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FPE kicks off 20th Anniversary Celebration with Ceremonial Tree Planting Event

Posted on February 2, 2012

It was an early start of the day, 6:00 AM, when the participants to FPE’s tree nursery production exercise drove into the tree nursery of San Joseph Punlaang Bayan Agro-Rainforestation Association (SJPBARA), in Sitio San Joseph, Brgy. San Jose, Antipolo City.

Upon arrival, the staff was greeted by a community that was busy with the preparations for the next plot of wilding seedlings that the participants will work on. Around 8:00 am, the participants were called to the assembly area by FPE Project Officer Aivan Herzano, who gave a short process orientation on the simultaneous planting activity.

While, the Board of Trustees was asked to ceremonially plant seedlings along the pathway and entrance into the nursery, the staff was brought into the nursery. There, For. Rey Abadia of the Fostering Peoples Education, Empowerment and Enterprise (FPE3) gave the instructions to the participants and explained the process of the planting and potting of seedlings and wildings.

As the participants were planting the wildings in polybags prepared for the purpose, the other members of the people’s organization were taping together sheets of thick transparent plastic, up to 10 meters long, which will serve as the dome and the bamboo arches that will serve as the frames for the sealed recovery chamber.

According to For. Abadia, the chamber will be sealed for three months, and the seedlings will be watered only by the evaporation that steams the chamber and preserves the internal temperature. The reason for this is to keep the stress caused by fluctuating temperatures to the wildings at minimum.

The frames are set around 5 -8 inches deep into the ground around the side of the plot where the polybags are placed. Once the frame and the plastic dome is put in place, soil is piled around the base of the frame and liberally sprinkled with water to fully seal the chamber.

After the chamber preparation, the participants went back to the assembly area for the program proper, started off with a prayer by FPE staff Rosalie Pasibe and the communal singing of the national anthem. The hosts, Rheyda Hinlo of FPE and Charlie Gatchalian of SJPBARA then formally welcomed the participants and acknowledged the presence of FPE and its Board, the FPE3, the 8 people’s organizations of the Marikina Watershed area, representatives from the PENRO and DENR’s Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza.

After the welcoming address, Aivan Herzano gave a briefing on FPE’s advocacy of “rainforestation”, a concept that puts an emphasis on using indigenous species for reforestation instead of the common reforestation practice of using fast-growing, non-endemic species. He began his talk by narrating his experience in advocating the concept of rainforestation among the communities in the Marikina watershed starting in late 2009 right after the typhoon Ondoy that flooded parts of Metro Manila with waters from areas like the Marikina watershed. According to him, rainforestation is a technology that is aimed at (1) transforming ecologically harmful and unsustainable farming practices, (2) promote biodiversity, (3) creating buffer zones to conserve the remaining forests, (4) helping preserve the critical watershed area and control water flows, and (5) provide communities with alternative sustainable livelihoods.

He also talked about the evolution of FPE’s implementation of the rainforestation concept into various modalities. Although the rainforestation work was originally designed to be based on the land use system, FPE’s continuing development resulted in a typology based on use and program. In terms of uses, rainforestation farming is a modality, e.g. rainforestation for urban settings like the Marikina Watershed project. Rainforestation concepts have also been applied to landscaping/beautification programs, emphasizing the use of indigenous species in the beautification of roads, eco-parks, among others.

In terms of purpose, he said that aside from the use of native species, rainforestation also comes in the form of culturally sensitive selection of species and planting materials for the re-greening effort in an indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain area, for instance.

FPE’s Acting Executive Director Godofredo T. Villapando, Jr. gave a short overview of the DENR’s National Greening Program (NGP), and the FPE’s level of involvement in it. He then explained that the NGP is a program signed by President Benigno Aquino III last February 24, 2010.

He said the NGP is a convergence program led by the DENR, DA, and DAR, targeting the planting of 1.5 billion trees, including both native and exotic species, in 1.5 million hectares of protected and production areas. He cited three reasons for FPE’s involvement in the program, the first of which is because of its mandate to push for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development (BCSD).

