This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.
MANILA, Philippines – The Aquino administration’s biggest environmental program, the National Greening Program (NGP), has been extended for another 12 years through an executive order.
President Benigno Aquino III signed EO No 193 on November 12 creating the Expanded National Greening Program, that aims to reforest “all remaining unproductive, denuded, and degraded forestlands” from 2016 to 2028, Malacanañang announced in a statement on Thursday, November 26.
Malacañang said there are 7.1 million hectares of such land in the country.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been tasked with issuing rules and regulations within 60 days of the effectivity of the EO.
Funding for the program will come from the DENR’s annual budget through the General Appropriations Act.
The EO comes weeks before a landmark international climate change conference in Paris, France. Forests, according to scientists, contribute to the fight against global warming by absorbing carbon emissions to prevent them from release into the atmosphere – a phenomenon that drives climate change.
Reforestation is also seen as a way to prevent soil erosion, landslides, and flooding.
The NGP, also the fruit of an EO, has been enjoying the lion’s share of the DENR’s annual budget for projects. The administration’s most expensive environmental initiative, its total budget from 2011 to 2016 is P28.8 billion ($59.37 million).
Its goal is to reforest 1.5 million hectares of land with 1.5 billion trees by 2016.
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has said that the NGP is “one of the most successful programs” in his department.
As of November 20, the DENR has supposedly reforested 1.3 million hectares using around 800 million seedlings – exceeding the 2015 target.
The Forestry Management Bureau, headed by Director Ricardo Calderon, is in charge of implementing the program. It counts on the help of private groups and community organizations to grow the seedlings, bring them to the denuded areas, and plant them.
Despite the stellar numbers, the NGP has been criticized for lack of transparency and inaccurate accomplishment reporting.
There are also allegations of corruption, such as favoring of certain commercial seedling suppliers and land-grabbing of sites meant for tree planting. (READ: Bulacan forest fires part of a reforestation scam?)
Calderon and Paje, in previous interviews, have denied such reports. The DENR also had plans to hire an “independent third party” to audit the NGP.
Environmental groups, meanwhile, have criticized the program for planting mostly exotic production trees instead of the now rarer indigenous species.
Paje has said this is because the NGP doubles as a poverty alleviation program that intends to provide economic benefits to communities from the harvesting of the trees. – Rappler.com
US$ 1 = P47.15