CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/14 February) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Northern Mindanao has set an ambitious project of planting 150,000 trees every year in the next five years.
Edilberto Buiser, newly-installed Regional Executive Director for Region 10, also enjoined the DENR officials and employees in the region to be “pro-active particularly in dealing with climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.”
Corazon Galinato, Regional Technical Director of the Forest Management Services, said Malacanang is banking substantially on Northern Mindanao to contribute to the National Greening Program of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III which has a goal of growing a billion trees in the next five years.
Legal and illegal logging has reduced the forest cover of the critical Cagayan de Oro – Lake Lanao Watershed from 30,000 hectares in the 1980s to less than 3,000 hectares at the turn of the millennium.
Rehabilitation of the country’s forest is seen as key to mitigating climate change impacts and reducing disaster risks. Climate change which causes weather anomalies like above normal rainfall otherwise known as La Nina and droughts called El Nino have placed most of the country’s communities on the disaster path.
This year, at least 50 persons in Mindanao died from floods and landslides caused by heavy rains brought about by the tailend of a cold front in January and by a low pressure area in February.
Thousands of families were displaced and millions worth of agricultural crops washed away by the floods.
Buiser instructed the Provincial and Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers to coordinate with local government officials, military and police and other sectors in achieving this objective. He said regional officials should always be on top of the situation in implementing environment and natural resources laws, rules and regulations.
Buiser made this call during the DENR’s Management Conference and Reprogramming Workshop of Work and Financial Plan for CY 2011 held recently in Cagayan de Oro City. It was attended by regional technical directors, regional directors of the Environmental Management Bureau and Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Provincial/Community Environment and Natural Resources Officers, planning officers and other regional officials.
During the forum, Buiser encouraged all regional officials to work hard in achieving the different targets for the year. “We have to justify our existence by the end of this year,” he added.
Galinato said the objectives of the National Greening Program include poverty reduction and food security, employment generation, environmental stability and sustainability, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and value formation.
The six-point agenda of Secretary Ramon JP Paje was discussed by Regional Technical Director Danilo Cacanindin of the Ecosystems Research and Development Services during the conference. DENR Re-engineering and Anti-Corruption Reforms; Clean Air; Clean Water; Solid Waste Management; Resource Conservation and Productivity Enhancement, and Enhance Natural Resources Revenue.
The Forestry Sector has played a major role in the country’s environmental management. Decades of abuse, however, have decimated the country’s natural forests from what experts claim to have been preserved at 25-30 percent of the total land area of the country owing to its mountainous and archipelagic topography.
Despite calls for stricter implementation of forestry laws, logging, both legal and illegal have been unabated.
According to the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, deforestation in the country is at 100,000-hectare per year or about 273-hectares per day.
The floods that hit the eastern seaboard of the country, particularly in the Caraga region in Mindanao recently has resulted in renewed calls for a total log ban in the country.
On February 1, President Aquino declared a log ban through Executive Order 23. The EO mandates a “moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in the natural and residual forests and creating the anti-illegal logging task force.”
The President said it is the “obligation of the State to protect the remaining forest cover areas of the country not only to prevent flash floods and hazardous flooding but also to preserve biodiversity, protect threatened habitats and sanctuaries of endangered and rare species, and allow natural regeneration of residual forests and development of plantation forests.” (BenCyrus G. Ellorin)