“We share the same hopes… to have a healthy environment and to enjoy clean water and fresh air.”
These hopes shared by Julius Miguel, the municipal planning and development coordinator of Quirino have been realized following the success of the established Gmelina plantation in town.
LGU Quirino was awarded with 150-hectare plantation under the National Greening Program in 2016.
Committed to promote environmental preservation, LGU Quirino delightfully worked on the plantation tapping the barangay officials, locals, 4Ps and TUPAD beneficiaries to conduct planting and maintenance and protection activities.
“Our municipality also allotted budget for the establishment of perimeter fence to secure the area. The budget we received from DENR were used for the preparation of the site and for the seedlings we initially planted,” Miguel said.
He also said they hired workers for nursery establishment, seedling production and for maintenance and protection. “Dito na rin sila nakatira para mabantayan ang plantation lalo na kung magsisiga ang mga may ari ng katabing pastulan. Sayang ang pinaghirapan namin ng limang taon kung masisira lang,” he added.
After five years of working and maintaining the plantation, they now enjoy a mini green sanctuary in town where egrets and other migratory birds frequently join them.
“You see, we need places like this. We enjoy seeing more trees and at the same time we help our environment recover,” Miguel said.#
“Gusto ko sanang bumalik sa abroad. Pero habang nakikita ko ang mga puno na lumalaki, nabubuhayan ako ng loob. Napamahal na ako rito. Masaya ako rito.”
Roderic Mallanao shared his testimony on how the National Greening Program (NGP) changed his perspective in life.
He was on a vacation in 2016 when he learned about the NGP. On the same year, the 100-hectare plantation area in San Antonio, Cabagan was awarded to them. He tapped his friends and neighbors and formed an association called Barangay San Antonio Reforestation Association or BSARA.
At first, he was doubtful if all their efforts would pay off. There were only nine of them in the association and they needed to walk an hour long just to reach the site. They would carry all the heavy tools and the seedlings repeatedly. But all was worth it because the then pasture land transformed into a luscious Gmelina forest with over 70,000 trees.
As days gone by, their ‘alay lakad’ before became ‘masasayang lakad’ as they visit the plantation site day by day seeing the trees growing.
“Sa tingin ng iba ay kahoy lang, pero kailangan mahalin pa rin. Mahalaga ang bawat puno para sa ikakabuti ng kalikasan. Masaya akong maging parte ng NGP,” he said.
Mallanao being the chairman of BSARA said with the assistance of the DENR especially site leader Roven Talaue, almost everything went smooth and easy. They regularly conduct ring weeding and patrolling to avoid grass fire and to prevent stray animals from destroying the trees. “Everytime na may parating na bagyo, nagpupruning kami ng mga puno para hindi mabuwal ng malakas na hangin,” he said.
He also said the biggest blessing they are now enjoying is the fresh air they breathe plus seeing migratory birds around as the site serves as a mini sanctuary.
Truly, the story of Mallanao is a proof that true happiness is a choice… and that choosing the environment is also choosing happiness. “I chose to stay here, now I am happy because I know I made the right choice,” he said.#
“Pumuputol po ako ng Narra noon. Pero dahil sa tulong ng NGP, natutunan ko na ngayong pahalagahan ang kalikasan.”
Donato Gammad of Nagtipunan town admits that he spent his early years trading illegally cut forest logs to earn a living. He said he wouldn’t mind consuming forest resources just to sustain his family. But not until a tragic circumstance happened.
“Nagkaroon po ako at ang isa kong anak ng malalang case ng malaria,” Donato recalled as he realized this might already be ‘nature’s karma’. “Sobrang laki po ng ginastos namin sa ospital, kulang pa yung mga pinagbentahan namin ng kahoy,” he added.
The unexpected risk that invaded Donato’s family has enlightened his perspective towards environmental protection and conservation. He said the major turnaround happened right at the same moment when NGP also came in.
Donato established a 13-hectare NGP plantation in 2011 and 2014 in an area used to be covered with huge rocks and tall grasses. With the resources and technical assistance provided for him, he was able to grow Narra, Ipil, Gmelina, and fruit bearing trees such as rambutan, mango, citrus and calamansi.
He said people usually complain about the blistering weather back when trees weren’t around. With the help of NGP, they now experience fresher air. “Hindi na rin nagkakaroon ng soil erosion dito at mas nagiging maganda pa ang quality ng lupa,” he said.
Donato was delighted to realize the mutual advantage of growing trees while it makes him earn a living at the same time. He told the greening program has added a lot of vibrancy to his children’s future since it helped them finish their studies.
“Sa mga tanim naming rambutan po kami kumikita ngayon. Sa katunayan, maraming turista ang dumadayo sa amin para makapamili ng mga prutas,” Donato beamed.
