The government’s Expanded National Greening Program saw growth in 2017.

Data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) showed that seedling planting activities under the program covered 187,707 hectares nationwide.

This raised the total greened area across the country to 1.85 million hectares since the reforestation program began in 2011. The program’s ‎2011-2017 total planting target was only 1.64 million hectares, according to DENR.

EO 26 series of 2011 established the National Greening Program (NGP), government’s most ambitious reforestation bid.

NGP targeted planting by 2016 about 1.5 billion seedlings of indigenous and exotic tree species in 1.5 million hectares of open, denuded, and degraded land nationwide.

The government launched NGP as a priority program to help reduce poverty, promote food security, environmental stability, and biodiversity conservation, as well as enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation in the country.

DENR data show that NGP paved the way for the planting of almost 1.4 billion seedlings in about 1.66 million hectares nationwide during the ‎2011-2016 period.

EO 193 series of 2015, now known as ENGP, extended NGP’s implementation period from 2016 to 2028 to rehabilitate and reforest all remaining unproductive, denuded, and degraded forestland nationwide.

“There is still an estimated 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded, and degraded forestlands, which contribute to environment-related risks, such as soil erosion, landslides, and flooding,” EO 193 states.

Under the ENGP, the government targets greening some 1.2 million hectares during the ‎2017-2022 period.

ENGP’s implementation in 2017 saw the planting of some 156.42 million seedlings nationwide as of November.

The ENGP employed 55,364 people in 2017, raising to 613,687 persons the program’s total employment since 2011, said the DENR.

The department tapped people’s organizations (POs) as partners in the program to undertake seedling production and other activities.

Aside from getting paid for the work, DENR said POs could harvest, use, and sell fruits, coffee, cacao, and other produce of what these groups planted in the program’s sites around the country.

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations had cited the Philippines’ NGP reforestation accomplishment in the Global Forest Resources Assessment report launched at the 2015 World Forestry Congress.

The FAO report ranked the Philippines fifth among countries reporting the greatest annual forest area gain, which reached 240,000 hectares during the ‎2010-2015 period.

The Philippines then trailed China (1.5 million hectares), Australia (308,000 hectares), Chile (301,000 hectares) and the US (275,000 hectares), but was ahead of sixth to tenth placers Gabon (200,000 hectares), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (189,000 hectares), India (178,000 hectares), Vietnam (129,000 hectares), and France (113,000 hectares). (PNA)

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