SENATE president pro tempore Ralph Recto yesterday said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should first show proof where the 1.7 billion trees it planted under the National Greening Program this year before its request to double the project’s budget in 2020 can be approved.
Recto noted the DENR asked that the budget for tree planting be increased from P2.6 billion in 2019 to P5.15 billion in 2020.
“The DENR’s National Greening Program (NGP) is one of the very few programs that will be gifted with almost a 100 percent budget increase. Budgets for health, the PGH (Philippine General Hospital), college scholarships are like trees being cut by chainsaws. But the one for NGP has assumed the status of a protected species,” Recto said.
Recto said that from 2011 to 2019, the NGP’s total budget stood at P38.9 billion. With the amount given, he said the DENR should have planted 1.807 billion trees in 2.141 million hectares of land the past nine years ending December this year.
But because the year has not yet ended, he said the trees planted from 2011 to 2018 should have been 1.669 billion in 1.998 million hectares of land.
He said 1.998 or 2 million hectares of land represents 1/15 hectares of the total land area of the country. Two million hectares, he added, is 32 times the land area of Metro Manila, and also four times the size of Cebu island.
“If NGP is to be believed, ganito na kalawak ang tinaniman nila ng puno (If NGP is to be believed, it has planted trees in big sizes of land),” Recto said.
After counting the number of trees planted, Recto said it is high time the DENR “to show us the forest.”
“Ilabas na ang NGP map. The proof of the planting is in the photos. Ipakita sa aerial maps, before and after photos, ang resulta ng isang P38.9 billion project.
(Bring out the NGP map. The proof of the planting is in the photos. Show us the aerial map, before and after photos, the results of the P38.9 billion project),” he said.
He added: “Assuming that saplings planted had a mortality rate of 62 percent (which is actual versus the target 85 percent), the large swaths of successfully reforested lands would still be impressive. The trees may not have yet reached towering heights but they are no longer green shoots that are hard to see.”
Recto said DENR should also explain why the survival rate of saplings is low in the some areas where they were planted.
“Tree planting is a climate change resilience measure. It is a program that aims to boost the forest stock of our country so it can absorb carbon dioxide, while providing livelihood and enriching our biodiversity. What we have been shown so far is a forest of newsprint of reports and vouchers of spending on NGP. Show us the actual greenery,” he said.
Sen. Cynthia Villar, who defended the DENR budget, said the department promised to furnish Recto’s office proofs of the trees planted nationwide.