DENR sets up system to verify LGU’s tree planting claims
MANILA, Philippines—Are local officials correctly and honestly reporting the number of trees planted under the government’s reforestation program?
In order to ensure transparency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has announced it is adopting “geo-tagging” technology for a more accurate tally of trees planted under the National Greening Program (NGP).
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the DENR has begun using the geo-tagging system in monitoring the progress of the NGP, which aims to cover 1.5 million hectares of land with trees by 2016.
Paje said incorporating geo-tagging into the NGP would “ensure the integrity and correctness of the accomplishment being reported, particularly on the survival aspect of the program.”
“Owing to the centrality of transparency and accountability in NGP’s implementation, it is without question that the authenticity and accuracy of accomplishment reports coming from the field should be assured,” Paje said.
Geo-tagging is the process of attaching coordinates and other location-specific information to pictures and videos, usually with a handheld device such as a camera or mobile phone that is equipped with a global positioning system or GPS.
The DENR said it invested substantial resources to purchase geo-tagging equipment and train more than 300 foresters on the use of the technology that utilizes GPS and web-based mapping to allow real-time monitoring of NGP locations, especially in getting accurate counts of trees planted, as well as their condition.
Paje noted that accurate maps of planted areas and their accessibility were two major elements lacking in past government reforestation programs.
“Even in far-flung areas, where the NGP employs peoples’ organizations do tree planting as part of the livelihood aspect, the technology gives us the capability to accurately and easily locate, validate, monitor and manage projects in remote and conflict-affected areas,” Paje said.
Geo-tagging will also help in monitoring seedling growth and mortalities for replacement with new seedlings in NGP sites, he added.
NGP accomplishments can now be easily tracked not only by the DENR but also by the public who can access the program’s geo-tagging monitoring system through the agency’s website (http://ngp.denr.gov.ph).
“All reports are sworn to before a notary public before these are submitted to the DENR central office, making the concerned regional officials accountable for the accuracy of their reports,” Paje said.
The NGP is a massive forest rehabilitation program established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued in February 2011 by President Aquino. It seeks to grow 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide within a period of six years, from 2011 to 2016.
From 2011 to 2013, some 683,069 hectares of the NGP sites, comprising 46 percent of the 1.5- million-hectare target, have been planted, with more than 1.2 million jobs generated, the DENR said.