Forests Asia Summit 2014 – Demetrio Ignacio, Day 2 Ministerial Address

Watch Demetrio Ignacio, Undersecretary, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Phillipines, speak on the second day of the Forests Asia Summit 2014.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014.

Forests Asia Summit, 5-6 May 2014, Jakarta, #ForestsAsia

Demetrio Ignacio’s speech:

Your excellencies, delegates, ladies and gentlemen. My talk is also not as awe-inspiring as that of Mr Pulgar-Vidal but it is no less informative. So if you will allow me to share with you some of the initiatives you are doing in the forestry sector, in relation to the themes of this summit.

We in the Philippines have been very successful in degrading our forest. Our forest is now down to 7.2 million hectares, or 24% of our land area – one of the lowest forest cover in Southeast Asia. But we have started to recover the forest that we lost. To stop further degradation of the forest, our president has imposed a logging ban in all natural forests nation-wide in 2011. The first in our history. Together with intensified enforcement, we apprehended 25.5 million board feet of illegally processed and illegally cut forest products since 2011.

We filed more than 1,200 cases in court the past three years with 186 persons convicted and counting. As a result, the number of illegal logging hot-spots in our country was reduced by 84%, from 197 hot-spots to only 31. Shown on the screen is the spatial representation of the hotspots before and after the logging ban. We will further reduce these hot-spots until there are none. From the confiscations we have been able to produce more than 146,000 school chairs and repaired more than 300 school buildings. Before, we sell what we confiscate through public auctions, however, suspected illegal loggers were the ones winning the auctions.

To expand our forest cover, our president established in 2011 the biggest reforestation program in our history, the National Greening Program. We intend to plant 1.5 billion trees on 1.5 million hectares in six years. We will plant more trees in six years than what we planted the past 50 years. This is less than what they do here in Indonesia, but it is already our biggest.

This program intends to address poverty, food supply, biodiversity, and climate change. For the past three years, we have planted more than 683,000 hectares. This is equivalent to what we planted the previous 23 years. This year, our target is to plant 200 million trees in 400,000 hectares. By the end of the year, we would have planted more than 1 million hectares. Aside from the benefits of additional forests, the program has so far employed more than 168,000 persons in upland and rural communities. The program has also provided food crops and cash crops to communities, such as fruit trees, coffee, cacao, rubber, and others.

Reforestation is no longer the exclusive domain of our ministry. It is now a convergence program among the environment and natural resources, agriculture, agrarian reform, local governance, education, and other agencies. We believe we are now on the road to sustainable landscapes with this convergence.

At the end of the program we expect to reverse our forest situation, whereby we will then have more forested areas than degraded areas, and we will increase our forest cover from 24% of our land area to 30%. Our new forest will eventually absorb about 28 million tons of carbon every year, which will help us achieve carbon neutrality. In addition, we estimate that about half of the total budget of the national greening program, about 30 billion pesos from our national budget, or about 682 million US dollars, will go directly to the communities through jobs and income. This will contribute to inclusive growth, especially in the upland and rural areas.

We also impose state governance standards in our program. Our National Greening Program is community based, meaning that communities are the ones contracted to undertake the reforestation. We grow our own seedlings through our network of 22 nurseries. Those we cannot grow we procure through competitive bidding in accordance with our procurement law. All program sites are geotagged, meaning each site has pictures taken progressively with GPS reading, date, and time when the pictures were taken, and anybody can see the geotagged pictures on our website. To monitor and validate our reforestation efforts, we use unmanned area vehicles. The reports submitted by our field personnel are all under oath and notarized by lawyers. We use good governance, transparency, accountability, checks and balances, and the latest technologies to ensure that all the money we put in is used for reforestation.

We have done much in our reforestation, but there is still much more to be done. The recent report of the IPCC indicated that without the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, impacts from warming could get out of control. This has serious implications for the Philippines. We are one of the most vulnerable countries in the world, on the impact of climate change, as Typhoon Haiyan painfully reminded us. This makes our participation in the summit important. There are many things that all of us can share, but there are more things that we can learn from each other. We wish you a productive summit. Thank you very much.