Central Luzon forest cover is third highest in PHL

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CENTRAL LUZON'S forest cover remains to be among the highest in the country, according to latest official forestry statistics released by the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Pres. Aquino’s home region of seven provinces has a combined 589,945 hectares forest cover out of 942,387 hectares forestland, revealed executive director Maximo Dichoso of the regional DENR here. This is equivalent to 28 percent forest density when computed against Central Luzon’s total land area of 2.1 million hectares.

“This figure is even bigger than the national average of 24 percent forest density, “ he explained, saying only Region 4B (Mimaropa) and Region 2 (Cagayan Valley) have forest cover bigger than that of Central Luzon.

Citing latest satellite imagery and remote sensing interpretation of the country’s forest cover, Dichoso reported that the province of Aurora has the biggest forest cover in Central Luzon, with 238,776 ha, followed by Nueva Ecija (94,651 ha) and Bulacan (73,987 ha).

He attributed this to government’s concrete plans and programs on forest regeneration and biodiversity conservation, including decisive accomplishments in forest protection and law enforcement in strong partnership with local government units, the military and the local police.

Out of Central Luzon’s 589,945 ha forest cover, private sector initiatives and plantations account for 58,672 ha, or roughly 10 percent, Dichoso stressed, adding that this indicates a growing public awareness and a heightened sense of shared responsibility in protecting the environment.

He said the implementation of Executive Order (EO) No. 23, which imposes a logging ban on natural and residual forests, and EO 26, which implements the National Greening Program (NGP), created a climate for enhanced public-private sector partnership in environmental governance.

The NGP is getting a P5.7 billion budget from the DENR next year as part of the agency’s key climate change adaptation and mitigation programs. This is more than double its current budget of P2.7 billion.

The NGP aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of denuded forestlands nationwide by 2016, and is expected to contribute substantially to global carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation efforts.

In Central Luzon, the NGP aims to reforest at least 10,000 hectares of denuded and degraded forestlands this year at a cost of P125 million, Dichoso revealed.

He said the DENR also sought to institutionalize and expand the membership of the Regional Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (RAILTF) created under EO 23 to include operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), non-government organizations, socio-civic groups, and religious and media organizations in government’s forest protection campaign and environmental conservation efforts in Central Luzon.

“Government is laying down the policy and institutional groundwork to ensure that our forests are protected amid threats of global warming and climate change,” Dichoso explained, adding that forests are the biggest terrestrial repository of carbon and cutting them down would inadvertently release this stored carbon into the atmosphere.

The top region with the highest forest cover is Region 4B (1.195 million ha) composed of Occidental and Oriental Mindoro, Romblon and Palawan, followed by Region 2 (1.149 million ha) composed of Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya and Quirino.

The province with the most forest cover in the country is Palawan (724,176 ha), followed by Cagayan (424,213 ha) and Isabela (411,804 ha). Agusan del Sur (249,494 ha) and Aurora (238,776 ha) are the fourth and fifth biggest, respectively.