• DENR, Smart team up to protect forests

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    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has teamed up with telecommunications giant Smart Communications Inc. and two other private sector partners to develop a pilot monitoring system designed to curb illegal forest activities and prevent future disasters similar to Typhoon Ondoy in 2009.

    During the memorandum of agreement signing on Monday, the DENR, Smart, the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF) led by businessman Manny Pangilinan and system developer Wide-Out Workforces Inc. also formally launched a mobile application to monitor the activities within the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL) for the next six months.

    Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the mobile app called “SnapPlot” will allow users to harness the latest mobile technologies and “share” what goes on within the UMRBPL, the pilot site for the project.

    The SnapPlot system, developed by Wide-Out, allows its users to take a picture, geo-tag its location and upload the photo to the SnapPlot website where the data is automatically plotted on a map. This will be used as a tool for monitoring, law enforcement and database building.

    “SnapPlot will allow users to share valuable information that can help the DENR to enforce forestry laws more effectively within the watershed, as well as take the necessary actions that can help everyone living in and around the area in times of calamities or disaster,” Paje said.

    Under the agreement, the PDRF will use SnapPlot for its reforestation activities within the UMRBPL and provide logistical support to the project. The DENR will use the same system for its monitoring and enforcement activities.

    Smart will provide mobile phones, refurbished and preloaded with the SnapPlot system to DENR staff and PDRF partners. Wide-Out, for its part, will allow free use of the system, host the SnapPlot website and provide the necessary technical support.

    The project was conceptualized to be initially implemented in the UMRBPL for reforestation activities that could help prevent a repeat of the massive flooding caused by Ondoy, which hit Metro Manila and nearby provinces in September 2009. Since then, the PDRF has undertaken reforestation of a portion of the watershed as its participation in the government’s National Greening Program (NGP).

    Paje said that the DENR and PDRF hope to gain enough data from the project’s field personnel implementing the project within six months.

    “By then, we may also have an idea on how to be more responsive to the needs of the NGP within the UMRBPL, enough to be able to replicate this project in other watersheds within the country,” he said.

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