Rhetoric or reality in reforestation
Our water crisis is too important to mistake rhetoric for reality. If we do not recognize this difference, our country will sink deeper into the hole of the water crisis that now grips our nation.
This is where 55 people die every day from water-related causes, and where 32 government water-related agencies are largely uncoordinated. Hopefully, President Duterte will soon sign an executive order that will address these problems.
On April 23, a news report stated that nongovernment Luntiang Pilipinas (LP) would plant 10 million trees in celebration of World Earth Day. It is unlikely the 10 million trees can be planted in just one or two days. The reality may be closer to the intention stated by LP’s Michael Ubac: “Caring for the environment is a year round commitment, and the LP program to plant 10 million trees is our contribution to this effort.”
Private sector group Movement for Water Security (MWS) will ask LP for the details behind this effort, learn from LP’s commendable practices and join hands with them. MWS has supporters from a wide variety of groups. Examples are from agriculture (Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food), industry (Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Philippine Industries), NGOs (Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of the Philippines, Rotary Clubs, Green Architecture Advocacy, Kapampangan Development Foundation) and various sectors such as farmers, fisherfolk, rural women, large corporations and SMEs. Many of the MWS supporters already have effective reforestation programs, such as the Girl and Boy Scouts, and the Rotary Clubs nationwide which have made water security a priority for 2019.
The reforestation effort must address the disaster of 5.7 million hectares of denuded forests. In these areas, there are no trees that can hold on to rain water that comes, retain the eroded soil that runs off causing floods and damage to agriculture lands, and help produce the needed clouds that give us rain. For agriculture, the common sense view is that when you irrigate a hectare, you will double its yield. Unfortunately, the yield average is down to only 1.5 times, simply because there is lack of water available. This is largely due to our massive deforestation that has also dangerously diminished the water in our underground aquifers. Remember the global studies that showed that as early as 2030, world water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent.
There is much rhetoric about the government doing massive reforestation. The reality gotten from government statistics (ngp.denr.gov.ph) shown in the table above shows a different picture, perhaps because of inadequate resources. While seedlings planted doubled from 205.4 million in 2014 to 415.6 million in 2016, performance significantly fell in the next two years. By 2018, the 121.1 million seedlings planted were not even one-third of the 2016 level.
This is why the private sector must now unite with the government in the fight for reforestation. Within the private sector, there is opportunity for a fruitful exchange of expertise. For example, Ubac talked about “planting narra seedlings in Masbate that will take 100 years to fully mature.”
While this may be best in some areas, in many other areas, bamboo will be better. MWS science and academe leader Coalition For Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines’ Ben Pecson states: “Bamboo is easier and less costly to grow, needs only a three year turn-around time, requires little maintenance because it can even defeat even cogon grass, and most importantly, offers immediate livelihood and income opportunities for the many poor in the deforested areas.”
The more than four million Girl and Boy Scouts can add significantly to the reforestation efforts. Unlike some practices of planting trees for photo op purposes and leaving them to die (which DENR is now trying to control), these scouts have developed a system with community sharing so that the trees are nurtured to full development. This is real reforestation, not fake reforestation rhetoric. To prevent misleading communication and promote genuine development, the actual growth rate of the seedlings planted should also be reported.
Sen. Loren Legarda inspired the creation of both the LP and MWS. It is this same inspiration that should now unify both the private and government sectors to stop deceptive rhetoric and instead achieve the needed reality of true reforestation in this time of water crisis and climate change.
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