Requirements for reforestation | Inquirer Business
Commentary

Requirements for reforestation

In view of recent disasters due to massive forest denudation, we identify three requirements for successful reforestation. One, secure the area from unscrupulous individuals; two, ensure that people in the area feel ownership of the initiative; and three, plant the most appropriate species in the targeted sites.

If these are not met, the country’s reforestation plan will just suffer from failures anew. The government’s planting efforts have shown a disappointing 61-percent survival rate.

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Last Nov. 2, the Inquirer’s Jerome Aning reported: “President Marcos on Monday said good trees should be planted in the denuded uplands of the two Maguindanao provinces to prevent a repeat of last week’s deadly landslides, after seeing for himself what environmentalists had been warning the government on what would happen not only in Mindanao, but also in other parts of the country.” The issue is in connection with the destruction left by tropical storm Paeng, which left more than 100 dead.

The Movement for Water Security, composed of private sector members who contributed to the National Water Roadmap direction that produced seven volumes on different water governance aspects, identified the three reforestation requirements. These are recommended by experts with extensive experience.

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The first is from Billie Dumaliang, co-founder of the Masungi Georeserve Foundation (MGF).  At the weekly forum of the Management Association of the Philippines-Agribusiness and Countryside Development Foundation (MAP-ABCDF), Dumaliang explained that the biggest reforestation obstacle was not being able to secure the targeted reforestation area. This was because unscrupulous individuals, in connivance with the local government and other officials, engage in illegal quarrying, logging and other activities, often using violence for intimidation.

MAP-ABCDF followed this up with Senate agriculture and environment committee chair Cynthia Villar. The senator provided a van for regulation use by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine National Police. However, little support was given, thus illegal activities continued, two rangers were killed and several more were mauled.

Last Sept. 26, MGF bested more than 2,000 entries from 150 countries in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Action Award. After five years of perceived inadequate government support, MGF recently commended the Department of Interior and Local Government and the DENR for confiscating weapons from illegal trespassers and acting against 30 armed men whom they alleged harassed them last month.

Since securing the area is a major issue in reforestation efforts, the DENR and Department of the Interior and Local Government must now act consistently against these powerful individuals.

The second requirement is that the people in the area must be active reforestation participants who will also benefit from the project.

Alberto Malvar, multi-awarded developer and chair of Mount Purro Nature Reserve, said: “You must begin by knowing and understanding the people who live there. Together with them, you must develop a plan that they will own and commit to. This must provide livelihood opportunities that will enable their survival. Otherwise, reforestation will not work.”

The third requirement is that the choice of what to plant has to be practical. Fruit and native tree species are best. However, these will not survive without nurturing.

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Dulce Punzalan, UN Global Impact representative and MAP-ABCDF corporate secretary, suggests bamboo. First, it grows in relatively infertile land. Second, it requires little attention, because bamboo is a grass that can overcome the cogon that destroys other plants. Third, it provides livelihood opportunities for those with low income due to its fast gestation.

In order for President Marcos’ planting directive to be successful, the government must support these three requirements. Otherwise, reforestation will remain just a rhetoric, as has happened so often in the past. INQ

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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TAGS: agriwatch, column, Commentary, Reforestation
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