Sunday, August 01, 2021

Pena: Flooding and tree planting


I SAW a video on Facebook about an experiment showing the relationship of rain, flood and deforestation. There were two identical boxes half-filled with soil, one with plants and the other bare. An equal volume of water was sprinkled to both boxes. The water in the tree-less box drained almost completely. It was also brownish in color. In the box with plants, only a small amount of clear water flowed out. The simple experiment proves that trees prevent flooding and soil erosion.

In the recent widespread flooding brought by Typhoon Ulysses in Marikina, Cagayan and Isabela, logging is the suspected cause. The Marikina watershed is a protected area by virtue of Proclamation 296 issued in 2001 but illegal activities are allegedly happening there. In Cagayan, mountains, slopes and watersheds in the whole Cagayan Valley were said to have been stripped of native trees. Lawmakers are conducting an investigation into the flooding which they believed was due to human activity.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that massive reforestation in major watersheds should be among the interventions that the government should make to prevent severe flooding from repeating in the future. He added that government may start reforestation in the 18 largest watersheds in the country that are mostly located in Luzon.

But, isn’t there a massive tree planting program implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)? Billions of pesos have already been poured into this project. It is called the National Greening Program (NGP) initiated during the term of President Noynoy Aquino. It is the biggest reforestation project of the Philippines. Initially, its main objective is to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of forestlands for a period of six years from 2011 to 2016.

In 2015, Malacañang issued Executive Order 193 extending the NGP's implementation period from 2016 to 2028 so that the program can cover the country's estimated 7.1 million hectares of remaining unproductive, denuded, and degraded forestland.

So what’s the status of the NGP? According to their website, they have already planted 1,740,645,247 seedlings in 2,062,048 hectares as of September 11, 2020. They have actually exceeded their target of 1.89 million hectares. There is no mention in the website on the status of the seedlings.

According to DENR Asec. Ric Calderon, former NGP National Coordinator, there are still 4.1 million hectares of degraded and denuded forest that needs rehabilitation and 7.3 million hectares of open and closed forest that needs protection and conservation. He said that NGP should be a continuing program of any administration which according to the Forestry Master Plan, has to be done until 2028. Reforestation cannot be done overnight but years of continuing investment from government including the private sector should we want to succeed, Asec. Calderon added.


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