Government may surpass reforestation target
(The Philippine Star) - February 23, 2016 - 9:00am

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, Philippines – The Aquino administration is bowing out with the probability of exceeding its promise to rehabilitate 1.5 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forest lands nationwide.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has ranked the Philippines as fifth worldwide in terms of the most forest gain from 2010 to 2015, with an average annual rate of 240,000 hectares.

“For the fifth year in a row, the government has exceeded its target under the National Greening Program with more than 334,000 hectares of denuded and degraded forests planted with trees in 2015,” Paje yesterday told participants in the opening ceremonies of the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week.

Although the Aquino government only has less than four months left in office, he said its targets could still be exceeded as he cited data from 2011 to 2015 that showed a total area of 1,351,783 hectares reforested.

“This would still increase because field reports are still coming in,” Paje said.

He also reported the government’s success against illegal logging, pointing out a “significant reduction of illegal logging hotspots from a high of 197 in 2010 to only 31 (this year).”

About 1,000 key forestry leaders from 30 countries gathered at the conference here to create a roadmap for the restoration of denuded forests.

The roadmap, said FAO senior forestry officer Patrick Durst, would spell out strategies that will effectively enable countries to deliver on their COP21 pledges, including the reduction of greenhouse emissions and building resilience to counter the negative impacts of climate change.

“Now that the dust has settled on the Paris climate change conference, countries around the world are regrouping to see how they can translate the lofty commitments made in Paris into practical action on the ground,” Durst said.

Durst said more than 70 parallel sessions, workshops and seminars on future trade and markets, climate change, forestry and people, new institutions and governance and green investments would be held this week.

The conference, according to organizers, would “provide the region’s first major opportunity to explore how the new global deal on climate change (Paris Agreement) is relevant to forest management in Asia Pacific.”

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