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Forest area expands by 33 percent in nine years

Saturday, 27 February 2010 00:00

[ ] February 27, 2010

The country’s forest area had expanded by 33 percent in the past nine years, the top official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Friday.

And since 2004, according to Environment Secretary Horacio Ramos, the country has attracted a total mining investment of $2.8 billion, with a projection that this will reach $13.5 billion in 2013.

Ramos said that based on satellite mapping they had conducted, the Philippines’ forest area has spread by up to 1.8 million hectares, or 33 percent up from 5.39 million hectares in 2001 to 7.2 million hectares at present.

“The reforestation project has also generated a total of 52, 000 jobs,” he said.

The government last year allotted its biggest budget for reforestation with P1.5 billion. In 2001, it established 34 endangered areas, broadening protected areas in the country by over 30 percent and mangrove areas, also by up to 30 percent.

Mangroves serve as habitat and food for edible and commercial species of fish, mollusks and crustaceans. Regarded as nurseries of the sea, they play an important role in environmental protection.

They are essential in shielding coastlines and coastal communities from waves, tidal currents and typhoons.

Also during the briefing, Ramos reported gains in preserving some of the country’s threatened flora and fauna.

The tamaraw population, he said, has been significantly increasing from the reported fewer than 20 heads in the wild. Ramos did not elaborate.

Endemic to the Philippines, the tamaraw resembles the carabao or water buffalo, only smaller.

“The Philippines is one of the world’s 18 megadiverse countries. But at the same time, it is also one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots. This is a challenge that we all Filipinos have to address, as the benefits we get from our biodiversity are immeasurable,” Ramos said.

Some of the major threats facing biodiversity are habitat destruction because of massive deforestation, chemical pollution, biological pollution or introduction of alien invasive species and over-exploitation of biological resources.

Out of the country’s 9,000 species of flowering plants, 227 are included in the Red List of Threatened Species and out of the country’s 1,137 endemic species of amphibians, birds and mammals, 592 have been declared as threatened or endangered.

Meanwhile, Ramos said, there already are material recovery facilities in 6,744 villages across the country.

He added that there are 30 sanitary landfills nationwide and another 42 are under construction, from virtually none in 2001.

Ramos said that the enactment and implementation of environmental laws such as Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Environmental Awareness and Education Act, Biofuels Act, Renewable Energy Act, Wildlife Protection Act and Caves and Cave Resources Act aim to strike a balance between the environment and business that gains from natural resources.

Katrina Mennen A. Valdez


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