SESAM Pays Courtesy Visit to Los Baños LGU: Exploring Collaboration on Environmental Research and Capacity Building

The School of Environmental Science and Management-University of the Philippines Los Baños(SESAM-UPLB), headed by the Dean, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, made a courtesy visit to the Office of the Municipal Mayor of Los Baños on 09 November 2021 to explore potential collaborative engagements. 

Dr. Ancog, together with fellow Professors from SESAM- Dr. Jessica Villanueva-Peyraube and Dr. Patricia Ann Jaranilla-Sanchez, discussed with the Honorable Mayor Antonio L. Kalaw, Municipal Administrator Atty. Katrina Bacani, and MENRO Focal Person Lizette Cardenas some potential cooperative efforts between the School and the local government. These are particularly in research, capacity building, and technical assistance related to strengthening the environmental programs of the LGU, such as ecological solid waste management, air and waterquality control, and natural resources development.

Assistance in the institutionalization of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) and in the preparation of the Enhanced Local Climate Change Action Plan was among the identified undertakings that the School can engage with the Local Government of Los Baños. 

Institutionalization of MENRO is part of the devolution program for the proper management of the environment and natural resources of municipalities. This will also define the authority, responsibility, and accountability in the implementation of environmental policies. Appointment of MENRO by the Municipal Mayor is stipulated in Chapter II Section 443 of the Republic Act No. 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991); and its Office may be institutionalized with the creation of position through the implementation of an Environment Code (E-Code) enacted by an ordinance.

Among the challenges in the sustainability of environmental programs is the lack of permanent position for a Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer, which is most often appointed by the elected municipal mayor. This concern was also raised in a public hearing during the formulation of the E-Code of the Province of Laguna conducted by SESAM. It was recommended that MENR Office be created to support environmental programs and to ensure its sustainability.

In previous years, SESAM was commissioned to formulate the E-Code of the Province of Laguna, Batangas City, and Tanauan City in Batangas. It also provided technical assistance to the local government of General Santos, Palawan, and Zamboanga in the preparation of their respective E-Code. In Batangas City, the adoption of E-Code paved way for the institutionalization of the Batangas City Environment and Natural Resources Office.

An Enhanced Local Climate Change Action Plan (LCCAP) is required from LGUs by virtue of RA No. 9729 (Climate Change Act of 2009) in pursuit of science-based and inclusive climate action and environmental protection, and assured resilience of communities to climate change.The LGUs, however, have limited technical capacity in the preparation of such plans.

SESAM, through its Research and Development Division currently headed by Dr. Jessica Villanueva-Peyraube and its Continuing Education and Training Division currently headed by For. Sofia A. Alaira, is an active agent in providing trainings and short courses to capacitate and assist the LGUs (and other stakeholders) pertinent to their compliance with the preparation of development plans. Dr. Ancog, also a member of the E-LCCAP Technical Working Group in the Province of Laguna, looks forward to the successful formulation and implementation of the ELCCAP in the municipality of Los Baños.

With the banner, SESAM SAILS (Sustainability and Accelerated Innovation in Learning and Solutions), under the administration of the new Dean, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, SESAM aims to implement sustainable actions that could contribute to national development. The School recognizes that this could be achieved through strong collaborations with the government through effective local environmental actions. (Cherry S. Padilla and Sofia A. Alaira)