Collegial discussions among experts and practitioners that have been ongoing since 2005 affirmed the need to advocate and implement the rainforestation technology in the Philippines to bring back wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and ecosystem functions.
Thus, it was during the National Consultation of Rainforest Restoration in 2005 that participants exchanged views to address the need for forest restoration and its attendant issues. This led to the formation of the Rainforest Restoration Initiative (RFRI), a network of professionals and advocates that aims to bring back our rainforests by planting indigenous species of trees.
RFRI then launched the Rainforestation Organizations and Advocates or the “ROAD to 2020” as a positive response to the devastation brought by the loss of our forests. ROAD to 2020 is an environmental conservation movement to restore a million hectares of our rainforests using native tree species by year 2020. From Haribon Foundation’s “A Million Signature Campaign” against commercial logging and mining in natural forests, the renewed campaign is now moving towards the restoration of at least a million hectares of rainforests by 2020.
It aims to implement the rainforestation technology or the planting of indigenous tree species in order to recover and conserve biodiversity, optimize our supply of forest benefits and ecosystem services, reduce the risk of natural hazards, and enhance options for sustainable livelihood.
Currently working with different groups throughout the country, the program is moving toward restoring the rainforests. Partners composed of local government units, academic institutions, government agencies, non-government organizations, people’s organizations, and individuals committed to rainforestation are giving their share in ensuring that ecological benefits from forests will be enjoyed by both the present and future generations.
To support activities for the movement, Haribon Foundation launched an adopt-a-seedling component, which is a donation-based tree-planting program that supplements the incomes of the partner forest-dependent communities.
Protected areas (PAs) are currently being prioritized because legal advantages are present to ensure perpetual commitment to nurture and protect the planted trees. PAs refer to identified portions of land and water set aside by government for their unique physical and biological significance, and managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation.
Two sites included in the program are in the Calabarzon area. These are the 8.42 and 22.41-hectare restoration sites in the municipalities of Liliw and Rizal, Laguna. Tree planting activities in Liliw have started as early as December 2013, while planting in Rizal started last August of this year.
These sites are within the 100-hectare restoration site in the Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape (MBSCPL) granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its MBSCPL’s Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and through a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Haribon Foundation.
The whole Mts. Banahaw-San Cristobal Protected Landscape has a total land area of over 10,900 hectares and is being managed through the Republic Act 9847 by its Protected Area Management Board (PAMB), an act and a decision making body on the protected area that was created pursuant to Republic Act 7586, also known as National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.
Protected landscapes or seascapes are areas of national significance, which are characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and land while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activity of these areas.
Mt. Banahaw has an elevation of 2,177 meters (m). The twin peaks of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal straddle the border between the provinces of Laguna and Quezon. The most extensive stands of closed canopy forest in Laguna Province are on Mt. Banahaw. The forest types include lowland dipterocarp forest on the lower slopes and montane forest above the 900m, including mossy forest around the peak.
The current restoration efforts in Liliw gradually improve the ecological conditions of both the Strict Protection Zone (SPZ) and the Multiple Use Zone (MUZ) of the MBSCPL. These zones are being planted with indigenous trees. Hedge or peripheral planting of trees are being made around the existing farms which are being cultivated by the community or by the members of the partner Peoples’ Organization (PO).
In some areas, where existing farm lots are already abandoned, areas being planted include the whole open area. Planting of indigenous trees in MUZ is intended to bring back not only the biodiversity in the area, but also the soil nutrients, which are continuously being consumed in the mass production of agricultural crops in the area. Planting indigenous trees would help increase the soil quality and stability in the sites.
Impacts of restoration would take several years before these can be obviously observed. However, the contributing environmental effects of a planted site to the whole ecological processes of a particular area, such as the MBSCPL, are vital to its over-all condition. Within one to four years, the effect may not be that heavy and obvious, but for the next 10 or more years, increased ecological functions and benefits will follow.
These are important reasons for restoration efforts that should be done in the earliest possible time, and should be taken seriously—despite its effects being gradual, we are ensured of a priceless life support system through a healthy and preserved environment.