The second reason was FPE’s continuing advocacy to promote Rainforestation technology. As such, even before the Typhoon Ondoy that prompted much recent interest in the watershed area from civil society and non-government organizations, the Marikina watershed has been a long standing interest of the FPE, particularly on how to effectively manage critical watersheds surrounding Metro Manila.

The third reason was FPE’s concern for conservation of the environment. He emphasized the need to keep the perspective of preserving the environment for future generations. Lastly, he also cited FPE’s interest in supporting the effective and relevant people’s participation in ecological governance, as the fifth reason for FPE’s participation in the NGP.

FPE’s involvement is its advocacy and support of the rainforestation concept in the NGP, particularly on the use of native species instead of exotic species in the program. He mentions that even as of 30 years ago, the problem has always been in the lack of available seedlings of native species, resulting mainly in the use of exotic species for reforestation programs.

After a stakeholders meeting on NGP, FPE responded to the challenge of DENR Sec. Paje who allotted 50 million seedlings to be sourced from CSO partners from the total 114 million seedlings targeted to be planted on the first year of NGP, by supporting the establishment and expansion of seedling nurseries.

Another welcome development in the talks with Sec. Paje was that because of FPE’s advocacy, the NGP areas were expanded to cover not just the areas identified by DENR but also the areas being worked on by people’s organizations supported by FPE. He also said that he anticipates the signing of a MOA between FPE and the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, within January this year, to concretize civil society’s commitment to produce the 50 million seedlings in response to DENR Sec. Paje’s challenge.

He then cited the advantages and benefits under the NGP, saying that the program (1) ensures the community’s livelihood, (2) reduces the impact of climate change, and (3) increased promotion of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. He also mentioned the challenges: (1) the need for a systematic participation in the NGP program to produce 50 million seedlings, particularly on how to guarantee delivery and production of the committed seedlings, (2) effective coordination between NGO and other government programs to generate better synergy between NGP and other programs of government, such as DSWD’s Conditional Cash Transfer program, a version of which is the environmental CCT currently being designed by the NGP, and lastly, (3) the sustainability of the reforestation projects at the community level.

After AED Villapando’s talk, the host called the representatives of the communities to describe their experiences with the project. Roger Carlos of CPBI narrated that their involvement began in January 2010, when FPE’s Aivan Herzano began his work by providing trainings to different participating people’s organization in rainforestation technologies. He said that their livelihood used to be charcoal production, but when the project was implemented, they shifted and ventured into nursery production and produced 42,000 seedlings with the market value of atleast Php12/seedling. To date, he revealed that they have planted up to 9 hectares (ha), and continues to expand.

Antonio Legazpi, Chairman of Sitio San Joseph was also called to speak, and he said he encourages all the people’s organizations in the barangay to continue their participation in the project.

SJBAPA President Hermenio Mopon also spoke about their experiences with the project: he affirmed that it was December 2009 when they first met and worked with the first 5 founding members of the SJBAPA. From an original 18 members, they started worked on 23 ha, and that it was only in 2011 that the organization expanded its membership and on March 31, 2011, the organization was officially and legally registered with the SEC.

Ronnie Tesaba, VP of the same organization, also shared his experiences. He said that in 2009, PDRF was the first NGO with FPE that came and worked with communities in the area. By 2010, they had 8 chambers with planting materials that supplied seedlings to some 23 hectares of reforested land. By mid-2011, they were producing 60,000 seedlings in 60 chambers, resulting in the reforesting of 68.67 ha of land. A total of 91 hectares have now been replanted since the start of FPE’s involvement in late 2009. He also revealed that because of quality control, mortality rates were kept at a low 10%, and the species of seedlings being produced included lauan, kupang, kamagong, kamugis, narra, molave, and other indigenous species. He said he looks forward to the still 100 ha that are targeted for reforestation in the coming year.

TSKC president Giger Novabos also spoke on their experiences. He said their organization started from the barangay lupon and tanod members, and in 2011, they’ve reforested some 61 ha in Brgy. Calawis. He reports making slow but sure headway in their advocacy to convert kaingineros and charcoal makers into the more sustainable partners in the project. He also revealed the plans to expand their nursery for 2012.

