Balik Probinsya and the National Greening Program: People needs the forestlands, the forestlands need the people


Balik Probinsya and the National Greening Program: People needs the forestlands, the forestlands need the people

2 rainbow  barangay maguibway tagakawayan

Maguibway beckons.

In southern Quezon, in Tagkawayan, barangay Maguibway makes way for the urban Metro Manila’s ‘informal settlers’ to have a formal abode in the once sleepy grassland.

A six thousand hectares portion of the Maguibway timberland, with moderate slope of rolling hilly to slightly steep terrain, will be developed for the “Balik Probinsya’ program of the P-Noy administration.

The BP program complements another P-Noy initiative, the National Greening Program. The P-Noy administration’s NGP aimed to grow 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of public land from year 2011 to 2016. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) with 14 other national government agencies, converged for the implementation of the NGP.

Maguibway is a barangay in Tagkawayan. Tagkawayan is a town in Quezon. Quezon is one of five provinces of Region 4 A CALABARZON, the rest being Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Rizal.

In CALABARZON Region, P-Noy’s NGP aimed to rehabilitate some 119,070 hectares of degraded forestland. Planting started in 2011. So far, as of December 31 2013, the DENR Region 4A CALABARZON Office has reportedly planted in some 26,676 hectares region-wide, with 10,800 hectares in Quezon, The Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Calauag Quezon reports rehabilitating some 2,513 hectares with no less than 1.6 million seedlings.

The Maguibay Balik Probinsya program started in early 2012. Synchronized with the rehabilitation activities in the NGP target areas, but done separately, was the surveying, mapping and development planning for the six thousand hectares timberland in Maguibway. Immediately, special focus was on some 2,000-hectares area planned for development with 800 hectares for timber production, 700 hectares for fuelwood plantation, and 500 hectares for agroforestry farm. Some 107 hectares have already is being prepared also for settlement area and establishment of the project management office. This is where the Balik Probinsya Program is taking form.

The DENR office in southern Quezon, with its base in Calauag, is leading the implementation of the program. The Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer, a professional Forester, a product of the University of the Philippines College of Forestry and Natural Resources in Los Baños is Ruben Mabesa. CENRO Mabesa is the Project Management Officer of the Balik Probinsya Program.

DENR Region 4A CALABARZON Regional Executive Director Reynulfo Juan picked Forester Mabesa to take on the task.

Director Juan explained that the program was conceptualized for the informal settlers in Metro Manila and to encourage them to “participate in P-Noy’s Program and be partners in environmental rehabilitation projects.”

Juan has tasked Mabesa to fast track development the 6,000 hectares timberland in Maguibway.

He said. “Let’s make Maguibway a habitable environment and provided with livelihood opportunities. Let’s have beneficiaries that would not only enjoy living in the area but also as capacitated ones who would continue on the task of sustainably developing the area.”

He said the people, government and non-government entities will join hands to help rehabilitate the environment.

Juan revealed that an initial 200 families can build abodes on a 200-square meter lot each. “They will also be provided, and be allowed to develop and maintain a separate communal farm area under the Community Based Forest Management CBFM program,” he said.

“Access roads, school, health and daycare centers, with electricity and water supplies will be provided to ensure habitable environment,” he added.

He also stressed that livelihood opportunities will be available such as but not limited to, being partners in the National Greening Program. The resettled families can help and earn their keep in forest rehabilitation efforts, fuelwood plantation and agro-forestry farm establishments.

The DENR Calabarzon chief also revealed that they also are ‘the assured recipients’ of the Department of Agrarian Reform’s infrastructure support such as the farm-to-market roads, the Department of Agriculture’s support through cash crops programs, and accommodation to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s conditional cash transfer–cash for work programs. They are primary recipients also of the various organizational capacity and training programs of other government, local government units and similarly concerned non-government organizations.

DENR Secretary Ramon JP Paje, then in 2012, has given instructions to Juan to start immediately, and not to ‘hostage’ the program because there is no community to talk of, yet.

Taking to task the Secretary’s instructions, as relayed to him by Juan, Mabesa coordinated with the barangay officials of Maguibway and mobilized residents to help in the plantation establishment. Mabesa led a battery of foresters and extension officers to provide direction and technical assistance to the barangay folks in the establishment of the nursery, in the production of seedlings and eventually in actual planting of the seedlings and maintenance activities.

As early as September 2013, with help from the DENR Regional Office’s Land Evaluation Party surveyors, Mabesa reported having mapped and subdivided the residential lots and the lots adjacent to the project management office. Construction of the office building commenced immediately.

Mabesa has reported to Juan that the Project Management Office building needed just a few finishing touches as of end January and that he had arranged the office blessing by early March.

As of December 31, 2013, the Project Manager reported that the 800 hectares allotted for timber plantation establishment had 331 hectares planted to Batino (Alstonia macrophyla), 150 hectares planted to Kalumpit Terminalia edulis), 300 hectares to Yemane (Gmelina arborea) and 19 hectares to Malapapaya (Polyscias nodosa).

He also reported that the 700 hectares allotted for fuelwood had 300 hectares planted to Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) and 400 hectares Kakawate (Gliricidia sepium); and the 500 hectares agroforestry plantation has 100 hectares planted to Malunggay (Moringa oleifera), 150 hectares planted to Coffee (Coffea Arabica), 150 hectares to Cacao (Theobroma cacao) and 100 hectares Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum).

Mabesa revealed that initially the seedlings used in establishment of the plantations were procured from accredited nurseries elsewhere. To support the plantation and to augment seedling requirement, a main central nursery was established in the area complete with a bunk house made of locally available light matrerials, seed bed plots, potting shed, hardening bed and a mechanized water supply. Two sub-nurseries were established, one in Sitio Almacigahan and another in Sitio Dinagitan, also within Maguibway.

Still within the 6,000 hectares area, he said some 70 hectares have been planted to bamboo for rehabilitation in Maguibaawa river banks in Sitio Dinagitan.

Mabesa further revealed that they experimented in establishing a 50 hectares rubber plantation within the area. “We had problems with seedling mortality after transplanting the seedlings. Rodents seem to like the taste of the young rubber tree. We have partly solved this, we just need to clear-brush the plantation area and surroundings of the seedling. The rubber seedlings are surviving,” he said.

The program, according to Mabesa, even at its early stage, has already helped 34 resident families of Maguibway. Some were employed starting from the establishment phase. From the remuneration received during the establishment and maintenance of the plantation, some report to have improved living conditions. Some were able to send their children to school, 126 children have received support for educational needs. Some have repaired or built homes.

The BP program manager also reports on the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s having done the geological assessment of the site. The road is being rehabilitated by the Department of Public Works and Highways. Culverts and spillways are constructed. Coordination with the Quezon Electric Power is showing some bright prospects.

With another 400 hectares set aside for farmland, he also reported that the Bureau of Soil and Water Management has conducted soil sampling of the area for crop suitability.

He added that the DENR Calabarzon regional land evaluation party (LEP) reported to him having parcellarized 1,871 200-square meter lots within the 107 hectares identified and classified as resettlement area.

A rehabilitated forest, green and robust, that is enveloping the area? Check!

Agroforestry, in addition to farm land which will ensure sustainable food production? Check!

There will be wood for construction and fuelwood and is sufficient? Check!

A rubber plantation which will ensure steady income, come sap harvest time, for industry and for other purposes? Check!

Bamboo which is ensuring streambank rehabilitation, flood control and material home construction? Check!

And more importantly, lots for homes? Check!

What else? The community!

Maguibway beckons!