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In Retrospect of a Defense Commitment: The Essence of an Environmental Defense Program

Written by COL FEROZALDO PAUL T. REGENCIA INF (GSC) PA, MWGI . Posted in Commanders Blog

                “A good environmental protection program needs the commitment of the entire military establishment. A program that relies on the effort of a small cadre of environmental professionals is doomed to failure. Every person in the military can take actions, or fail to take actions, that result in environmental damage. It therefore, is necessary to make all military personnel aware of their environmental responsibilities.”

The Perception

            Most of the Department of National Defense’ thrusts have since been prioritized in accomplishing its traditional activities. The Filipino people has been accustomed to the “usual” things the DND is obligated to do and expected of doing. These, apart from its other responsibilities through the agencies and bureaus under it, the DND is simply tasks to provide the necessary policies that will deal with the protection of the country and its citizenry from aggression both of external and internal in nature, this being the principal role of the AFP. The construed diversity in the DND’s character is the peculiarity of the mandate of its subordinate units outside the ambit of defense. One is the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD), which embodies primarily the responsibilities of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) and its regional extension offices that deals with all types of disasters and calamities before, during and after its devastation. These obligations, aside from disaster response and humanitarian assistance, extend further to search and rescue, lifesaving efforts, relief and rehabilitation, social development, infrastructure, relative trainings and the likes. Looking at this involvement it seems that we have overburdened or over loaded the Bureau of so much work at so little capability, in fact the AFP’s manpower and equipment, is the one tapped to do most of the requirement for OCD’s operation in the field. Another is the Government Arsenal (GA), which manufactures and store small arms ammunition for the AFP. The National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), which is the training institution for higher studies in Defense Administration, and the Philippine Veterans Administration Office (PVAO), which handles all matters concerning veterans’ affairs to include their health and welfare. Also, in succeeding dispensation of different SNDs, the traditional thrusts of the DND was further enhanced to include resource mobilization, capability building and information communication technology.

This only shows that the DND effectively ventures to other responsibilities outside its priority mandate of defense, for the logical inference that any of these concerns, will in one way or the other affects the entirety of its mission. But an addition to these, that of the environment, may not necessarily out focus our priorities. Especially being unmindful of such area of concern may cause more damage than we could imagine. In as much as the wanton disregard of the environment could create obstacles in some if not all of the Department’s thrust, there is that need therefore to be perceptive to its consequences, specially the long term impairment to the organization and the health of the people from within and out who may be affected by the ill effects it may bring. As such we are confronted with so many questions that need to be resolved:

                Do we need to accept our responsibility to the environment and its subsidiaries? Do we simply relegate these matters to the sideline? with the idea that we don’t need to overlapped or usurped the obligation that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is accountable for? Do we really have to go through the burden of being aware of our environmental tasks? Are we not supposed to nurture and preserve the assets and/or resources we have been left with? Do we really need to have a part in environmental management?

                The Environmental Defense Program (ENDP) was conceptualize in 1999 because there is a need for the organization to police its environment; to examine, assess and rectify the attitude of its personnel and units in waste management; and to enhance the benefits of the natural resources we have at our disposal. We have so vast an area of military reservation that the DENR could no longer dipped their fingers into, considering the fact that the mere responsibility of the preservation, conservation and protection of these real estates and all resources within, lies upon the purview of the defense department, its bureaus and most especially the military who “owns” most of these land holdings.

Direction and Involvement

                Prior to the formulation of the Civil Military Operations (CMO) in 1985, the military have been involved in so many government-initiated programs focusing on the objective of establishing harmonious and substantive civil relations activities. In effect, the organization became concerned with so many requirements that reach out to the populace in terms of development, peaceful existence and improved way of life. We came up with so many projects that benefited most if not all, of the less privileged Filipino. Livelihood and cooperatives were the centerpieces of the thrust, but equally important were health and sanitation, education, infrastructure development and the preservation/ protection of the environment. As the significance of the awareness to our environmental commitment being incorporated in the mission of the AFP, it has certainly been emphasized in all its campaign plans. One example, as a distinct component in the Letter of Instruction (LOI) 42 in 1994 also known as Campaign Plan “Unlad Bayan”, which calls for the DND-AFP’s commitment in Nation building, environment was given equal if not more emphasis with the other priority areas of concern. This was in greater part reiterated and place in high gear starting with the establishment of the AFP National Development Support Command (NADESCOM) from 2007 to 2012 and in the advent of the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP)-Bayanihan in January of 2011 to 2016. But even then, forest and other natural resources protection activities has been part and parcel of the organization even before the CMO and Campaign Plans came into being. The 60s to the 80s have seen so much tree planting activities that metamorphous into bigger projects in the 90s, like the mini or micro forest activity of the Army to the Green Panay and Adopt a Barangay projects, to Adopt a Mountain of the Air Force and the Adopt a Bay of the Navy.

