Environmentalists step up drive to reforest denuded lands in ARMM
COTABATO CITY, Philippines – A group of environmentalists went trekking in Camp Iranun, an abandoned Moro rebel sanctuary in Barira, Maguindanao, to fulfill its goal of planting 800,000 to a million trees and reforest close to 200,000 hectares of denuded land in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“We will not stop, after us, the young will follow, and so on, and so forth,” said Army Col. Manolito Orense, who along with Environment and Natural Resources Regional Secretary Kahal Kedtag led in a ceremonial tree planting in Barangay Tugaig on Saturday.
Orense, commander of the 603rd Infantry Brigade, told new “Balik-Kalikasan” advocates that the whole of 6th Infantry Division has committed its troops to protect the remaining forest cover and help in the massive tree planting program.
The same commitment was also aired by the ARMM police office led by Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes.
Kedtag said the planting of Antipolo and Lani Pau varieties has been highly encouraged that his department claimed to have already sown 387,000 seedlings from January to March this year.
He said from last year’s P49-million allocation for the region’s greening program, it has been raised to P300 million by the DENR central office.
Kedtag said that after the Holy Week, the core Balik-Kalikasan group would be in Malabang, Lanao del Sur for another tree-planting session, and work to inspire awareness to school and out-of-school children of the importance of reforestation.
Albert Chua, an entrepreneur and civic leader, distributed some 100 hard-bound books on “Mother Nature” donated by the Rotary Club of Makati City and Rotary East. He said some 30,000 books in their possession have not been shared to other schools in the other ARMM provinces of Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
Chua, who owns MINRICO, engaged in agri-marketing business, said his company was able to produce in its nursery some two million tree seedlings ready for planting.
Kedtag said the DENR supply has dwindled to only 104,000 seedlings that it might need MINRICO’s available variety at a government procurement price.
ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman Jr., who blamed the frequent power outages in Mindanao to dwindling forest-cover, said, “We are now reaping the fruit of our destructive ways.”
“There’s a need to rehabilitate heavily-silted lakes, rivers and denuded watershed areas,” said Lucman, who regarded them as hydropower sources.
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