Deforestation is a major driver of biodiversity loss in the Philippines. Between 1934 and 1990, the country lost 10.9 million hectares (ha) of forest cover.
Established through a Presidential Executive Order in 2011, the National Greening Program (NGP) promotes reforestation, reduces poverty, promotes food security, creates alternative livelihoods, and enhances climate change mitigation and adaptation. Between 2011-2018, the NGP has successfully reforested over 1.91 million hectares of area i.e. 108 per cent of the original target (1.76 million hectares); planted over 1.5 billion seedlings; generated over 4,736,195 jobs; and employed over 670, 489 personnel.
This best practice highlights the key achievements of the NGP, and how it successfully contributes in achieving Philippine’s National Biodiversity Targets related to reforestation and climate change mitigation and adaptation. The NGP also successfully contributes to Philippines’ international commitment under Aichi Biodiversity Target (ABT) 5 (habitat fragmentation and degradation), and ABT 15 (Climate Resilience); and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 13 (combat climate change), and U.N. SDG 15 (life on land).
This best practice has been repurposed from Philippines Fifth National Report (5NR) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its latest National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2028 (NBSAP).
According to the Philippines latest NBSAP, the country has a population of 100 million, with a poverty rate of nearly 25 percent. Biodiversity and ecosystems are key for poverty eradication by contributing to Philippines’ economy, and strengthening resilience to climate change.
In the Philippines, one of the major threats to biodiversity is deforestation. Some of the direct causes of deforestation are logging, conversion of land to other uses, slash-and-burn cultivation, forest fire and other natural phenomena such as pests, diseases and natural calamities. Deforestation has resulted in increasing frequency and intensity of floods and droughts, erosion, landslides, siltation of coral reefs and decreased groundwater supplies – severely affecting human well-being.
Over the decades, Philippines has experienced rapid environmental degradation. Between 1934 and 1990, the country lost 10.9 million ha of forest cover or an average annual loss of 194,000 ha. Of this area, 10.37 million ha or 95 percent were converted to other uses, while 0.52 million ha were damaged by logging. Over the last 100 years, the deforestation rates have fluctuated with an average of about 150,000 ha per year.
Over the years, Philippines has witnessed excessive destruction of habitats and loss of endangered species, due to the continuing problem of deforestation, which has also led to floods, soil erosion and landslides that have claimed lives, displaced families and damaged property.
In 2011, President Benigno Aquino III, issued Executive Order (EO) No. 23, ordering and declaring the implementation of the NGP as a government priority. During Phase I from 2011 to 2016, the NGP aimed to plant 1.5 billion trees covering 1,500,000 ha of public lands. It was the Philippine government’s main strategy for reforestation. The NGP is also seen as a climate change mitigation strategy, as it seeks to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide.
As a convergence initiative among several ministries, departments and institutions, the commodities to be planted constitute both forest tree species and agroforestry species, namely timber, indigenous species, mangrove species, urban spaces, fuelwood, coffee, cacao, rubber, other fruit trees, bamboo and rattan. Areas eligible for rehabilitation under the program include all lands of the public domain. These include: forestlands, mangrove and PAs, ancestral domains, civil and military reservation, urban greening areas; inactive and abandoned mine sites and other suitable lands.
Despite the widespread success of NGP, according to the Philippines latest NBSAP, there is still an estimated 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands which contributes to environment-related risks such as soil erosion, landslides, and flooding.
In view of the widespread success of Phase I of the NGP and in order to accelerate rehabilitation and reforestation efforts, President BENIGNO S. AQUINO Ill, passed another Executive Order (EO) No. 193, in 2015, entitled “Expanding the Coverage of the National Greening Program”, to increase the coverage of the NGP to cover all the remaining unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands from 2016 to 2028. All sectors, particularly the private sector, are encouraged to actively participate in the Expanded NGP Program.
According to Philippines’ 5NR and its latest NBSAP 2016-2028, some of the key actions undertaken to create and implement the NGP Program have been listed below.
- Policy. Two of the major policies, which address deforestation and climate change in the Philippines, have been introduced through the Presidential Executive Order No. 23 for Phase I of the NGP (2011-2015); and Executive Order No. 193 on ENGP from 2016 to 2028. ENGP aims to cover the remaining 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands nationwide. According to Philippines latest NBSAP, the current Administration aims to reforest approximately 1.2 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands between 2017 to 2022, in accordance with the updated 2016-2028 Master Plan for Forestry Development. In addition to providing sustainable livelihood opportunities to local communities, the ENGP also seeks to attract private sector investment in forestry-related undertakings like tree plantation, and forest protection projects as a measure to achieve carbon neutrality.
