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Green is good

Article - June 4, 2012
The Aquino administration is gung-ho for green, with ambitious plans to plant seedlings and trees as a multi-pronged solution
Sustainable development is becoming an increasingly integral part of every day operations at government level, especially at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the body overseeing a project to increase forestland.

“We are moving toward greening the economy. While we allow extractive industries like mining, the President has also approved a very big national programme called the National Greening Programme (NGP) that aims to plant 1.5 million hectares in six years,” says Ramon J P Paje, Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources.

To put things into perspective, 1.5 million hectares is 300,000 hectares more than those planted between 1960 and 2010. “What was achieved in 50 years will be surpassed by this government in the remaining five years,” says Mr Paje.

The NGP is not only a climate change mitigation programme; it is also a tool to reduce poverty and to produce more food. “This would basically address the issue of poverty particularly in the uplands and also food security issue in the rural areas,” explains the Secretary.

More than half of the Philippines’ landmass is considered forestland, yet forests cover just 8 million of these 15.8 million hectares. The remainder is open, denuded or degraded.

 “If we could just tap this land and make it earn to the tune of maybe 100,000 pesos per hectare per year, multiplied by 8 million hectares, that amounts to around 800 billion pesos yearly. That is what we are losing as we speak, simply because we are not able to earn from this land,” laments Mr Paje.

“If we can make our natural capital – the land – earn for us it would be even better than financial investments.”

As of the end of 2011, more than 93 million seedlings were planted covering 128,700 hectares. This is fantastic progress, given that the goal for 2011 was 50 million seedlings in 100,000 hectares. While the seedlings come from native forest tree species as well as fruit-bearing tree species, DENR is also promoting the use of organic bio-fertilisers that will help protect the environment and increase yield, too.

So far, nearly 700,000 people – from both the private and public sectors – have been involved in planting, and 12 state universities and colleges (SUCs) have been selected to help in raising quality tree seedlings in what they call clonal nurseries. DENR has identified a further 17 SUCs that will begin raising seedlings on campus.

Reforesting the Philippines is a huge task, yet it is not the only one the DENR is undertaking to improve the country’s natural areas. The typhoon that hit Cagayan de Oro late last year highlighted the devastating effects of illegal logging, and consequently, President Aquino is cracking down harder than any other administration on this activity.

“This is the only government that I can remember that has the political will to declare a total logging ban in the natural forest nationwide. The past governments also attempted to declare it but have never succeeded. Now the President has done it and it’s fully implemented all over the country. It’s now prohibited to cut timber in natural forests nationwide,” says Mr Paje.