The government is embarking on a massive greening program aimed at reducing poverty in the countryside while ensuring food security, biodiversity conservation and address climate change.

This was announced today by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, saying the national greening program (NGP) is a priority of President Benigno S. Aquino III in an effort to bring back the lost forest cover of the country. He also said the program has the full support of the Cabinet.

“At least during his term, Pres. Aquino wants to grow back the lost forest cover of the country,” Paje said. There are about 8 million hectares of denuded areas nationwide, according to Paje.

Specifically, Paje said the goal is to plant 1.5 billion trees in some 1.5 million hectares from 2011 to 2016, which is more than twice the government’s accomplishment of 730,000 hectares for the past 25 years.

Among the areas targeted for planting under the program are forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban area under the Greening Plan of local government units, inactive and abandoned mines and other suitable lands.

In Executive Order No. 26 issued on February 24, 2011, President Aquino tasked the DENR to lead the implementation of NGP, with the members of the steering committee under the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR)-DENR Convergence Initiative to constitute the program’s Oversight Committee.

“With EO 26, which sets off the National Greening Program (NGP), the President has effectively put order and complimentarity to all past greening efforts to regain the country’s verdant past and self-sufficiency in its timber needs,” Paje said.

Paje also explained that the NGP will draw its strength from people’s participation through social mobilization with the whole bureaucracy serving as the prime mover in the greening program.

As mandated in the executive order, Paje said the DENR is to draw partnership with all national government agencies, LGUs, government owned and controlled corporations, including state colleges and universities to harness their maximum participation through their personnel complement. Paje estimated around 1.2 million government employees to plant at least 10 seedlings each.

In addition, Paje said around 14 million students shall likewise be tapped to participate in the program, as well as the 20 million residents in upland communities in an effort to provide them additional livelihood opportunities and reduce poverty.