- Social Mobilization. The NGP is driven by all government agencies through a national convergence initiative. The government, private sector, international organizations, and civil society collectively contribute to NGP-related activities, as donors, volunteer planters, and long-term plantation stewards.
- Engaging former rebels as forest guards. Under the NGP, former rebels from Negros-Panay region have been engaged to work as forest guards. Under the program, former rebels are taking active part in protecting forestry and natural resources, as part of the peace process with the government.
- Philippine’s latest NBSAP 2016-2028: The following national targets under Philippines latest NBSAP, directly and indirectly support forest restoration and climate change mitigation efforts in Philippines:
National Targets that directly support forest restoration and climate change mitigation efforts include:
- National Target 2. By 2028, there will be no net loss in natural forest cover.
- National Target 7. By 2028, as result of improved conservation, ecosystem services provided by key biodiversity areas will be enhanced.
- National Target 9. By 2028, there will be an annual increase of at least 5 per cent in biodiversity conservation related jobs (ecotourism, sustainable agriculture, ecosystem restoration).
- National Target 14. By 2028, 1 million ha of degraded ecosystems will be restored and/or will be under various stages of restoration.
National Targets that indirectly support forest restoration and climate change mitigation efforts include:
- National Target 10. By 2028, the key threats to biodiversity will be reduced, controlled or managed.
- National Target 11. By 2028, there will be a 10 per cent increase in agricultural areas devoted to all types of biodiversity-friendly agriculture.
- National Target 12. By 2028, capacity for biodiversity conservation of public and private sector groups in terrestrial and marine protected areas or key biodiversity areas will be strengthened.
- National Target 17. By 2020, relevant biodiversity conservation policies to address existing gaps are in place.
Philippine’s latest NBSAP also highlights certain program interventions which support the implementation of the NGP:
- Habitat Loss. Under Program intervention entitled “Restore degraded habitats, where technically appropriate”, Targets: 1.3 seeks to conduct an independent third-party evaluation of the NGP.
- Overexploitation. Under Program Intervention entitled “Facilitate the provision of biodiversity friendly livelihood to the locals”, Target 1.2 seeks to support local community initiatives, including those of indigenous peoples, women and youth, in providing native species for the NGP and habitat restoration programs.
- In addition to reforestation, the NGP has indirectly contributed towards improved water quality in rivers and irrigation for farm lands, reduced threat of flooding, carbon sequestration, and has laid down a strong foundation for strong wood-products economy.
- The NGP socially mobilized relevant stakeholders, including the youth and local communities, to contribute by planting seedlings, and maintaining tree plantations.
- The reforestation efforts in the NGP has promoted strong coordination among national government agencies, civil society, private sector and local communities.
- Alternative livelihoods and benefit sharing with local communities motivates them to protect the reforested lands, instead of treating it as a one-off job. Engaging local communities’ in reforestation programs produces substantially better ecological and social outcomes.
According to CBD’s latest evaluation entitled “Analysis of Targets Established by Parties and Progress Towards the Aichi Biodiversity Targets”, the Philippines is on track to achieve its national targets addressing the reduction in habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, as well as, climate resilience. The CBD analysis provides a synthesis of each Parties’ national progress towards ABTs, based on information presented in the 5NRs.
According to the Philippine’s 5NR and its latest NBSAP, some of the key outcomes from implementing the NGP include:
- From 2011 to 2018, the NGP has successfully reforested over 1.91 million hectares of area i.e. 108 per cent of the original target (1.76 million hectares); planted over 1.5 billion seedlings; generated over 4,736,195 jobs; and employed over 670, 489 personnel.
- As of 2012, due to mangrove reforestation efforts, the mangrove cover in Philippines has increased to 0.311 million hectares as compared to 0.247 million hectares in 2003.
- As of 2012, the NGP has sequestered about 38.9 million tons of carbon worth 14 Billion PhP.
- Philippines has been ranked fifth in the world, for the greatest forest area gain from 2010 to 2015 by the Food and Agriculture Organization.
- The NGP is the first Program which has been implemented countrywide, and funded for the most part from government funds. It is also unique in the amount of data, including spatial data, it has generated, and its accessibility to the public.