Sec. Paje Draws Cheers from Environmentalists as Ban on Open Burning is Upheld

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From Quezon City to Davao City, environmental leaders heaved sigh of relief after Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon J.P.  Paje announced on Sunday that he instructed the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) to forgo the ceremonial burning of seized elephant tusks this Friday and just use a road roller to crush the tusks. 

Sec. Paje heeded the appeal aired by the EcoWaste Coalition and over 30 advocates last Thursday asking the authorities to do without the ceremonial burning as this will convey a wrong message that open burning is acceptable, as well as violate R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act.

“We welcome this enlightened decision by the DENR leadership.  We hope this translates to a wide ranging directive against the usual practice of burning confiscated goods.  The law is clear on the issue prohibiting open burning,” said environmental campaigner Von Hernandez, President of the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition.

From Cebu City, environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of the Philippine Earth Justice Center expressed “a collective sigh of relief that DENR listened” as she extolled “the strong determined voices emanating from the citizenry and civil society reminding officials to obey our largely unimplemented environmental laws, including R.A. 9003 and R.A. 8749, and not allow any burning which pollutes and adds up to the unprecedented volume of carbon concentration in the atmosphere.”

“May this incident ignite a nationwide flame of awareness and action to stop any form of burning that puts all of us in harm’s way, such as waste-to-energy incineration and the operation of more coal-fired power plants,” she added.

From Davao City, ecologist Betty Cabazares, Executive Director of Kinaiyahan Foundation noted “this is a victory for the people’s right to breathe clean air” as she reiterated the responsibility of every Filipino to protect the environment from being further degraded.

“We owe that to the future generations.  We cannot leave that responsibility to the hands of a few.  We have to be involved,” she said.

Partnership for Clean Air President Rene Pineda said “Sec. Paje’s resolve to uphold the rule of law is a categorical proof that he doesn’t only mean well but he also means business.  I take my hat off to a good public servant like him.”
While strongly opposed to open burning, the groups ardently support the efforts to end elephant poaching and stop illegal wildlife trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

The environmentalists had earlier recommended that the seized ivory tusks be simply crushed and pulverized by a road roller and then buried for composting at an appropriate site within the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center to ensure that the tusks are not returned to illegal trade,