2022 Philippine Elections

Isko to pursue ‘massive’ reforestation with indigenous peoples if elected

Pia Ranada
Isko to pursue ‘massive’ reforestation with indigenous peoples if elected

PRESENTING HIS PLATFORM. Presidential aspirant and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno goes around the country on a 'listening tour.'

Jacqueline Hernandez/Rappler

The Manila mayor says his reforestation program will improve on similar existing programs by adequately supporting IP communities and local governments of areas to be rehabilitated

Presidential aspirant Isko Moreno said he would seek to reforest millions of hectares of land with the help of indigenous peoples and local communites if elected to Malacañang.

Moreno said this on Monday, November 15, during a meeting with farmers, farm school owners, and Mangyan students in Naujan town, Oriental Mindoro.

“For decades, government has borrowed and spent billions of pesos in government-led reforestation programs that has had limited success because of the absence of strong support and engagement with LGUs (local government units), communities, and private sector,” said Moreno.

A press release sent by his camp said his reforestation pledge was one way Moreno seeks to address global warming. Forests help curb climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a gas that is the main driver of global warming.

Moreno’s promise is to implement reforestation and rehabilitation of around two million hectares of denuded forest and the preservation of 4.5 million hectares of terrestrial and coastal or marine protected areas.

Where reforestation initiatives have failed

Various Philippine presidents have sought to implement reforestation programs. The late former president Benigno Aquino III started the National Greening Program in 2011, which aimed to plant 1.5 billion trees over 1.5 million hectares in six years.

According to the environment department, NGP was able to plant 1.3 billion seedlings in 1.7 million hectares of land.

The Duterte administration expanded this with its Enhanced National Greening Program, targeting to reforest 1.2 million hectares from 2017 to 2022.

However, such reforestation initiatives have been criticized for lacking an effective and sustainable maintnenance component. Seedlings would get planted but they would die right after or get cut down illegally by loggers because there was no one around to take care of them.

Moreno’s solution is to involve indigenous peoples and local communities who live in or near the reforestation area. The national government, under his watch, would provide them with support and resources.

“Here in Mindoro, the Mangyans and other tribes play a big role in guarding our forests against illegal logging. We will make sure they get support from the national government and LGUs,” he said in Filipino.

Indigenous peoples have long called on the government to involve them in reforestation and forest protection efforts. Aside from much of the country’s forests growing within their ancestral domain, IP communities also stand to benefit from jobs generated by such programs.

Climate change policy

Some members of indigenous peoples communities already serve as forest rangers in places like Davao region and Palawan. However, forest rangers in general are not adequately equipped or come not in the numbers needed to properly protect Philippine forests.

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Duterte’s environment secretary Roy Cimatu, a former military chief, asked the President to champion the creation of an environment enforcement agency to address such gaps. But Duterte is yet to make such an initiatve a priority. For now, Cimatu created a temporary task force.

At the recently-concluded United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, the Philippines joined a global pledge to halt deforestation by 2030.

One initiative promoted by the UN to halt deforestation is REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), where developing countries can get paid for protecting their forests.

Experts have said such a scheme could only fly if the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities are protected.

Protest over Manila’s Arroceros Forest Park

But amid Moreno’s reforestation pledge, the Save Arroceros Movement slammed the redevelopment of Manila’s Arroceros Park which they said was carried out by Manila City Hall without consultations.

Photos and videos posted on Facebook by Mai Ringler Manera showed elevated pathways and a small structure with a platform and stairs being built over areas that once had a pond and plants.

“We are concerned that the ongoing redevelopment effort of the Manila LGU has already harmed the biodiversity of the park,” said Save Arroceros Movement. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.