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DENR to fund replanting of forests, watersheds in Central Luzon

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon has earmarked P357 million to intensify the reforestation of denuded forestlands and watersheds in Central Luzon.

Maximo Dichoso, executive director of the DENR in the region, said the reforestation efforts would help increase the forest cover of Central Luzon as a primary shield against strong typhoons and flooding, and help boost the National Greening Program (NGP) of President Aquino.

“Our region is vulnerable to strong typhoons and we are bracing for the worst. Increasing our forest cover is one of our best defenses,” said Dichoso, adding that the environment department’s efforts now focus on building climate-resilient communities and implementing climate-smart environmental programs.

About 20,000 hectares of forestlands, watersheds, riverbanks and urban areas are earmarked for reforestation this year, which is double that of last year’s target of 10,204 hectares, Dichoso said.

He reported that barely two years after the NGP was launched in 2011, more than 12,000 hectares of public lands throughout Central Luzon have been planted with 7.5 million seedlings of forest and fruit trees, mangrove propagules, nipa seedlings and bamboo cultivars.

He said the DENR also aims to rehabilitate until 2022 at least 44,000 hectares of denuded forestlands at the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed in Nueva Ecija through the 10-year Forest Management Program supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The province of Tarlac received the biggest chunk of the budget with P67 million covering 3,995 hectares, followed by Nueva Ecija with P52 million covering 2,653 hectares, said Dr. Sofio Quintana, DENR deputy forestry director.

Quintana said Bataan also received P51 million for 2,929 hectares; Aurora, P50 million for 3,007 hectares; Bulacan, P50 million for 2,743 hectares; Zambales, P49 million for 2,895 hectares; and Pampanga, P35 million for 1,876 hectares.

Last year’s implementation of Executive Order 23 declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests and creating the regional anti-illegal logging task force (RAILTF) resulted in the confiscation of 258,427 board feet of assorted forest contraband and conveyances worth at least P6 million.

“Our reforestation effort is matched with heightened forest protection and vigorous law enforcement to sustain our gains in conserving the environment,” Quintana said.

Four individuals were convicted by the local courts and sent to jail for illegal logging last year, bringing to 22 the number of illegal loggers meted punishments since 2007 for violations of the Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines, or Presidential Decree 705.

A stepped-up campaign against illegal logging also effectively reduced the number of illegal logging “hot spots” in the region, from as high as 13 about a decade ago to only five last year.

These hot spots include Santa Cruz and Botolan in Zambales; General Tinio and Bongabon in Nueva Ecija; and Doña Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan.

NGP is set to rehabilitate 1.5 million hectares of the country’s denuded forest areas and aims to help the country reduce poverty, provide food security, conserve biodiversity, and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

(With Jonathan L. Mayuga)

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