DENR: Philippines needs green army of foresters

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02:01 AM October 3rd, 2011

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October 3rd, 2011 02:01 AM

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Philippines is building a new kind of army.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has announced that it needs a green army composed of “hundreds” of forestry graduates to supervise the reforestation of the country’s 8 million hectares of denuded forest lands.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said the DENR would draft graduates of forestry schools to ensure the success of the Aquino administration’s National Greening Program (NGP).

“The department, beginning next year, will hire hundreds of foresters,” Paje said at an annual meeting of over 1,500 Filipino foresters. “I will hire new foresters to evaluate plantations and ensure 80 percent survival rate on these plantations.”

Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza, the DENR official in charge of the greening program, said the department expected to hire 400 to 500 new foresters in the next five years.

“Under the NGP, there will be a massive reforestation of our denuded uplands. We need foresters and technical people to make things happen on the ground,” Mendoza said.

Massive reforestation

The Philippines’ forests are among the most threatened in the world. The Conservation International recently said years of logging and invasive human activities had degraded millions of hectares of forests in the country.

The NGP seeks to reverse the situation by replanting some 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares of government-selected lots from this year until 2016.

By launching a massive reforestation campaign, the government aims to rejuvenate the economy in rural areas, reduce poverty, promote food security and environmental stability, conserve biodiversity, and enhance the country’s climate change mitigation and adaptation program.

Among the areas targeted for planting are forest lands, mangroves and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban areas under the greening plan of local government units, inactive and abandoned mines and other suitable lands.

‘Planting is easy’

On September 26, the second anniversary of Tropical Storm “Ondoy,” Paje announced the reforestation of the Marikina watershed to increase its capacity to carry rainwater, which would mitigate the flooding in the low-lying cities.

The DENR and the mayors of the cities and towns surrounding the watershed promised to plant 5 million seedlings over 10,000 hectares of the watershed from this year up to 2016.

Mendoza said the department needed people who could apply scientific knowledge on the ground. They must know the best kinds of species to plant in certain areas and how to ensure their survival in the face of extreme weather and infestations, he said.

“Planting trees is easy, but taking care of it is difficult,” he said.

1.5 billion seedlings

Aside from making sure that the seedlings survive, the new breed of foresters will also be responsible for establishing nurseries.

Mendoza said the DENR planned to build tree nurseries in 10 agriforestry schools nationwide to fill the demand for the reforestation project. The DENR has alloted P35 million for the building of nurseries nationwide.

The government needs from 750 million to 1.5 billion seedlings for the greening program, Mendoza said.

The DENR wants to plant indigenous and endemic trees in protected forests. It also wants foresters to tend to fast growing trees in plantation zones, which would provide more revenues to the government.

Fruit-bearing trees and species ideal for urban greening are also part of the reforestation plan, Mendoza said.

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