CAMP IRANUN, Barira, Maguindanao (MindaNews/11 April) – Birds have returned to Barangay Nabalawag in Barira, Maguindanao years after the community and other stakeholders embarked on a tree planting program, village chair Abdulgani Dimasangkay said.
Dimasangkay said bird species that had vanished for a long time could again be heard chirping, and as a bonus are helping them as agents of natural regeneration.
In 2004, Dimasangay, who loves to plant trees, started planting antipolo and other tree seedlings in a few hectares of his own land and convinced other villagers to join him.
He said he was surprised to notice lately that in the middle of his coconut farm where he intercropped his antipolo trees some seeds of endemic trees have grown, a development he attributed to the birds that visit the area.
“We are lucky because sometimes we see lawaan seeds growing, it’s like an instant nursery,” he added.
Lawaan, usually spelled lauan, belongs to the dipterocarp species and thrives in lowland and mid-montane forests.
Col. Manolito Orense, commander of the 603rd Brigade based in Camp Iranun, the former Camp Abubakar of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, said the planting of antipolo trees is part of Balik-Kalikasan that was founded in 2004.
Orense said Balik-Kalikasan, a partnership among the 603rd Army brigade, Minrico (a lumber firm) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was re-launched on April 5 in this camp.
He said the initiative aims to mitigate the effects of global warming like calamities.
He said they have planted over two million antipolo and lanipao seedlings since 2004, in addition to rubber and coffee that were also planted in the region.
Minrico general manager Albert Chua said the antipolo and lanipao seedlings were given free to farmers and other groups.
He said they are promoting agro-forestry methods like intercropping antipolo and coconut trees to ensure high survival rate of the plants.
He admitted their plan is to buy the timber as long as they come from planted trees and are properly documented by the DENR.
He said that if Agusan has its falcatta timber industry and North Cotabato has rubber industry, a similar undertaking can be done in the ARMM.
DENR-ARMM Secretary Kahal Kedtag, a pioneer member of Balik-Kalikasan, said the region has only 20-percent forest cover left and they aim to increase it to 30 percent this year.
He said they have obtained support from international donors like the US Agency for International Development and European Union.
Aside from giving free seedlings, Balik-Kalikasan had built two schools, one in South Upi and one in Barira, and distributed some 30,000 books in different schools.
The group is targeting to plant around 400,000 seedlings this year. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)