Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje urged the people to rally to President Aquino’s call to reforest the entire country through the National Greening Program (NGP.)

Paje made this pitch on Friday (April 14, 2011) at the opening of the 1st Consultative Summit for the NGP at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) central office in Quezon City.

He said NGP, which was formalized in Executive Order (EO) No. 26, mandates the planting of 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of public lands from 2011 to 2016.

Paje stressed EO 26 is an important element in the country’s strategic campaign to insulate itself from the ravages of climate change and it comes in the heels of EO 23, which bans logging in natural and residual forests.

The DENR chief noted that it is the first time in the country’s history that Malacanang had ordered a sustained campaign to restore the integrity of forests by planting tree species that check soil erosion, protect watersheds and sequester carbon dioxide.

Paje said the summit was organized to achieve a consensus among stakeholders on how to proceed with the reforestation program, particularly among frontline departments like DENR, Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Education (DepED), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD), including the Commission on Higher Education and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Paje said NGP is actually a legacy to Filipino children and the succeeding generations that would profit from the sustained reforestation program.

“On behalf of our President and our colleagues in the Cabinet, may I thank you for your abiding trust and active participation in this consultative summit. Indeed, we are working for progressive change in the way we do things and relate to our country, our home, and to each other – supportive and one with the dreams and aspirations of our leadership and our people. They who are our real bosses,” Paje said.

“In my experience, I have seen our country continue to come to grips with its own finite resources, its own limits at healing itself, considering what our people require of it, demand of it today. As we all move into breaking the 100-million population level very soon, we must begin to realize our responsibility as stewards of our country for our children’s use. If we do not do something now, as responsible stewards, it may be too late to reverse some of the bad things happening to our country today,” the DENR chief said.

“Each one of us can only be one of two things in this arena: either be a responsible steward or an irresponsible user. Irresponsible use may just be what will break the proverbial camel’s back. Our collective experience shows us that times have been hard for those who would try to protect our environment, keep it safe and even enrich it for the future of our children,” Paje noted.

The summit tackled the mechanics of the NGP, specifically how it could utilize the energies of millions of people in planting 1.5 billion trees in a span of 5 years, raise the people’s awareness on the necessity of reforestation, and make stakeholders monitor and safeguard the success of the program diligently.

He said UP at Los Banos and its College of Development Communication are at the forefront of the NGP’s information, education and communication (IEC) campaign and all the inputs gathered during the summit will help craft a viable and sustainable NGP. The participants also signed a resolution on the NGP, and declared their commitment to “promote the program and help organize our respective official communities and the Filipino people to mobilize and act in earnest to achieve NGP’s objectives.”