By CHRIS V. PANGANIBAN, Contributing Editor
BUTUAN City — The government’s environment chief in Caraga wants to revive the once robust wood industry which earned the moniker of the region as the “timber corridor of the country” but this time focusing on improving the lot of the lowly tree farmers.
Talking to reporters during the launch of environment month celebration on Thursday here, Charlie Fabre, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), said there is an urgent need to develop small-scale forestry management that will play active role in reforesting the remaining 300,000 denuded forest in the region.
The massive tree planting program was initiated during the Arroyo administration targetted close to 170,000 hectares in the region but the program involve more on industrial tree plantation while small tree farmers were just left in the sidelines.
He said under his proposal beneficiaries should now be those living from the actual site unlike before where some enterprising traders are closing the various contracts of the National Greening Program including seedling production.
NGP is a massive forest rehabilitation program of the government established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued on Feb. 24, 2011 by President Benigno S. Aquino III. It seeks to grow 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide within a period of six years, from 2011 to 2016.
The program has been extended by the Duterte administration during the short stint of then DENR Secretary Gina Lopez with a new name : Enhanced NGP.
Fabre said he already issued a clear instruction to the environment officers in the region that contractors of the various components of the NGP should be farmer beneficiaries not outsiders who mostly stroke a deal on voluminous tree seedlings supplies.
“I saw the big bulk of funds of NGP program is on seedling production which have been taken by private contractors instead of the actual beneficiaries, “ Fabre said adding that he would ask for a review of the contract to strike out the term “procurement” on the seedling production supply.
Fabre is pushing for a comprehensive package of the NGP where all economic activities from seedling production, maintenance and harvest will now solely go the farmer beneficiaries.
So far, NGP has already rehabilitated at least 104,000 hectares of denuded forest lands in the regions even as he admitted that the regional officer has yet to finalize a thorough validation especially on the survival rate of the planted tree species.
The DENR is targeting to cover all the 400,000 hectares to be fully reforested by 2028.
Fabe noted there was no decline of the 70-80 percent of the forest cover of Caraga even as he admitted illegal logging activities still thrives which mostly involve small-scale operators engaged in sneaking out natural grown trees outside of the region.
“It was the underground economy that mostly did the damage of felling trees in the forest and we want to help them on a positive way by helping them getting more involved in NGP,” he said.
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