PHL reforestation advances further, reaps international recognition

By Catherine J. Teves

MANILA, Oct. 26 (PNA) — Open and denuded areas nationwide are increasingly getting reforested with government even exceeding its planting targets under the National Greening Program (NGP), gaining international recognition for the country.

Forest Management Bureau (FMB) Dir. Ricardo Calderon noted FAO cited such reforestation accomplishment in the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015 launched in September this year at the World Forestry Congress in South Africa.

“The Philippines ranked fifth among countries reporting the greatest annual forest area gain of 240,000 hectares from 2010 to 2015,” he said Monday (Oct. 26) at a briefing in Metro Manila.

He noted NGP helped facilitate nationwide reforestation, resulting in such gain.

FMB and its mother agency Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched NGP in 2011 to reforest some 1.5 million hectares of open, denuded and degraded land nationwide using some 1.5 billion seedlings of indigenous and exotic tree seedlings.

NGP’s target area is part of the estimated 8.0 million hectares of similar land nationwide needing reforestation and rehabilitation.

“The country has been losing its forest cover over the decades,” noted Calderon.

Annual loss of forest cover nationwide reached almost 47,000 hectares during the 2003-2010 period alone, he continued.

For the 2011-October 2015 period, Calderon said reforestation through NGP covered some 1,258,692 hectares of land.

Such accomplishment is 105 percent more than the 1,200,000-hectare NGP planting target for the period, he said.

In the forest area gain assessment, the Philippines trailed China (1.5 million hectares), Australia (308,000 hectares), Chile (301 hectares) and the US (275,000 hectares).

The assessment showed the Philippines ahead of sixth to tenth placers Gabon (200,000 hectares), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (189,000 hectares), India (178,000 hectares), Vietnam (129,000 hectares) and France (113,000 hectares).

“We’re number one in Southeast Asia,” Calderon said.

Data he presented show NGP reforestation accomplishments in previous years exceeded annual targets.

Actual NGP reforestation coverage and corresponding percentage of accomplishment reached 128,558 hectares in 2011 (129 percent); 221,763 hectares in 2012 (110 percent); 333,160 hectares in 2013 (111 percent) and 334,302 hectares in 2014 (111 percent), the data show.

The data also show NGP reforestation this year already covered 240,909 hectares as of Oct. 19, representing an 80 percent accomplishment.

Calderon is optimistic actual 2015 reforestation will exceed NGP’s 300,000-hectare target for this year, however.

“It’s a work in progress and there’s still a window of opportunity to accomplish more this November and December,” he said.

Greening through NGP already represents an improvement from the country’s reforestation accomplishment in the past 50 years.

Data show reforestation from 1961 to 2010 covered 1,193,927 hectares only or an average 23,879 hectares annually, Calderon noted.

“Even at an average annual reforestation accomplishment of 38,000 hectares only, it’ll take some 210 years to green the country,” he said, reiterating earlier DENR findings on greening in previous decades. (PNA)