3,500 hectares in Region 12 eyed under greening program

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/21 January) – Environment officials in Southwestern Mindanao are targeting the inclusion of additional 3,500 hectares in the National Greening Program (NGP) of the national government as they gear to implement the program this year in the area.

Alfredo Pascual, Department of Environment and Natural Resources regional director, said that a team from the Forest Management Bureau is set to validate the additional target area.

Last year, the regional office of the DENR initially targeted 9,000 ha. to be included in the NGP’s implementation in the four-province, five-city region.

The program is an ambitious nationwide reforestation project that aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares from 2011 to 2016 for poverty reduction, food security, livelihood development, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

“We are consolidating our efforts in a bid to jumpstart the implementation of the NGP this year [in Region 12],” Pascual said.

Earlier, he said the reforestation project is one of the priority programs guided by President Benigno C. Aquino III’s “social contract with the Filipino people as a platform towards reform.”

Early this week, Pascual gathered officials of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) to discuss this year’s NGP implementation in the region.

Southwestern Mindanao covers the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

As part of the activities in the project implementation, Pascual ordered the CENROs to conduct survey, mapping and planning in order to identify the exact location of each project.

Late last year, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje instructed all regional directors to instruct the CENROs to prepare their annual procurement plan for the required seedlings.

To assist in the implementation of the NGP this year, Pascual said they will be hiring forestry or agriculture graduates as contractual extension officers.

Ernesto Lezada, regional technical director for forestry, described the NGP as a “no-nonsense program of President Aquino.”

“The DENR as the lead agency of NGP should take hold of the moral compass into its proper direction. We want to see tangible results of this program,” Lezada said.

Pascual said the implementation of the NGP will be closely monitored by a “discreet composite team.”

Sixteen government agencies have joined hands in the implementation of the NGP program as volunteer planters, long-term plantation stewards, or donors. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)