Desired Output

                The institutionalization of the concept for an environmental advocacy in the organization is deemed required. We always would expect that activities done in the pursuit of propagating an honest to goodness program needs the cooperation of all sectors in society. Without prejudice to other specific joint projects and activities that may be carried out by and between the DND/AFP with other government agencies and NGOs who may be involved in environmental protection and preservation, there are particular activities that need to be undertaken. They, as the stakeholders shall specifically identify and adopt projects in areas, which military personnel and those that are affiliated to them can very well perform the tasks required. Together with representatives/specialists from the other government agencies and the members and/or communities of the NGOs concerned, these stakeholders may venture into activities deemed doable, relevant and cost effective. This would eventually evolve in the following prospective:

  • Scientific researches can be conducted in areas of interest, which could greatly help the AFP to effectively maximize its effort and resources in terms of land, water and resource use, biodiversity classification and inventory, and sustainable development practices prevalent. This could likewise stretch out to the military reservation’s intermediate ecosystems for a broader influence.

  • To be able to comply with the Environmental Clearance Certificates (ECCs) from the DENR, camp facilities, structures and procurement procedures must be in accordance with proper ecological waste management and other relative environment-friendly practices. Considering that the operational requirements of the organization could not do away with the use, storage, treatment and disposal of non-biodegradable or environmentally sensitive supplies and materials, like petroleum, oil and lubricants, chemicals used in or by products from manufacture, cleaning and testing of individual equipment.

  • In consideration for the adoption of environment-friendly measures in the use of the DND-AFP transportation and communication assets, the harnessing of renewable energy resources from the wind, water current and the sun’s heat for utilization by units in the field are also given priority. This would entail reduction of cost benefits in the long term.

  • The rehabilitation, reforestation and sustaining environmental activities in military camps, reservations and other priority areas for protection like mangroves, reefs and marine ecosystems becomes an immediate concern of the organization. Other than the utilization of internal resources, the DND-AFP has to be resourceful in order to support the requirements of this undertaking. 

  • It was envisioned that a mechanism be put in place to have the capability to immediately address, mitigate and/or prevent injuries and deaths resulting from “environmental disasters” like toxic and hazardous waste, forest fires, oil spills and mining-related accidents. In coordination with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) an Environmental Disaster Quick Response Team (EDQRT) could be establish within the ambit of the former’s function and responsibilities.

  • Another prospect is for the involvement of the academe (the NDCP, CGSC and Training Commands) and incorporation of environmental matters in the defense-military courses curriculum not necessarily on research but more so on the advocacy and promotion of environmental protection and sustainable development among the officers and personnel of the DND-AFP, as well as among reservists, veterans and their dependents.

  • The last would be the projected mobilization of a “Green Army”.  This will be deployed in area commands specifically intended for environmental protection, particularly among others the enforcement of anti-illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal quarrying and in support of other environmental defense related operations. This will be done in coordination with the DILG-PNP and the DENR.

 The Proposed ENDP Organization

         The ENDP, which was launched on 28 June 1999, is led by a Program Manager who is responsible in orchestrating all environmental activities of the program and initiate the formulation of policies and training relative to the implementation of environmental activities and organizational set-up and objectives.

A Management Staff composed of the following will ably assists the program manager: Program Officer for Internal Affairs who supervises or monitor DND/AFP environment related activities, operations, units, etc. He does liaison work (networking, coordination), assist in the development, implementation and monitoring of programs and training of DND/AFP personnel on environmental awareness and management. He also accomplishes reports and researches. Another is the Program Officer for External Affairs who is responsible for liaison work and coordination with NGOs, LGUs, other government agencies, the private sector, academe, media, international agencies, etc.; assist in the development, implementation and monitoring of programs with these outside entities. He does the publicity; policy advocacy and info drive for the ENDP. He also accomplishes reports and researches. Assistants are detailed for both program officers.

