The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has adopted geo-tagging technology in the implementation of the government’s flagship reforestation program.
Environment and Natural Resources secretary Ramon Paje said the department has begun using the geo-tagging system to monitor the progress of the National Greening Program (NGP), which aims to cover 1.5 million hectares of land with trees from 2011 to 2016.
He said incorporating geo-tagging into the NGP would “ensure the integrity and correctness of the accomplishment being reported, particularly on the survival aspect of the program.”
With the high level of transparency and accountability in NGP’s implementation, the authenticity and accuracy of field accomplishment reports should be assured, he said.
Geo-tagging is the process of attaching coordinates and other location-specific information to pictures and videos, usually with a handheld device such as a camera or mobile phone that is enables with global positioning system or GPS.
The DENR has invested significant resources to purchase geo-tagging equipment and it has trained more than 300 forestry personnel on the use of the technology that utilizes GPS and web-based mapping to allow real-time monitoring of NGP locations, especially on getting accurate count of trees planted and their conditions.
Paje said that accurate maps of planted areas and their accessibility were two major elements that were missing in past government reforestation programs.
“Even in far-flung areas, where the NGP employs peoples’ organizations to do tree planting as part of the livelihood aspect, the technology gives us the capability to accurately and easily locate, validate, monitor and manage projects in remote and conflict-affected areas,” Paje said .
Geo-tagging will also help in monitoring seedling growth and mortalities for replacement with new seedlings in NGP sites.
He said that with the technology, NGP accomplishments can now be easily tracked not only by the DENR management but also by the public who can access the program’s geo-tagging monitoring system through the agency’s website (http://ngp.denr.gov.ph).
“All reports are sworn to before a notary public before these are submitted to the DENR central office, making the concerned regional officials accountable for the accuracy of their reports,” Paje said.
The NGP is a massive forest rehabilitation program of the present administration established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued in February 2011 by President Benigno Aquino. It seeks to grow 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide within a period of six years, from 2011 to 2016.
From 2011 to 2013, some 683,069 hectares of the NGP sites, or 46 per cent of the 1.5- million hectare target, have been planted, with more than 1.2 million jobs generated.
Besides being a reforestation initiative, the NGP is also seen as a climate-change mitigation strategy as it seeks to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide, which is largely blamed for global warming.
The program is also designed to reduce poverty, providing alternative livelihood activities for marginalized upland and lowland households relating to seedling production and care and maintenance of newly planted trees. The NGP also seeks to promote biodiversity conservation through the rehabilitation of the country’s forests, which serves as natural habitat for various species of plants and animals.