THE government has opened a tree seed center within the 123-hectare Cebu Experimental Forest in Minglanilla as part of a goal to sustain reforestation efforts through 2028.
The tree seed center is the first in the Visayas and is similar to an earlier center established in Bislig, Surigao del Sur. The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), established both centers.
“The prospect of reforestation in Visayas region is bright because the tree seed center will not only be for Region 7 (Cebu) but for the whole Visayas,” said ERDB Executive Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado.
The focus of the tree seed center is to cultivate germplasms, a source of breeding material from a wild species or a pre-selected breeding line selected for characteristics suitable for mass cultivation and planting. The TSC in Visayas will serve as the repository for germplasm material to be used in reforestation projects.
“These shall primarily serve as depository banks for seeds from the identified and delineated seed production areas (SPAs),” said ERDB.
The tree seed center will certify the quality of seeds to be distributed to other regions and will test seed samples for government, non-government organizations, and private enterprises and plantations.
The development of seed material registry and certification systems should upgrade seed quality of tree species, ERCB said.
The availability of a variety of tree species will also be enhanced through seed exchange, said Dr. Alicia L. Lustica, who heads the ERDB research center in Cebu.
Oldest forest project
The Cebu Experimental Forest is situated in the Philippines’ first reforestation project, which is now century old. The Osmeña Reforestation Project was established in January 1916.
The area was originally a 2,710-hectare forest reserve known as the Friar Land Estate, and was managed by the Vatican.
ERDB has been conducting research in the Cebu Experimental Forest since June 1986, covering bamboo, rattan, dipterocarps (hardwood and tropical trees), narra, endemic tree species, neem, tiger grass, flowers, and honey production. It is also a site for training local government ENRO (Environment and Natural Resources Office) researchers on cave ecotourism and forest conservation.
Despite being considered a national heritage site and a protected forest reservation area, it is faced with threats of illegal logging.
“Our forest is still threatened by illegal tree cutting and charcoal extraction. Informal settlement, farming, wildlife hunting, sand, gravel and black stone extraction and bamboo harvesting are also threats. We need valuable community partners to fight the threats,” Lustica said.
The top 10 tree species here are teak, gmelina, lumbang, lanutan,narra, antsoan dilau, Genguet pine, banaba, and auri.
The Cebu Experimental Forest is a biodiversity-rich area. It is home to faunal species as Kokok (Philippine coucal), Alimokon (White eared browndove), Tamsi (sunbird), Maya (Munia), Tikling (Moorhen), Pugo (Buttonquail), Manatad (Common Emerald Dove), Toktor (Barber), Punay, Siloy (Cebu black sharma), Ngiwng (Grass owl), Sayaw (Swift), Kikik (Koel), Gitgit (Swallow), Tagmaya (Bulbul), and Uwak (crow).
“The native wildlife community in Cebu Experimental Forest depends on unique plants, caves, rivers, and creeks,” Lustica said.
Two of the seven caves located within the Osmena Reforestation Project are also located in the Cebu Experimental Forest.
The tree seed center is part of the government’s forest nursery modernization program in line with the enhanced National Greening Program (NGP), aiming to produce quality, disease free seeds in sufficient quantities for reforestation projects. It has a laboratory that may be used for testing the germination of seeds.
Through the tree seed center, ERDB will enhance existing government seed bank and laboratory facilities. ERDB will establish orchards and document seed collections in each region. ERDB will improve seed collection, procurement, storage, testing, disposition, and seed exchange and marketing systems, as well as update the forest tree seed calendar.
Based on ERDB records, as of June 2015 Region 7 alone had a seed collection and supply of 1.222 million.
Seed requirements will increase as Executive Order 193 mandated the extension of the NGP up to 2028, which envisions a wood and agroforestry product self sufficiency set at an annual production target of 750,000 hectares of timber, 60,000 hectares of coffee, and 300,000 hectares of fuelwood.
The wood and papers products that would be produced as a result of the extended NGP are estimated to be worth $900 million yearly.
“Seeds collected from the established seed sources—seed production areas and individual plus trees (SPAs and IPTs) —nationwide will be submitted to forest tree seed centers for processing and certification before they will be distributed to different stakeholders,” said ERDB.
IPTs are materials in breeding and are selected and crossed with each other as part of producing superior tree breeds.
Partners that may use the Visayas tree seed center’s seed production are DENR-ERDB’s own provincial, city or municipal environment and natural resources offices (ENRO), state universities and colleges or SUCs, community and people’s groups, and private, industrial tree plantations.
The tree seed center has a seeder area where seeds are sown in containers, and are watered through misting for growth. Germinants are turned into seedlings in the growing area. In the hardening area, sunlight allows for drying of the seedlings for sturdiness.
In addition to the Visayas and Surigao del Sur tree seed centers, ERDB also has a center in Los Baños, Laguna, and is building additional centers in Loakan, Baguio City; Pagbilao, Quezon; and Tagum City, Davao del Norte.