By Ali G. Macabalang
The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) wants the National Greening Program (NGP) to shift to fruit trees planting in the “Land of Promise” to ensure not only the efficacy of reforestation but the economic profits for countryside stakeholders.
MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol on Wednesday said his agency “will officially ask the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to review the effectiveness of the NGP in Mindanao as flooding continues in spite of billions spent for the program.”
Sec. Piñol attended the 4th Mindanao River Basin Management Council meeting hosted here on Nov. 27 by North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco in partnership with the MinDA.
At the meeting, he said, “I questioned the effectiveness of the current interventions by the government on the perennial flooding in the down-streams of Mindanao’s major rivers.”
He said MinDA “will also ask DENR to (harmonize) its reforestation program under NGP with the Green Mindanao Project (GMP) which promotes the planting of high value fruit trees in the deforested highlands and watersheds of Mindanao.”
The GMP is one of the major programs of MinDA meant to address denudation of Mindanao mountain ranges and at the same time improve agricultural productivity and reduce poverty in host communities.
“The NGP, a government reforestation program which has been on-going for many years now, receives billions in annual budget,” Piñol disclosed in a Facebook post Wednesday.
For 2019, he said, the NGP “received a budget of P2.6-B for the planting of 980,000 trees in 900 hectares which means that the government spent 2,600 pesos for every tree planted.”
“That same amount could buy 13 seedlings of Abuyog Sweet Jackfruit, 26 Mangosteen seedlings and 5 seedlings of the Hass Avocado variety, all of which will grow well in the highlands,” he averred.
“Latest satellite maps of Mindanao showed the thinning of Mindanao’s forest covers and the negligible area covered by the NGP. A variation in the implementation of the NGP in Mindanao could serve as a template of a new strategy in the country’s tree planting programs,” the MinDA chief said.
In a separate statement, Piñol mentioned some detailed recommendations he presented at the Nov. 27 meeting, viz:
1. The immediate dredging and de-clogging of the major rivers to ensure the free-flow of water, especially in the Central Mindanao Area where the major rivers are choked by water hyacinths;
2. The establishment of water catchment basins, small dams, levees and water impounding to mitigate the sudden rush of floodwater to the lower portions of the basins, a measure which could also benefit agriculture;
3. The construction of levees and river embankments to manage and direct the flow of flood water and minimize damage to agriculture;
4. Strict implementation of forestry laws, including legal actions to be taken against those who encroach into critical watershed areas;
5. A serious, effective and well-planned program to grow trees in the deforested highlands, watersheds and mountains, including the growing of fruit trees.
6. Finally, the creation of the singular agency which will coordinate the implementation of these programs through an Executive Order to be issued by President Rody Duterte because of the urgency of the problem.
Piñol said Go. Catamco has corroborated his recommendations as potential measures to mitigate the cycle of flood incidents in Central Mindanao and avert impending natural disasters worse than those in Luzon recently.
The national government in coordination with local government units and even foreign entities has conceived years ago the Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development Program (MRBRDP), entailing unfinished thrusts in the administrations of at least three past Presidents.
The 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh constitutes largely the Mindanao River Basin. The marsh is surrounded mostly by Bangsamoro communities in Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Maguindanao where downpours would usually bring about floods and displace thousands of families intermittently. (AGM)