‘Maring’ destroys 94 hectares of trees

It set back the country's biggest reforestation program, which aims, among other things, to lessen the effects and risks of flooding

GREENING THE LAND. Narra, lanzones and duhat seedlings were some of the plants planted in Solsona, Ilocos Norte in 2012. Screenshot from National Greening Program website

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MANILA, Philippines – Tropical Storm Maring and the southwest monsoon devastated 94 hectares of trees in Laguna planted under the country’s biggest reforestation campaign, the disaster management body said in a report released on August 20.

It set back the National Greening Program (NGP), which aims to reforest 1.5 million hectares of denuded and degraded forestland all over the country, and in the process lessen the effects and risks of flooding.

The NGP, managed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and created by Executive Order No 26 in 2011, aims to achieve this by planting 1.5 billion seedlings by 2016.  

DENR Secretary Ramon Paje reported during the August 12 budget hearing that the program had so far reforested 350,321 hectares with 215,220,851 seedlings. It accounted for 23% of the targeted number of hectares. 

But the number of successfully reforested areas diminished after 94 hectares of trees in Calamba and Biñan, Laguna were destroyed by the storm.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) says the damage totalled P282,000. The damaged hectares is composed of 60 hectares of forest and fruit-bearing trees in Calamba and 34 hectares of forest trees in Biñan.

Paje told Rappler that around 50,000 saplings were damaged. The department however is yet to do a full-scale assessment of the impact.

He gave assurances that reforestation to replace the damaged trees will definitely happen within the year.

The most common species planted by the National Greening Program are narra (used for furniture, musical instruments, construction), mangroves (breeding ground for many marine species), rubber trees, coffee seedlings, and gemelina (used for pulp, furniture, plywood).

Trees and flooding

The NGP is the recipient of the biggest portion of DENR’s annual budget. At the budget hearing, it was alotted P6.2 billion or 27% of DENR’s total 2014 budget amounting to P23.36 billion.

It also received the lion’s share of the 2013 budget, having been given P5.7 billion out of the P23.62 billion total budget.

Paje emphasized that the NGP “is not just an environmental program but must also be a poverty-reduction and a food security program.”

He reported that in 2011 and 2012, the reforestation campaign was able to generate 715,774 new jobs in the form of project officers, extension officers, and laborers hired just for the program.

According to a study by Ecology professor Kim Coder of the University of Georgia, for every 5% of tree cover area added to a community, water run-off that becomes floodwater is reduced by 2%.

Metro Manila and many of the nearby provinces similarly paralyzed by floods due to “Maring” lie on floodplains and low-lying areas. Trees planted in these places can help lessen large floods by absorbing water run-off. Trees planted in higher areas can stop peak flood flows by absorbing water and preventing all of it from flowing to the lowlands. 

At an interview with DZMM on August 20 during the height of “Maring,” Marikina Mayor Del De Guzman said the alarming rise of the Marikina River was partially due to water flowing from nearby Sierra Madre mountain range, unstemmed due to the lack of trees.

The river reached 19 meters that evening, prompting the forced evacuation of nearby residents.

But a lack of trees is just one head of the Hydra-like problems causing heavy flooding in Metro Manila, Southern and Central Luzon. Urban designer Paulo Alcazaren also blames it on unchecked urbanization, a deficient drainage system, increased magnitude of storms due to climate change and more– Rappler.com