DENR urged: Include Paeng-hit BARMM in national greening program
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is being urged to include the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in the scope of the National Greening Program (NGP), especially amid the damage left by Super Typhoon Paeng (International name: Nalgae).
Senator Cynthia Villar, who sponsored the DENR’s proposed 2023 budget at the plenary on Wednesday, said the department’s National Greening Program would only receive half of what was allocated to the initiative amounts to P2.341 billion.
The other half, she noted, will be transferred to the upkeep and development of 114 legislated protected areas in the country.
Villar said the NGP funding would be distributed to 76 provincial environment and natural resources offices in the Philippines, notably excluding the BARMM.
But Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda pointed out that the destruction left by Paeng – particularly in the town of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao del Norte – calls for a joint reforestation effort by the DENR and the BARMM.
“Nothing in the organic law would prohibit us from augmenting the block grant or identifying forest areas that can be reforested by the greening program of the DENR,” Legarda said.
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Villar said, however, that it was not the greening program in the Maguindanao provinces that failed during the onslaught of Paeng since, she said, the area has a better greening program in contrast with other parts of the region.
“But they said they can help as long as they will be invited by DENR – BARMM. If they will be requested, they will help, but it should come from them. It should not come from the DENR,” she said.
According to Legarda, sustainability, specifically, reforestation, should be among the areas where the national government can extend assistance to the BARMM.
“I’m sure they would be happy as long as you don’t touch their block grant. You can help them with the funds of the DENR. That’s just a suggestion for the Secretary of DENR to reach out to the ministry of environment of the BARMM parliament for the possible collaboration for reforestation,” she added.
The NGP, Villar said, has received a total of P55 billion budget from its creation in 2011 until 2022.
At least 1.855 billion seedlings – narra, kamagong, white lauan, mayapis, mangrove, bamboo, cacao, coffee, and fruit-bearing plants among others – have been planted with a 78 percent survival rate, she added.
But Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri noted that follow-up checks on the greening program is just as important since forest fires and rampant charcoal making often endanger these planted seedlings.
Villar said these activities are restrained by forest rangers provided by the DENR and other partners from the private sector.
Zubiri then asked DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga for a report that would “show us success stories of these because unfortunately, sa amin sa Bukidnon, there’s very few success stories.”
Villar pointed out that in her hometown in Las Piñas, they have plenty of success stories.
But the Senate President said this might not be true for other parts of the country, which are not under the watchful eye of Villar or other government officials.
“It’s not a matter of going there and seeing it yourself. There must be community partnerships. Unfortunately, you have to deal with the indigenous people, who claim that the trees planted are their trees, for them to do what they want with it,” he said.
The DENR’s proposed P23.13-billion budget for 2023 was approved by the Senate subject to the department’s submission of pertinent documents like a report on best practices for agroforestry, reforestation of native hardwood species, and the livelihood communities spawned through the NGP among others.
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Responding to appeals for help, the Inquirer is extending its relief efforts to the families affected by Typhoon Paeng. Cash donations may be deposited in the Inquirer Foundation Corp. Banco De Oro (BDO) Current Account No.: 007960018860 and through Maya
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