MANILA, Philippines—It’s Earth Day on Monday, when the world focuses on the state of the global environment and what should be done about it.
In the Philippines, the observation will be led not by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje but by one of his undersecretaries, Demetrio Ignacio Jr., who will deliver the State of the Philippine Environment Address at the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
That is because Paje has been on leave since Holy Week. In his stead, he appointed Ignacio officer in charge of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Paje is in the United States to attend two international conferences in Washington D.C.—the World Bank’s ministerial meeting on Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) and the World Ocean Summit.
In a text message to the Inquirer, he said he had asked for a short vacation to prepare for the two events.
This year, Earth Day will focus on “ecogovernance,” according to Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP).
“This year is specially important because it is the middle of President Aquino’s term where environmental issues have become front and center from our progress in the Environmental Performance Index and the total log ban issued at the beginning of his term to the recent concerns on the Tubbataha Reefs and the mining-related incidents,” EDNP said in a news release.
The group said the Earth Day celebration at Quezon Memorial Circle will feature, among other things, an interfaith morning prayer, a solidarity march, Ignacio’s address and a response from civil society.
Former Environment Secretary Elisea Gozun, an adviser of Mr. Aquino’s on environmental affairs, will also deliver a message.
A memorandum of agreement on the National Greening Program is to be signed by the DENR and EDNP at the event.
In a statement from the US, Paje said climate change remained one of the most pressing environmental issues facing the nation and the world on Earth Day.
“The Philippines is among the countries in the world most vulnerable to this global phenomenon given the horrifying experience we had with recent devastating storms,” he said.
Citing the 2013 Global Climate Risk Index, Paje said the Philippines ranked fourth among more than 190 countries that had suffered the most extreme weather events such as flooding and storms in the past 20 years.