BENGUET’S forest cover continues to decline.
In a report by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (Penro), from the 44.6 percent forest cover in 2010, it has gone down to 40.83 percent in 2015 according to Marcial Aloda, environmental management specialist II of Penro–Benguet during the 2019 edition of the state of Benguet forest inter–agency meeting.
The meeting aimed to present the current situation of the forestland, forest resources and hopes to present various development interventions, land use changes in the forestland, and the shared restorative obligations of the stakeholders.
From the 70,056.93 hectares of forest cover from 1987 to 2010, a notable decrease of 3.77 percent equivalent to 12, 851.36 hectares was recorded in 2015.
According to the report, the scale of threat to Benguet forests remains at the minimum level.
However, population pressure could be the major factor in land use changes as indicated by natural forest fragmentation in some part of the forest zones.
At present, agricultural farm expansion are slowly creeping deeper into the forest areas adding this may continue to pose threat as the population grows and demand for natural resources and areas for food production increases.
At least 17 hectares of forest covers is lost every year due to agricultural expansion, settlements and infrastructure projects and destruction by fire.
In a bid to cope with forest loss, restoration efforts in forestland or public lands through the National Greening Program (NGP) of the government were made.
“Basing from remotely-sensed satellite imagery data from 1987-2010, a net of 70,057.93 hectares of forestland were newly covered with trees at an estimated rate of 3,045 hectares per year. Analysis reveal that about 1,949 hectares were reforestations in forest lands and private lands per year, and estimated 1,096 hectares per year from natural regeneration,” the report said.
From 2011 to 2018, 20,533.05 hectares were reforested under the NGP in the 13 towns of Benguet.
The report also showed major challenges in the degrading state of watershed and forests in Benguet which include natural hazards, denuding habitat and forests attributed to illegal logging/timber poaching, land conversion, mining and forest fires, over exploitation of natural resources, improper land used resulting to land degradation, and environmental pollution.
From 2015 to 2019, forest fires in Benguet reached 6,239.36 hectares with an estimated cost of more than P28 million.
Annually, 1,559.34 hectares of forests are affected by fires with an estimated amount of P7,033,221,69.
In a bid to save the remaining forests covers of the province, DENR recommended to sustain the NGP and other reforestation projects, biodoversity conservation thru establishment of ecotourism areas, protected areas, improvement of land administration, and intensified environment protection.