The Administrative support Staff composing of the Administration, Finance, Logistics and Operation are responsible for the general administrative services, distribution, publication, follow-up of correspondence, management of office files, financial reports and other requirements, procurement of office supplies and maintenance of networking and communication. They also give assistance on report writing, training, workshop and other activities. They also do liaison work in coordination with the Internal and External Affairs.

And one in charge for communication is the Hotline Operator who is responsible for the management and operation, manning, documentation and facilitation of inquiries, requests, complaints and emergency. He is the immediate link to the ED-QRT. He is also the link for coordination between and for the Internal and External Affairs.

The structure may not have been established absolutely as it is envisioned since the inception of the program, but with the existing complementary of its principal functions, the ENDP has successfully in its modest form, been accomplishing given tasks and requirements.

Initial Effort / Initial Gains

            The Environmental Defense Program (ENDP) under the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs of the DND, have undertaken numerous activities in selected military camps and pilot areas and have accomplished activities entirely for the environment, in coordination with all offices and bureaus of the DND, other agencies of government and cause oriented groups nationwide.  The program has accomplished the following activities:

  • Coordinating conferences and liaisons with government agencies, LGUs, NGOs, private organizations and foreign groups involved in environmental activities. In matters concerning, waste management, renewable and reusable energies, alternative and control measures for pollution mitigation and the protection, preservation, management and utilization of the natural resources in military installations and reservations.
  • Signing of the MOU between the DND and 21 Environmental NGOs, 28 June 1999.
  • Smoke Emission Test, conducted by the Environment Management Bureau (EMB) of the DENR to some military vehicles on 12 July 1999 which signals the AFP wide effort for the same test to be conducted in identifying problem areas as directed by the higher Headquarters annually.
  • Disaster Assistance Reaction Team (DART) Trainings, starting October 1999.
  • Environmental Tour and Information, where the Admin Officers and Utility personnel of DND went on an Educational Field Trip on 08 September 1999 and was given lectures on small scale livelihood projects and herbal usefulness at the Ecofarm managed by the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio.
  • Inter-Agency workshop on Sustainable Strategic Partnership in the KIG (Spratleys), conducted at Pag-asa Island, 14 April 2000.
  • Participation in the Earth Day celebration, 20-25 April 2000 and every year thereafter.
  • Series of Ecological Waste Management Program Seminar and Workshop held at the DND Training Center and in PMA Fort del Pilar, Baguio City.
  • Series of SND’s visit to and meetings with NGOs and LGUs in anti-logging campaign.
  • Consultation on the then projected Naval Station in Ulugan Bay in Palawan.
  • Coordinated and facilitated the video documentation and inspection of the Malampaya Gas Project in Palawan.
  • Renewable/Reusable Energy project on the utilization of wind and heat sources as proposed for in Palawan.
  • Environmental Audit on Environmental and Natural Resources and Chemical, Toxic and Hazardous Waste, 01 June to 01 September 2000 and repeated after the next 3 years.
  • Environmental Management Seminar at the Development Academy of the Philippines 27-29 September 2000.
  • Hazardous Waste Management Seminar/Workshop with the US DoD, 11-12 October 2000 and the RP-US inter-agency conference on 13-15 December 2000.
  • Signing of the Terms of Reference (TOR), US-RP Cooperation on Defense Related Environmental Matters, on 14 December 2000.
  • Training on Landscape and Seascape Assessment Planning, UP Los Banos, 08-09 February 2001.
  • Consultations and inspections with other government agencies for the preservation and security of the marine sanctuary at Tubataha Reef, and as part of the composition of a TWG for the Turtle Islands Heritage Protected area with Malaysia.
  • Planned with the DENR, Bantay Kalikasan and Haribon Foundation environmental activities, training and curriculum module in the ROTC and representative camps of the AFP.
  • Assist the implementation by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment and International Policy for a series of seminar workshops under the RP-US DND-DoD TOR on Environmental Cooperation and in partnership with DENR-USEPA-USAID environmental activities, translated to five (5) training-workshops since September of 2001 up to 2005.
  • ENDP lectures with the Executive Course on National Security at the NDCP and other military educational institutions and continuing advocacy briefing with NGAs, NGOs and Task Forces.

           The DND also has an existing Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the DENR and DILG, which deals with respective contributions as indicated by their inherent capability in the pursuit of a joint single objective of preserving and protecting the environment in its entirety.

           The ENDP is also a part of inter-agency groups involved in environmental advocacy and initiatives. The Presidential Commission for the Integrated Conservation and Development of the Sulu and Celebes Seas (PCICDSCS) since 1999 and the Philippine Task Force on Hazardous Waste (PTFHW) since the year 2000.

