DENR gears up for climate-resilient Central Luzon

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THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here earmarked at least P357 million to intensify the reforestation of denuded forestlands and watersheds in Central Luzon following the aftermath of typhoon “Pablo” that devastated the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostella Valley late last year.

Maximo Dichoso, executive director of the regional DENR said the funds shall boost the National Greening Program (NGP) of Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and further increase the forest cover of Central Luzon as primary shield against strong typhoons and flooding.

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

About 20,000 ha 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 ha, Dichoso said.

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

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

Barely two years after the NGP was launched in 2011, more than 12,000 ha 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, Dichoso reported.

The DENR also aims to rehabilitate until 2022 at least 44,000 ha of denuded forestlands at the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed in Nueva Ecija through the 10-year Forest Management Program (FMP) supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), he added.

Last year’s implementation of Executive Order No. 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 explained.

Four individuals were also 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 PD 705.

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

These hotspots areas include Sta. Cruz and Botolan in Zambales; Gen. Tinio and Bongabon in Nueva Ecija; and Dona Remedios Trinidad in Bulacan.

NGP is set to rehabilitate 1.5 million ha 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.