A 240-hectare military reservation area at Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City will be replanted with indigenous trees under a tripartite agreement that will benefit indigenous people (IP) Aetas in the uplands of Nueva Ecija.
The agreement was signed last Sept. 6, 2016 by Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado, Judge Virgilio Caballero, and LTC Eugenio Batara (Seventh Infantry Division, Philippine Army) in behalf of MGen Angelito De Leon of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
The partnership has significant ecological enhancement and livelihood benefits to IP Aetas. It is in compliance with Executive Order (EO) 26 (National Greening Program or NGP) whose implementation has been extended to 2028 under EO 193 signed by former Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III.
“Provision of food security and additional income to the community will be strengthened by intercropping agricultural crops in the NGP sites. The katutubos here, similar to the indigenous forest species, are very resilient. The project will be a means for katutubos to help us attain biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” said Adornado.
Also attending the signing agreement were representatives from the local government unit of Doña Josefa, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) of Nueva Ecija, and the IP planters.
“Judge Caballero sees the project as an act of stewardship on the environment and as a milestone especially for the IP community who will be involved in plantation establishment,” reported Rio Christine P. Bustamante of the NGP Operations Center.
The Philippine Army committed to secure the project area and to screen laborers who will participate in the plantation.
Fort Magsaysay, the country’s largest military reservation now covering a total of 35,000 hectares, has become the training ground of the Philippine Army as a replacement to the Fort Bonifacio military reservation since it began to be modernized in 1983.
The NGP was extended to 2028 as the Food and Agriculture Organization, in its 2015 Global Forest Resources Assessment, ranked the Philippines as fifth worldwide in the greatest forest area gain from 2010 to 2015.
“There is still an estimated 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands which contribute to environment-related risks such as soil erosion, landslides, and flooding. Consistent with the updated Master Plan for Forestry Development (2016 – 2028), there is a need to harmonize all forest development activities that will encourage and enhance development of forest plantations,” according to EO 193.
ERDB has an existing bamboo plantation project in Fort Magsaysay. The reforestation project in Fort Magsaysay is eyed too as an agroforestry area that may also house livestock raising as productivity livelihood program for target beneficiaries.
ERDB has already conducted training of Philippine Army officers on different bamboo propagation techniques, proper selection and cutting of planting materials, and step-by-step procedure on plantation establishment.
Training also involved application of a mycorrhizal fungi that act as a natural or organic fertilizer and has beenbeen proven to accelerate growth of forest tree seedlings by as much as 400 percent. ERDB produces its own brand of this mycorrhiza, the HI-Q VAM 1.