Upland farmers in CL awarded with forest tenure


THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) here awarded at least 357 hectares of forestlands to upland farmers in Zambales and Nueva Ecija under the Community Based-Forest Management Program (CBFMP) in a bid to reduce poverty in rural areas and promote social justice and equitable access to forest resources, environment authorities here announced recently.

Francisco Milla, Jr., Regional Director of the DENR in Central Luzon said the People’s Organizations (PO) of  Palauig Green Planters Association Incorporated in the town of Palauig in Zambales with 106 ha of forestlands and the Digmala Tree Planters Association Incorporated in Gabaldon town in Nueva Ecija with 251 ha were awarded with a 25-year Community Based-Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) and considered as the latest beneficiaries of the program 12 years after a moratorium was implemented in the issuance of CBFMA.

“The DENR is not giving land titles in forestlands only those alienable and disposable lands (A and D) such as agricultural land and residential areas are awarded with titles. However, tenurial instrument in the form of agreement is being awarded to upland farmers as proof of their legitimate occupancy over the forestland” he explained.   

He said that the new direction of DENR under the leadership of Secretary Regina Paz Lopez is to transform the department more than a regulatory agency but also in to a development institution that will provide livelihood opportunities, brings social justice and empower upland communities especially the poorest among the poor.

“CBFM program, entitled the POs to rehabilitate the forestland they occupied and develop it through agroforestry scheme” he said, adding that POs can also developlivelihood opportunities in their area not dependent on forest products and utilize the resources found therein, but subject to  existing forestry and environmental laws, rules and regulations.

He said at least 300 upland farmers from the two POs were expected to benefit from the program who are also actively involved in the National Greening Program (NGP) of the government.

Under the agreement, peoples’ organization assumes the responsibility of the protection of the entire forestlands within their CBFMA areas against illegal logging and other unauthorized extraction of forest products, kaingin-making, forest and grass fire and other forest destruction.

They will assist also the DENR in the prosecution of violators of forestry and environmental laws; observe all laws and regulations on forest management; prepare and implement a Community Resource Management Framework (CRMF) and annual work plan (AWP) with assistance from the DENR; and formulate and implement benefit sharing schemes among its members.

While the DENR based on the agreement will protect and ensure the community’s exclusive occupation and used of forestland covered in the CBFMA and forest product found in their area and deputized qualified members of the PO as environment and natural resources officer (ENRO). 

The agreement as forest instrument has a period of 25 years and renewable for another 25 years subject to compliance of the PO.

DENR record shows that there are 116 CBFM Agreements in Central Luzon covering more than 65,000 hectares of forestland and benefiting well over 7,000 upland farmers.

Executive Order No. 263 of 1995 is the primary law that adopts CBFM as the national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country’s forestlands resources.