By Elizabeth Marcelo, May 31, 2021; The Philippine Star

Manila, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered into a five-year partnership agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for P2 billion worth of projects which aim to improve the country’s biodiversity conservation and access to clean water.

In a virtual ceremony held last Thursday, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with USAID for the Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) and the Safe Water projects.

“Given the current pandemic, the DENR is committed more than ever to address the country’s environmental challenges. We can easily attain this goal if we have partners like USAID,” Cimatu said, adding that USAID has been the Philippine government’s “time-tested partner for the environment.”

SIBOL is a P1.1-billion project that aims to improve the governance of natural resources, stimulate public and private sector investments in conservation and reduce environmental crimes.

Safe Water, meanwhile, is an P870-million project that intends to increase access to stable water supply and sanitation services, as well as to promote sustainable management of water resources and strengthen the governance and regulation of the water sector.

Under the agreement, the DENR, through its Biodiversity Management Bureau, Forest Management Bureau and field offices nationwide, shall implement the projects for the next five years in cooperation with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Water Resources Board. The USAID, meanwhile, shall provide the technical assistance.

The SIBOL and Safe Water initiatives are among the projects under the P7.25 billion USAID-Philippines agreement on enhanced ecosystems and community resilience signed by the NEDA and USAID last February.

“Together, through these projects, we will advance our shared goals of environmental sustainability and improve the lives of Filipino communities,” Cimatu said.

USAID acting mission director Sean Callahan lauded the “long history of partnership between the DENR and USAID,” saying they “have achieved much in creating a more secure environment that sustains both ecological integrity and human development.