Doing the right thing in reforestation
In reforestation, the actual planting is often done right. But concentrating on planting is not the right thing. Professor Peter Drucker shared with me an important insight: “It is important to do things right. But much more important is to do the right thing.”
This is the main problem in our reforestation. We may do some things right. But overall, we are not doing the right thing.
In reversing the tragedy of our 5.7 million hectares of denuded forest, we have instead seen the declining size of land planted in 2018. Here is the record of hectares planted from the DENR National Greening Program: In 2015, 360,357 hectares; 2016, 284,089 ha; 2017, 202,488 ha., and in 2018, 132,741 ha. Instead of increasing planting, the hectares planted decreased by two-thirds.
Fortunately, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, with groups like the Movement for Water Security (MWS) which views reforestation as a key strategy for water supply and conservation, are now totally behind a P5.5-billion DENR reforestation budget for 2020. We must ensure this budget is wisely used.
On Oct. 8, Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, with the support of Rep. Roman Romulo, launched an innovative scheme on his 100th day in office: the initial planting of 100 trees using the right reforestation approach. This was done at the Pasig Rainforest Park. It was spearheaded by the LGU and coordinated by Green Restorative Actions and Sustainable Solutions (GRASS). GRASS is headed by LPG principal architect Lui Daya-Garcia, concurrent MWS vice chair for flagship projects. The launch, facilitated by architects Rola Vizmonte and Kathleen Runas, addressed three key practices that had caused our country’s reforestation shortfall.
The first bad practice is choosing the wrong trees to plant. An example is mahogany, which is bad for reforestation because it harms other plants and animals (e.g., the recent report on tarsier disappearance in Bohol areas with mahogany). GRASS instead advocates bamboo and native trees. These are easier to plant, fit the environment, have good commercial value, clean the air, revive the water table and assist in reducing floods.
The second is concentrating on planting, then leaving the plants to die. The right forestation includes nurturing and growing the plants. The Boy and Girl Scouts present at the launching explained how this was an essential part of their reforestation initiative. This is why their efforts are admired and appreciated nationwide.
The third is using a narrow view of reforestation. This does not support the GRASS approach. GRASS is a team of professionals that integrates sustainable, liveable, and resilient green strategies in addressing environmental issues and climate crisis adaptation. Key to their approach is a holistic biodiversity perspective and community involvement.
Admu616569’s Toto Malvar, this year’s recipient of a DENR environmental award, said: “Reforestation is certain to fail unless the community participates, owns, and feels responsible for the reforestation.” This was echoed at the launching by Pasig scoutmasters Agnes Gouda, Santiago Dino, and Bryan Escano, who stated that the scouts nationwide ensured community involvement.
The most important lesson learned on Oct. 8 was the critical need for a team of professionals like GRASS to be involved in reforestation planning and implementation. Doing correct reforestation is not automatic. The “right thing” must be determined and done for reforestation success. The MWS and all who want right reforestation must communicate this to our 18 major River Basin Councils, which can help correct the suboptimal reforestation we see today.
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