After the community’s sharing of experiences, FPE’s CEO and BOT Chair, Atty. Danny Valenzuela, and BOT Member Proserpina Roxas assisted DENR’s Asec. Mendoza in distributing certificates of recognition to FPE’s partners in the area: the FPE3, SJPBARA (Herminio Mopon Jr.), CPBI (Boy Ner Sr.), SJFFAI (Jorge Maragondon), MASAKA (Rolando Vertudez), MASAKAT (Retsae Somodio), TSKC (Gegir Novabos), NASAMASABAKA (Marcelito Matienzo), PGMC (Sabado Casabar).

After the distribution of certificates, DENR’s Asec Marlo Mendoza was called to give his message. In greeting the FPE on its 20th anniversary celebration, he said that the FPE has always been one of the organizations that really made an impact when it comes to environmental concerns.

In response to one of the comments during the sharing of the community, Asec Mendoza clarified that DENR has not issued any policy regarding the cutting of exotic species to be replaced by native species. Furthermore, Asec Mendoza said that the discussion with the stakeholders was about the plan to increase research and combination of indigenous species to eventually diminish the dependence on exotic species.

On the current NGP project of DENR, Asec Mendoza revealed that the NGP does not have any foreign loan, and that funds are coming from government alone. As such, community partners should not waste the opportunity of the unified direction set by the project.

He also talked that the current NGP project is targeting 100,000 ha for its first year. Per report, previous project reforested 118,000 has, 82,000 ha of which were DENR areas. In the next year, some 222,000 ha are targeted.

He further reiterated that DENR policy permits the planting and harvesting of species only in specific areas designated as production zones. He revealed that up to $1 billion worth of forest products was imported last year, indicating a huge market. What is key is proper area management and the planting of proper species in production areas to ensure sustainability of the projects, he added. He also said fruit trees in protected zones will be permitted for harvest since it is only the oils and resins that will be harvested.

He also talked about the need to plant hedgerow species to lessen soil erosion, siltation and sedimentation. However, the lack of hedgerow species is one of the major problems in establishing hedgerow areas.

He also confirmed the linkage with DSWD to enroll NGP communities into the CCT, under the environmental CCT that he anticipates will be signed soon. Some examples of conditionalities attached to the participation of communities under the ECCT program are (1) farm plans that specify soil conservation measures, (2) survival rate and (3) species map.

He also said that DENR will begin to look into proper identification of markets for fuel wood production. He revealed that in 3 years’ time, DENR will require fuel wood buyers to produce certification papers for the fuel wood they purchase. A preliminary 1,000 ha has been set aside for the planting of fuel wood for charcoal production, the charcoal products of which will be DENR certified.

He said that the success of the NGP is not just environmental, it is also economic, and also has impacts on biodiversity and climate change.

He emphasized the need for science and technology to speed up rehabilitation and make land more productive. According to him, the use of nursery chambers and other technologies will enhance the program, such as seed production, and that the potential yield of using appropriate species in production areas are three times the amount of those using non-scientifically identified and specified species. He recommended the mycorhizal inoculation of seedlings and emphasized the importance of genetics and scientific nursery and replanting management to ensure higher survival rates.

Pagtulung-tulungan po natin ito. Hindi ito simpleng gawain, pero maaaring gawin sa masugid na pakikipag-tulungan,” he added.

In his closing remarks, FPE chairperson and CEO Danny Valenzuela thanked the participants and the partners, and reiterated the continued commitment of FPE to the Marikina watershed initiatives, confirming its continued presence and support in the area.

He also introduced the other members of the board: BOT Sec. Proserpina Roxas from Mindanao, Nestor Carbonera who is a BOT member-at-large, Mrs. Vilma Joson of Nueva Ecija, and Arch. Bajin Atega from Cebu.

In ending his talk, he said that this celebration is “…not for FPE alone, but for all of us.”

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