The national greening program
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources intends to plant 1.5 billion trees covering at least 1.5 million hectares all throughout the country in the next six years beginning this 2011, a target which is quite ambitious given the limited financial resources poured by the national government on forest rehabilitation related measures. Moreover, the DENR has yet to show more concrete and success stories in as much that several foreign assisted reforestation initiatives, like the Asian Development Bank funded contract reforestation project, did not prosper very well. But just the same, let us give benefit of the doubt to this pronouncement contained in recently issued Memorandum Circular 2011-01 by Acting DENR Secretary Ramon Paje. DENR MC 2011-01 is the implementing guideline of the national greening program, which was launched by virtue of Executive Order 26 approved by President Benigno S. Aquino III. The DENR is tasked to lead the program implementation that also seeks to involve other government institutions and non-government organizations in massive greening activities, particularly in highly deforested areas in the different regions of the Philippines. “The guidelines were crafted in such manner as to ensure that all greening activities, whether by the government, local government units or by the private sector, will contribute to the objectives of the program, like poverty reduction, food security, biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation”, Paje disclosed in a press release.
The target of the DENR will cover about 100,000 hectares this year and it will be increased to 250,000 by 2012 until the targeted reforestation of 1.5 million hectares of the national greening program shall be achieved during the term of President Aquino. According to Paje, the reforestation target for this year will include 60,000 hectares within the community-managed forestlands, 20,000 hectares in protected areas, and another 20,000 in ancestral domains. Other areas specified in EO 26, such as civil and military reservations, urban areas identified by local governments, river and stream banks, and abandoned mining sites, shall similarly be placed under the national greening program. In implementing the greening program, not only tree species but also fruit-bearing trees shall be planted in consonance with the government’s thrust for food security. Dipterocarp and other premium and indigenous species shall be used as planting materials. However, exotic species, such as mahogany, gmelina, bagras, acacia and rubber, may also be planted. Although MC 2011-01 did not specifically provides the objective of exotic tree species plantation, is it probably intended for production purposes. Bamboos and mangrove species shall also be tapped as reforestation crops, particularly in river banks and coastal areas, to control soil erosion and as buffer against wave action.
While this recent development seems very encouraging, it is quite puzzling how this shall actually be implemented because the DENR has inadequate financial and human resources to carry out this massive greening program. If the DENR shall allocate a conservative of Php 10,000 for every hectare, it needs some Php 15 billion in the next six years to implement the 1.5 million hectares greening program or roughly Php 2.5 billion a year. This is a very conservative estimate because in the past the DENR has even allocated about Php 15,000 to Php 20,000 for every hectare of a reforestation project. To note that the 2011 budget of DENR is only about Php 9 billion, the greening program target seems a challenging task to implement unless additional funding support shall be provided. As a strategy, the DENR may involve private and non-government sectors to participate in the national greening program and seek funding assistance from international development institutions. However, a meaningful reforestation plan should be crafted carefully with implementation strategies that are appropriate and effective in areas identified for reforestation purposes. Sustainability mechanisms are necessary because many reforestation projects failed, especially so if local communities are not directly involved.
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