Reforestation Remains an Urgent Concern but Fast-Tracking its Process Without Adequate Preparation and Support by and Among Stakeholders Led to Waste of Resources
What COA Found
Program implementers, including people’s organizations (POs), identified various problems in implementing the program, such as distance of the areas, calamities, and insufficiency of the contract payments. However, we found that the most crucial issue is DENR’s strategy of fast tracking the program. Fast tracking led the DENR to 1) impose targets on its field officials beyond their absorptive capacities; 2) proceed with the program without conducting survey, mapping, and planning; 3) include far untenured areas, which will be abandoned after the term of the maintenance and protection contract; and 4) cause the POs to miss financial opportunities, such as profits from seedling production. According to the field officials, the targets were too ambitious. Instead of increasing forest cover, fast tracking reforestation activities only increased the incidences of wastage.
Based on the latest Philippine forest statistics, forest cover increased marginally by 177,441 hectares; from 6,836,711 hectares in CY 2010 to 7,014,152 hectares in CY 2015. This is only 11.82 percent of the 1.50 million-hectare target of the NGP under Executive Order (E.O.) No. 26. Even if the 85 percent standard of survival rate of 1,275,000 hectares is used, the accomplishment will still be at the low rate of 13.92 percent. On a positive note, it was enough to reverse the previous downward trend.
We found pieces of evidence showing that NGP contributed to the reduction of poverty, however, we could not conclude as to its scale due to insufficiency of data. Generally, beneficiaries narrated how the program payments helped augment their household budget. There are exceptional groups/communities, which were able to transform themselves into cooperatives, thereby gaining access to credit facilities/finance, equipment, and technical assistance from other government agencies. With additional capital, they were able to create additional sustainable income streams. The crucial factors in the success of these beneficiaries are 1) the preparedness of the beneficiaries to implement the program and 2) the convergence of different agencies, including the private sector. However, community organizing is not the priority of NGP. This is the reason why dependent POs are still prevalent. Convergence, on the other hand, is a requirement under E.O. No. 26, s. 2011. DENR was not able to implement this on a national scale. The pockets of successes were caused by the individual ingenuity at the local level.
Why COA did this study
As of CY 2010, the Philippines already lost 60 percent of its total forest cover. Out of 16.90 million hectares of forestlands in 1934, approximately 6.84 million hectares remain. To jumpstart reforestation, in CY 2011, the Aquino Administration created the National Greening Program (NGP) to regain 1.50 million hectares of forestlands by planting 1.50 billion trees within six years. To cover the rest of the forestlands, NGP was extended until CY 2028. Around ₱47.22 billion has been allocated to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) from CY 2011 to CY 2019 to implement the program. However, despite eight years of implementation, legislators are still skeptical as to its actual impact. As a result, the NGP’s budget has been cut in half from ₱5.15 billion in CY 2018 to ₱2.60 billion in CY 2019.
This audit aims to determine: 1) the extent the program made an impact on the environment; 2) the extent the program made an impact on its beneficiaries; and 3) the extent the DENR ensured that the program was administered in accordance with established policies and procedures.
To answer the aforementioned objectives, the audit team conducted document review and interviewed program officials. To validate the information gathered, the audit team visited NGP sites and conducted focus group discussions with the People’s Organizations implementing the program on the ground. The audit scope covers program implementation from CY 2011 to CY 2018.
What COA recommends
COA recommends to DENR to:
1) consult the Provincial Environment Natural Resources Office (PENRO) and/or City Environment Natural Resources Office (CENRO), private sector, and the beneficiaries in formulating the action plan and targets;
2) ensure that the POs benefit from seedling production by providing them sufficient time to produce the seedlings themselves;
3) make community organizing as pre-requisite before proceeding with the program; and
4) implement the convergence initiative at the national and local levels.