
into the seas. This remains a
problem to this day.
During the reconstruction period
post the 2nd World War, countless
citizens flocked to Manila and its
suburbs for jobs and services, and
established informal settlements,
many of which remain to this day.

Current Situation
Our streets are full of motor
vehicles, our esteros those
that have not been built over
are becoming garbage chutes.
Riverbanks are overflowing
with informal settlers, and
settlements are being built
even in areas with known
It is in this milieu that we are
now challenged to reimagine
the Filipino city.

To reimagine the Filipino city, the

Established extensive terrestrial
and marine protected areas
throughout the countryside
Established nature enclaves in our
urban centers

The 22.7-hectare Ninoy Aquino Parks

and Wildlife Center in Quezon City;
The 33-hectare La Mesa Eco-Park in the
2,659-hectare La Mesa Watershed
Reservation, also in Quezon City; and
The 175-hectare Las Pias-Paraaque
Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, a
bird sanctuary which in 2013 was
included in the Ramsar List of Wetlands
of International Importance

To reimagine the Filipino city, the

Forged partnerships
with private sectors
under the Adopt-anEstero program, to
keep esteros
reasonably clean
Conducted annual
coastal cleanups

To reimagine the Filipino city, the



Undertaking the most

massive reforestation
campaign in our history, the
National Greening Program,
to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5
million hectares of lands for a
period of six years (20112016)

Produces geohazards maps

1:10,000 Scale Assessment

Major Environmental Challenge

Climate Change

The Philippines is among the ten countries that

are extremely vulnerable to climate change.

Climate Change Adaptation and

Disaster Risk Reduction Initiatives
The government allocated
around 132 billion pesos from
next years national budget of
3.002 trillion pesos:
The bulk of this outlay will be for
flood control involving 18 major
river basins, principal rivers and
watersheds. Other significant
outlays include those for
reforestation under the NGP, and
farm-to-market roads to alleviate
poverty and enhance our food
This PhP132-B outlay for climate
change for 2016 is a quantum
leap from the PhP21.5-B
proposed in 2014 by the budget
department for 2015.

The Task at Hand

The projected adverse
impacts of climate change
provide impetus for our
government as well as for
the private sector to give a
greater role to
environmental planners.
But we environmental
planners must also upgrade
our capabilities
For us, catching up with
developments on climate
change is a continuing

The Task at Hand

Because climate change will
impact on ecosystems and
biodiversity, it can threaten food
security and public health.
Climate change can alter the
natural environment as we have
known it.
And because climate change will
last for generations, it can
influence if not reshape Filipino