Tree-planting effects in Iloilo still pending, says governor

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. acknowledged on Thursday, May 9, that the benefits of the provincial government’s tree-planting and other environmental efforts are yet to be seen and are expected to materialize over several years.

Launched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tanum Iloilo program has led to the planting of 6.66 million trees across the province.

These indigenous seedlings were sourced from the central nursery in Maasin and satellite nurseries in Ajuy, Alimodian, Dingle, and Guimbal.

Of the 5.11 million trees planted from 2020 to 2022, 48 percent have survived, while the status of another 1.55 million planted last year is still under evaluation.

This year’s Tanum Iloilo is geared towards addressing the anticipated La Niña phenomenon expected to develop in the coming months as the current El Niño wanes.

Despite a survival rate considered “okay enough” by Defensor, he emphasized the need for more intensive efforts to enhance the program’s efficacy.

“We want to be aggressive in the replenishment of our forest, not just because of our [grass] fires. We really need that, so that we restore the volume of our water in our rivers and our groundwaters as well,” the governor said.

Regarding the program’s impact on mitigating climate change effects, the governor said it remains to be seen.

“Technically, we haven’t been able to determine that. We will start with the numbers, on what achievements we have in relation to tree-planting, then from there we could have an idea. We cannot rush that, the significant impact on climate change,” he said.

He also noted the broader environmental challenges, including issues with the ozone layer and carbon emissions.

“I don’t think we can see any radical change in there, because it’s not just the trees, we also have to contend with the ozone layer and our carbon emissions. Tree is a big part of that, but that is not the only solution. But nonetheless, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t use our strength to reforest and regenerate our mountains,” he stated.

The governor is also considering planting non-native species like mahogany for wood production to complement the growth needs for production forests.

“They grow fast. There are times that we need fast growth also. If it’s a production forest, we need those kinds of species, especially [those being] harvested. We need that whether we like it or not. We need a source of wood. We were supposed to have production forests, like farms, that we can harvest,” he said.

The ongoing Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) program, started in 1992, aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of upland farmers and enhance environmental protection, covering 139 sites across 22 municipalities with 8,802 community beneficiaries.

Defensor considered the ISF as a “catchment” for the low survival rates of the Tanum Iloilo trees but was unable to provide the survival rates for this program.

Moreover, the Mangrove Rehabilitation Project, part of the province’s Coastal Resource Management, has established 330.50 hectares of mangroves in 14 coastal municipalities (Ajuy, Anilao, Balasan, Banate, Barotac Nuevo, Barotac Viejo, Batad, Estancia, Leganes, San Dionisio, and Zarraga).

With a total budget of P17.2 million from 2009 to 2022, the survival rate of these mangroves is at 39 percent, while those planted last year, which were valued at P2 million, are still being monitored.

But despite these efforts, many parts of the province were flooded in recent years due to storms, including typhoons Yolanda (2013), Odette (2021), Paeng (2022), and Egay and Goring (both in 2023).


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