The Need for the Organization’s Awareness

With the initial accomplishments of the DND initiated environmental efforts, it is but logical that its Bureaus will have the impetus to follow suit. It is very important for us that it is not just simply to involve the entire organization in general but more so to the lowest ranking member of the echelon, to finally realize that we could achieve more if everybody basically knows what to do. Personnel at all levels of operations should understand the following set of initial guidelines to appreciate more the significance of the effort.

  • Integrate environmental concerns with operational, financial, safety, health, economic development and other relevant concerns in policy and decision-making processes of the Department.
  • Improve the level of awareness throughout the DND of the environmental and health benefits and risks of operational decisions and activities. To encourage and recognize the actions of personnel who have in one way or the other been involve and prudently engaged themselves in environmental concerns.
  • Apply environmentally responsible management practices to hazardous substances used in operations, including biological products, specifically with regard to the acquisition, handling, storage, and safety in use, transportation and disposal of such substances. Emphasis for domestic waste disposal system and management is also essential.
  • Ensure that the environmental considerations are integrated into procurement policies, practices and exercises. Incorporated and further enhanced in trainings and courses offered in the organization.
  • Seek cost-effective ways of reducing the consumption of raw materials, toxic substances, energy, water and other resources and of reducing the generation of waste and noise associated with day-to-day operations through the utilization of alternative energy sources.
  • Acquire, manage and dispose of lands and resources in a manner that is environmentally sound, including the protection of ecologically significant areas within its control and responsibility. In as much as military arsenal, equipment and “war” materiel may create considerable “damage” to the environment.
  • Enhancement of watershed and forest cover within military camps and reservations through the proper processes in tree planting and maintenance of nurseries.

In coming up with an environmental program, the DND and its Bureaus and Offices is committing the human and material resources, among others, in confronting natural and man-made threats to our environment and natural resources.

Conclusion

                The diversity of the opportunities for the program are countless and so promising that it would be a waste to simply allow them to slip away. Results may not be as tangible as we would want it to be, but the mere fact that effort, commitment and determination are invested in pursuing the fulfillment of the program became parts of the foundation that keeps it going. We can be rest assured then that at the end of the crusade, we would be able to leave behind a lasting legacy for other generations to benefit from.

With the help of the DENR, the DOJ and local government units, it is our commitment that the DND can also become an important pillar in the enforcement of environmental laws. Through the ENDP, we hope to make environment activists out of our soldiers. They can become both examples and advocates in the communities they are assigned and a model to young generations who need to have somebody worthy to look up to and emulate. As a step toward transforming the Filipino soldier into the Sundalo para sa Kalikasan, a review of the AFP’s TOE and promotions system is of immediate consideration so that a soldier’s work in environment protection will be recognized and form part of his substantial service to his country and people. In further considering that his effort will deserve a medal, if not worthy of a “rise in rank”.

It is our ardent hope that the noble beginnings of this environmental program, the effort and commitment put into it will not be laid to waste.

References:

  • A Proposal for an Environmental Defense Program, Hon. Ruben C. Carranza, Assistant Secretary for Plans and Programs, DND, 1999
  • Code of Environmental Stewardship of the Canadian Forces and their Department of National Defense (poster), 1994
  • DENR AO No. 29, IRR of RA 6969, Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990, DENR Environmental Management Bureau, 2000
  • Environmental Guidelines for the Military Sector, A Joint Sweden & United States Project Sponsored by the NATO Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society, June 1996
  • MOA among the DND, DENR and DILG, 1998
  • MOA with “Linis Ganda”, 1999
  • MOU with the NGOs, 1999
  • Notes/Information Kit from the 1996 Asia-Pacific Defense Environmental Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii, 9-13 September 1996
  • Our Role in the Defense of the Environment, Secretary Orlando S. Mercado, DND, Keynote address at the launching of the ENDP and signing of DND-NGOs MOU, 28 June 1999, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City,
  • Student’s Manual on the New Constitution 1996 Revised Edition, Jose N. Nolledo LLB., LLM. Caloocan City, 1999.
  • Terms of Reference, RP DND - US DoD Cooperation on Defense-Related Environmental Matters, Camp Gen Emilio Aguinaldo, QC, Philippines 14 December 2000
  • The Commander’s Guide on Environmental Protection, Canada, J.L. Adams, Assistant Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Environment, 1994
  • Republished from similar article written by the author in 2004 with updated inputs.

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