Dancing for Cebu’s forests
FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto (The Freeman) - January 15, 2013 - 12:00am

I read a news item that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Region 7 has earmarked about P24 million for various forest protection programs in Central Visayas in 2013. Cebu would get the highest amount, taking P10.75 million.

Isabelo R. Montejo, the DENR-7 Regional Executive Director, was quoted as saying that the amount will be used to sustain reforestation projects under the government’s National Greening Program. He also said that the DENR will strengthen its campaign against illegal logging and illegal transport of forest products, with the military taking the lead role in forest protection initiatives. He added that the DENR seeks a stronger partnership and collaboration with local government units, the academe and other stakeholders to help in protecting the forests.

I am bothered by how vague these plans to protect the forests of Central Visayas are. I could only scratch my head when I read the part about putting the military in charge of forest protection initiatives. It sounded like the DENR is giving up and abdicating its responsibilities.

Since it is the beginning of the year, I will choose to be hopeful and assume that the need to keep the press release short and succinct led to very general statements being made about the DENR’s reforestation program. I imagine that there is a detailed plan as to how the P24 million will be spent. At the minimum, the plan should mention reforestation programs for the protected areas in Central Visayas. The reforestation program should specify that only native and indigenous species will be used. It should also specify that persons from the communities where reforestation will take place will be preferred in the hiring of people who will do the planting. Most importantly, the DENR should have a plan (and money set aside) to ensure that the seedlings that were planted will be taken care of. It takes years for a forest to be restored and a one-year plan is not enough.

I continue to wait for news of how “a stronger partnership and collaboration” with local government units, the academe and other stakeholders will be built. What form will such partnerships take? Will the programs be continued regardless of who will occupy the local government or DENR post? Years ago, I read about the Adopt-a-Mountain program of the DENR. It sounded good in theory but was very unwieldy to implement. There were issues in securing tenure for the grantee and in ensuring that the grantee performed its obligations under the agreement. The last time I asked the persons in charge of the program, I was told that the program was suspended and under review. I hope that it has been tweaked and that more successful collaborations with local government units and the private sector will be possible.

It is the Sinulog week and like any Cebuano away from home, I feel homesick and wish I could take part in the celebrations. I have never found the courage to dance in front of the Sto. Niño Church and have taken to asking the candle vendors to do the dancing for me. When I finally find it (and only when I can dance as gracefully as the suspended governor can), I will be certain to include Cebu’s forests in my prayer dance. Please include them in yours.

Pit Senyor!


Email: lkemalilong@yahoo.com



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