PALO, Leyte: Clearing of damaged coconut trees is now moving to the interior areas of Leyte and Samar with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) targeting to haul seven million trees out of farms by the end of this year.
PCA regional manager Joel Pilapil said that following the 90-day focused intervention designed to clear farms within the 200-kilometer distance from the highway, the project is now moving upland.
“The debris clearing initiative aims to address two issues—to process damaged coconut trees to lumber to support shelter projects and minimize the infestation of a beetle that attacks farms with rotten coconut trees,” Pilapil said.
As of end of June, 1.16 million trees have been processed into lumber through government-led operations. Massive clearing has benefitted 11,245 coconut farmers along Yolanda’s path.
Cleared through the 90-day focused intervention program are 410,486 uprooted or sheared trees in Tacloban City and nearby Leyte towns of Palo, Tanauan, and Tolosa.
The PCA is using 700 of 1,125 chainsaws it procured while the rest are with the local government units and farmer cooperatives.
“The government is trying to find the fastest way to clear coconut farms by simply acquiring more chainsaws,” Pilapil said.
Six million trees are eyed for clearing in six months under PCA’s partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
In a report, the UNDP said that 2,500 loggers have been trained to process logs with 60,000 people to be hired to “haul sawn trees out of forest.”
“Twelve trees are equal to one home. This is a tremendous undertaking that starts with disaster and ends with houses and jobs for Haiyan’s most vulnerable people,” said UNDP country manager Maurice Dewulf in a statement.
The UNDP and Makati Rescue Team led the training of 2,500 chainsaw operators to ensure safety in clearing activities. Training included first aid techniques like carrying injured people, stabilize neck injuries, wrapping wounds, along with other knowledge, such as chainsaw maintenance.
The PCA said 33.82 million coconut trees in Eastern Visayas were affected by the storm last year. Of the total, 15.04 million were categorized as totally damaged, 9.06 million severely damaged, 4.98 million, slightly damaged, and 4.84 million moderately damaged.
Early phases of clearing activities are only confined in accessible coconut lands with grounds most suitable alternative to farming activities.
“The focus before were areas close to the national road, to encourage people to move on by planting alternative crops. This is also a showcase of intercropping project for typhoon-affected areas,” Pilapil added.