The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its private sector partners PLDT Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. launched its three-year peatlands conservation program on Friday.

DENR and PLDT-Smart signed a memorandum of agreement in July to conserve and restore the Caimpugan peatland in the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS).

The three-year extendable project will be implemented by PLDT and Smart’s sustainability office until 2023 to support DENR’s peatland conservation offices.

DENR in July said that PLDT and Smart will apply technologies for monitoring peatlands and develop a communication program for public awareness.

Environment Assistant Secretary Ricardo L. Calderon said at the Friday event that the department is doing a national inventory because other peatland areas in the country have not yet been discovered.

He said there are two known peatlands in the Philippines so far, including the Leyte Sab-a Basin peatland in Alangalang and Sta. Fe in Leyte and the AMWS in Agusan del Sur.

“The 5,000 hectare Caimpugan peatland holds the record of being the only remaining intact peat swamp forest in the country that stores an estimated 22.9 million tons of carbon dioxide. If we value that resource at $7 per ton, it’s around $160 million,” he said.

“Communication, education, and public awareness should be the vital component of this undertaking.”

Peatlands are wetlands that have naturally accumulated carbon-rich decaying plant matter. They cover only three percent of the Earth’s land surface.

“We wish to assure our partners that PLDT stands here to support a cleaner and brighter future for all of us,” PLDT, Inc. Chairman and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan said.

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