The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will remain at the forefront of the local fight against climate change through its intensified programs on massive reforestation, forest protection, and coastal restoration and management.

At the National Climate Change Action Plan Forum held at the Hotel Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City recently, environment officials said the DENR will continue to work toward achieving the country's contribution to the global effort to combat climate change.

Foremost among these climate change mitigation and adaptation measures are the expanded National Greening Program (NGP) and the Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Rehabilitation Program (CMERP).

NGP is a six-year massive forest rehabilitation program that aimed to cover 1.5 million hectares of degraded forestland with trees by the end of 2016. But it was extended until 2028 through an executive order issued in November 2015 in a bid to rehabilitate 7.1 million hectares more.

Speaking on behalf of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez, Director Ricardo Calderon of the Forest Management Bureau said the NGP remains as the most effective anti-climate change initiative in the country.

Calderon said the NGP, along with the intensified campaign against illegal logging, has the potential to reduce up to 40 percent of the country's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Philippines, in its intended nationally determined contributions submitted to the United Nations last year, proposed to cut its GHG emissions by 70 percent by 2030.

Calderon said the DENR aims to keep the nation's forests healthy to make them more resilient to climate change and allow them to continue to protect the lives of millions of Filipinos vulnerable to climate change impacts.

But while forests absorb carbon and other GHGs, Calderon said they can also be a major source of carbon emission if they will not be protected from illegal logging activities.

"Trees store carbon inside them, so when they are chopped down, they release the carbon they are storing," Calderon said.

According to him, more than one billion tons of carbon from an estimated 6.8 million hectares of open, closed or mangrove forest covers can potentially be released to the atmosphere if the forests are not properly guarded from illegal loggers.

Meanwhile, Dr. Vincent Hilomen of the Biodiversity Management Bureau made a presentation on CMERP, which began earlier this year and will continue up to 2028.

CMERP seeks to update the baseline conditions of the country's coastal and marine ecosystems while improving and restoring the ecological functions of the species thriving in their natural habitat.

Gigi Perillo of the Environmental Management Bureau discussed the proposed initiatives, including the development and publication of materials for GHG accounting to be used by local government units, the academe and industries.

Perillo also disclosed the plan to conduct studies on soot mitigation and the implementation of the joint carbon mechanism on a national level. #