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Ilonggo Network

More tree plantations are needed

The rehabilitation of the damages brought by super typhoon “Yolanda” will probably take a long period because of the intensity of the devastation it has created.

The rebuilding efforts may further create additional pressures on our remaining natural resources since numerous infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed. Even fishing boats, used by fisherfolk to earn a living, were not spared from the onslaught of “Yolanda”, considered as one of the worst typhoons to occur on Earth.

The demand for timber may likely increase for the reconstruction and renovation of the damaged houses and infrastructure related to basic social services, such as schools, daycare centers, clinics, government offices and many others.

In rural areas, where no legitimate lumber dealers are available, it is very possible that timber requirements shall be sourced from the remaining natural forests. In addition, the demand for stones, sand and gravel may also increase because these resources are essential in most infrastructure projects.

The remaining natural forest of the Philippines is already very limited, and in fact, that is precisely the reason why President Benigno Aquino III issued an executive order declaring a total commercial logging ban in natural forests. Our natural forest is now intended for ecological services, particularly in mitigating the impacts of flooding and landslide, carbon sequestration potential and watershed purposes, among others. There is now a question on where to source the timber requirements for household, commercial and even industrial uses?

This leads me to think that the post-Yolanda rehabilitation shall also include massive establishment of commercial tree plantations. Of course, it would be in addition to forest restoration for ecological security and other uses. Therefore, it is very important that every land use plan of local governments shall identify suitable areas for tree plantation.

Under the Local Government Code of the Philippines, the establishment and maintenance of communal tree farms is among the devolved functions of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to LGUs. The purpose of the communal tree farm is to set aside certain forestlands for the purpose of ensuring the timber requirements of local communities. This scheme can be implemented by the different barangays.

Aside from communal forest, it is also good to see every barangay establishing tree parks that may serve as recreational facilities. Instead of tree planting activities that are being implemented in the uplands with no maintenance and sustainability mechanisms, what if every barangay promotes tree parks where tree planting activities can be done instead?

The best options for commercial tree plantations are forestlands covered with land tenure instruments issued by the DENR. These include areas covered with Certificate of Stewardship Contracts, Community-Based Forest Management Agreements and, in the case of protected areas, the Protected Areas Community-Based Resource Management Agreement.

Under the guidelines for the awarding of these land tenure agreements, holders are required to protect the natural forests found in the tenured area and, at the same time, to establish production areas for both agriculture and forestry, also known as agroforestry. However, in most cases, these tenured areas are fully developed into agricultural production, with no provision at all on tree plantations.

Private landowners should be encouraged to establish commercial tree plantations. It is very necessary that the government shall likewise promote incentives in the establishment of tree plantations for commercial purposes.*

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