A massive reforestation program implemented in just five years under President Benigno Aquino III has surpassed the combined accomplishments of the previous administrations from 1960 to 2010.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje reported this on Wednesday during the Senate Finance Committee’s deliberations on the DENR’s proposed PhP 22.843-billion budget for 2016.
Paje informed the panel chaired by environmentalist Senator Loren Legarda that from 2010 to the first quarter of 2015, the Aquino administration has reforested 1.6- million of the 8.97-million-hectare denuded area of the country.
”It means that we’re able to surpass the 1.232 million- hectare that the government reforested from 1960 to 2010,” Paje said.
The DENR chief attributed the successful reforestation program to the National Greening Program (NGP) which President Aquino approved through the Executive Order No. 26 he signed in 2010.
”The reason why it was done, and it can be done, is first the government must have a conscious decision to really focus on rehabilitating forest. The President declared the NGP as a national priority of the government. That was lack in the past administration. We never had a priority,” Paje explained.
Paje further explained that without the NGP, it would take 230 years to reforest the country’s remaining 7.27-million-hectare open and denuded area.
He also said the NGP has generated 2.6 million jobs and benefitted 377,835 individuals.
Paje also attributed the successful reforestation program to careful geo-hazards assessment and mapping that Legarda inserted in the General Appropriation Act (GAA) in the previous years under the Aquino administration.
”That’s why we would like to thank you, Madam Senator, for putting the geo-tagging on the NGP and it can also be done to other programs,” Paje said.
”I made that decision because I want to make every program concerning the environment to succeed,” Legarda said.
Legarda also advised the DENR to focus more its NGP to plant more mangroves in Region 8 which was devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda” in November 2013.
Due to massive reforestation program of the Aquino administration, the Philippines has been chosen as No. 5 in the world, No. 2 in Asia and No. 1 in Southeast Asia in terms of forest gain by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) based on its Global Forest Assessment of 2015.
”In the past three decades, we have 100,000-hectare forest loss per year. With the declared total log ban, we stopped the hemorrhage,” Paje said.
He added that “massive loss of timber in the forest cannot happen anymore because there is no more equipment.”
In his PowerPoint presentation, Paje reported that the DENR has significantly reduced illegal logging hotspots from 197 to 23; confiscated 30,709,507 board feet of illegally cut logs; and filed 1,549 cases against violators that resulted to conviction of 202 persons.
Paje said the confiscated logs have been used to assemble 146,471 armchairs for public schools. PNA