THE review of 89 integrated forestry management agreements (Ifmas) is on track, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
The review was triggered by the death of more than two dozen people in Zamboanga del Norte last December.
The review teams created to look into 89 FMAs awarded to big agricultural corporations agreed to adopt a “template” that will be used in conducting the review.
DENR Assistant Secretary for Staff Bureaus Ricardo L. Calderon said activities on the review, which would lead to a “long-term study” of the entire program, are on track.
He said pilot-testing was already conducted in certain areas to “pre-test” the evaluation, such as in Aurora Province, where five Ifmas were awarded by the DENR-Forest Management Bureau (FMB).
Pilot-testing of the review was conducted in other areas per region.
A former director of the Forest Management Bureau (FMB), Calderon said a “program-approach” of the review will follow after the evaluation at the national level.
Aside from adopting the template, the official said the review teams will determine whether or not the 89 Ifmas actually contributed or positively impacted on the National Greening Program (NGP), the massive reforestation program of the Aquino administration that was extended in 2015 for implementation until 2028 under Executive Order 193, or the Enhanced NGP.
“We want to know if the program will help the National Greening Program,” he said.
In a separate interview, DENR-FMB Director Nonito Tamayo said the pilot-testing across the regions was completed and the teams were on their way to conduct the physical assessment in the rest of the Ifmas.
The target, he said, is to complete the assessment and come up with reports, including their recommendations, by the end of the month.
“There are more or less five persons per team. There are representatives from the FMB, Penro [Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office] and Cenro [Community Environment and Natural Resource Office]. Initially, there is one team per region. Depending on the need, we would allow the creation of additional teams per region if warranted,” he said.
“Basically, we wanted to determine if development in the Ifma areas was undertaken in accordance with the approved CDMP [Comprehensive Development and Management Plan]. What is the development size? Of course, it should be based on the approved CDMP, which is based on the prescribed outline of the DENR,” he said
Tamayo added the recommendation of the review teams will form part of a decision to be undertaken by the DENR whether or not an Ifma committed gross violations and should be discontinued.
The Ifmas that will be taken back, he added, will be awarded to other agricultural corporations willing and able to comply with the CDMP.
“We want to know which Ifmas should continue or should be discontinued,” he said.
Tamayo said the Ifma holders, as a policy, should be able to contribute to the government’s reforestation effort from now on, given that the budget for the NGP this year was slashed by P2 billion.
“Assuming that in the future, if you recall that our budget was reduced by P2 billion, what if next year, the budget will get smaller? Then we will not be able to achieve our target under the Duterte administration. What we want to do now is to tap the private sector to help in the reforestation effort of the government,” he said.
The official said the DENR is currently crafting a new guideline for Ifmas to link the program with that of the NGP, to enhance forest protection and management effort and fast-track the rehabilitation of open, denuded and degraded forest in the country.
Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has ordered a comprehensive review of all existing Ifmas upon the instruction of the President to stop the operation of big agricultural corporation with large forest-management concessions in Zambonga del Norte. The Dacon Group of Cos. and its subsidiaries, which operate tree-plantations in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte, is being blamed for the destruction of the forest in the area that caused severe flooding at the height of Typhoon Vinta last December that killed more than two dozen people in Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte.
However, Tamayo, in an earlier interview, cleared the Dacon Group of liability, saying the flooding was caused by the degradation of the forest outside the IFMA areas.