Environment and Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje said reforestation under the 2011-2016 National Greening Program (NGP) has surpassed the one million-hectare mark and is 11.6 percent above target.
Paje said latest available data show government and its NGP partners reforested a total 1.005 million hectares of denuded and degraded land nationwide in 2014.
Such accomplishment surpassed NGP’s 2011-2014 reforestation target of 900,000 hectares, he added.
The feat also brought government and its partners closer to meeting NGP’s ultimate goal of reforesting, by 2016, a total of 1.5 million hectares of land in the country using around 1.5 billion seedlings of exotic and indigenous tree species.
NGP accomplishment by the end of 2014 also exceeded the 863,000 hectares of land which Paje earlier said government reforested in 25 years from 1985 to 2010.
This week, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and its Biodiversity Management Bureau helped spearhead in Metro Manila the International Conference on Conservation Financing in Southeast Asia.
Paje considers the conference timely.
“The conference comes at a time when NGP, the biggest reforestation campaign in Philippine history, is reaching its homestretch,” he told local and foreign delegates at the event.
He said government decided implementing NGP to help mitigate climate change, alleviate poverty, reinvigorate watersheds and conserve biodiversity.
Such impacts of NGP would be felt for generations, he said.
Aside from NGP, Paje said government also decided implementing since 2011 a logging ban to help conserve and protect forests nationwide.
Forests must be conserved and protected as these provided various eco-services vital to survival, he said.
Of the Philippines’ total forestland, Paje earlier said only about 6.84 million hectares remained forested in 2010.
He noted the rest of forestland, covering some 8.97 million hectares then, was already open, denuded and degraded.
Among the country’s key deforestation and environmental degradation drivers that authorities identified are unsustainable forest product extraction as well as agricultural and infrastructure expansion.
Paje acknowledged forest conservation and protection entails cost.
He said such action for forests yielded long-term benefits, however.
“When we rebuild or protect forests, we achieve more than the conservation of habitats for biodiversity,” he said.
He added forest conservation and protection “ensure productivity of watersheds, mitigate soil erosion and sequester from the atmosphere large amounts of carbon dioxide that would otherwise aggravate climate change and could cause widespread destruction.”