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Reforestation gets P2.9 B hike, Tanada says Google Earth can help monitor it

Government’s tree planting budget will more than double to P5.1 billion next year prompting a House leader to propose that denuded mountains that worsened the recent floods in Central Luzon and Metro Manila be  prioritized in the 300,000 hectares that will be reforested  in 2013.

Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said that a massive tree planting is one of the “upstream solutions” to the perennial flooding in the country’s capital “and on this the government is putting where its mouth is.”

According to Tañada, the government’s budget for the National Greening Program  (NGP) will  jump by 130 percent, from this year’s P2.2  billion to P5.1  billion next year.

“In fact, if we include the P850 million for ‘clonal nurseries and production of quality planting materials, the total regreening project is  P5.9  billion,” Tañada explained.

The amount, Tañada said, will be used to plant 150 million seedlings in 300,000 hectares next year, en route  to the goal of the Aquino administration to widen forest cover to 30 percent of the country’s total land area by 2016.

At this given target and budget , the cost of  reforesting one hectare is about P19,600, Tañada said, “a price which also underscores the need for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to strictly monitor  its implementation.”

He said government can  validate  contractors’ claim of work  through  field inspections by the Commission on Audit, and by civil society groups or even via Google Earth which provide satellite photo of the earth’s topography.

Tañada said if properly implemented the NGP can solve two major problems the country is grappling with   -environmental degradation and unemployment.

As job generator, the NGP employed 364,000 persons last year, a report from the DENR, which manages the program and administers the funds, Tañada claimed.

Tañada urged the DENR to study the possibility of employing Metro Manila’s “teeming jobless” including those living along estero banks to work in the NGP  tree planting program.

“But not in traffic islands or sidewalks please but up there in the Sierra Madre, from where rainwater that floods Metro  Manila, Central Luzon and Laguna  come  from,” Tañada said.

Largely on account of the P2.9 billion hike in NGP funding, the budget of the DENR will increase by a hefty P6.6 billion to P23.63 billion next year from this year’s P17.47 billion.#