From an illegal logger turned nature lover, Donato is now an advocate of environmental preservation as he joins the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine National Police and the local government units together with their association called Kadikitan Association for Community Development in campaigning against illegal forest activities.
“We usually go to different barangays and tell them of the benefits of our programs such as the NGP especially in livelihood and climate change mitigation,” said Taripato Sagun, Community Environment and Natural Resources Officer in Nagtipunan. He added Donato is a living proof that one needs not to compromise the environment just to survive.
Donato encouraged residents especially those who live in the upland areas to be responsible dwellers in the environment. He said one negative action against nature can go back to everyone.#
“Gusto po naming maging man-made forest ang buong Gabriella.”
This seemingly-impossible dream was the motivation of Antonio Agnapin, an NGP beneficiary in Gabriela Silang in Diffun town, as he looks forward to seeing his community live with a renewed and sustained environment.
Prior to the establishment of their 115-hectare NGP site in 2012, residents of barangay Gabriela Silang used to cultivate land in the forest areas that served as their primary source of living. Having corns replace trees to hold the soil, erosions usually took place, creeping close to their homes.
Gabriela Masipag Farmers (GAMAFA) Producers Cooperative President Medy Lacaden vividly remembers how he, for one, tried to unconsciously destroy the forest for the sake of his family’s survival. But with a grateful heart, he said if NGP did not happen, not only his family but their community must have been buried by now.
The converted forest lands were slowly regained by planting different tree species such as Narra, Gmelina, rambutan, citrus, mango, cacao, coffee and other agro-forestry species. Not only have these brought stronger hold to the soil and fresher air to the community but these have also kept food in every household’s table.
Members of the GAMAFA Producers Cooperative were able to generate income through the livelihood assistance provided in partnership with other government agencies. The Department of Agriculture granted the cooperative with sets of coffee production equipment to help process and market their NGP plantation’s coffee produce. Trainings on business management and marketing were provided by the Department of Trade and Industry.
The cooperative also ventured into small scale furniture making using Gmelina lumber from their plantations. Not only the cooperative is benefited from this business but also the community of women in Gabriela since they also take part in the furnishing or post-production process in furniture making.
Aside from environmental benefits, NGP has been bringing economic success to the community in Gabriela for years. But not until the challenge of COVID-19 pandemic came. People’s Organization President Lacaden admitted they were a bit struggling since their market went tight. To bring light to the situation, the DENR has looked for bridges to keep the cooperative’s businesses running. The agency established linkages with coffee producer’s federations and furniture shops outside the cooperative that now help in sustaining the PO members’ livelihood.
Antonio and Medy cannot deny the enormous benefits that NGP has been bringing to their community. “Dati nahihirapan kaming makabili ng bigas pang-kain sa ilang araw pero ngayon may stock na kami,” expressed Medy. Both of them including their co-members could not even believe they are able to send their children to school now.
In return, NGP beneficiaries in Gabriela continue being aggressive in producing more seedlings for the further expansion of their plantations. Antonio said they wanted more members of the community be benefitted by NGP. In fact, from 70 members since the organization’s establishment, they are now 84.
The dream of transforming the whole 3,175 –hectare Gabriela into a forest may seem impossible but Antonio, Medy and their entire organization are optimistic that through NGP, their hard work and cooperation, better lives and environment are already ahead of them.#
At the retiring age of 60, Gerry Fragata, president of the Green Convoy Farmers Association in Nagcuartelan in Aritao is unstoppable as he prepares the coming generation with a conducive environment to live in through the NGP.
Fragata established his 15-hectare NGP plantation more than a year ago planted with around 12,000 seedlings of forest trees, fruit bearing trees and bamboo.
“Hindi ko na masyadong tinitignan ‘yung benepisyo para sa akin dahil matanda na ako kundi para may mapakinabangan din ang mga susunod na henerasyon,” said Fragata.
For the maintenance and protection of the NGP site, Fragata hires some members of their people’s organization (PO) including some residents of their neighborhood to regularly conduct ring weeding activities. He said it is necessary to ensure fast and undisturbed growth of the tree species.
“Nagha-hire kami ng mga maglilinis at magde-develop sa NGP area para kahit papaano ay makatulong na rin sa mga kabarangay namin na nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa COVID-19 pandemic,” said Fragata.
Fragata is thankful to the government because aside from providing alternative livelihood to those affected by the pandemic, the NGP also ensures a sustainable environment for the next generations.
The PO is being assisted by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office in Aritao from nursery establishment, planting and maintenance of the greening site.#
With the implementation of the National Greening Program (NGP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, women of the different People’s Organizations in the communities are not only empowered but also had contributed their competencies in nurturing the environment.
Women are part of establishing and developing plantation sites which are not only contributing to the ecological benefits of maintaining trees but also became potential projects for commercial industries. Their success stories are evident that women, despite of being vulnerable, can do influence social change in managing and protecting the environment and natural resources.