ARMM, DENR ink reforestation pact

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04:56 AM January 10th, 2012

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January 10th, 2012 04:56 AM

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm “Sendong,” the national government and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have agreed to reforest some 2,500 hectares of denuded land in the ARMM, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has announced.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and ARMM OIC Mujiv Hataman on Monday signed an agreement to reforest 2,500 hectares under the National Greening Program. The project, with a budget of just under P50 million, is the first joint undertaking between the national government and the ARMM since Hataman assumed the post of officer in charge last month.

P49.6M assistance package

Paje said the P49.6-million assistance package should help the ARMM carry out a massive tree-planting program in its five provinces—Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“This collaboration sets a critical milestone in ecological governance for the region and bodes well for addressing the social and economic challenges the region undoubtedly faces,” Paje said.

Paje noted that the forests of the ARMM had become a source of timber for illegal loggers. The floods that swamped Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities last month were aggravated by the denuded mountains that could not absorb the rain water anymore.

The floods and landslides wrought by Sendong displaced hundreds of thousands of people in northern Mindanao, a region rarely visited by storms.

Over 1,200 people died and an equal number are missing.

Under the agreement, the ARMM will implement the NGP according to guidelines set by the DENR.

Prioritize planting of trees

The NGP provides that the planting of indigenous trees should be prioritized with the seedlings well-cared for to increase their chances of survival. It also allows DENR personnel to monitor and evaluate the ARMM’s implementation of the NGP, including its financial management and utilization.

“The fuel that powers the ARMM’s economic engine is resource-based and we in the national government will assist our brothers and sisters in the management of the resources of the region,” Paje said.

Aside from financial assistance, the DENR shall also provide the ARMM with technical assistance and ensure the timely release of funds for the project.

Hataman said the upstream areas of the ARMM would be the priority in the region-wide greening program.

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