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The goal is to put back trees on hundreds of thousands of hectares where they once stood.

Today, May 13, 2011, President Benigno S Aquino III will lead the launching of the National Greening Program (NGP) at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Quezon City.

He will be joined in the launching ceremony by members of his Cabinet, notably the heads of the National Converge Initiative (NCI) core agencies, namely, Sec. Virgilio delos Reyes of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Sec. Proceso Alcala of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Sec. Ramon J. P. Paje of the DENR, and Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa.

United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Resident Representative to the Philippines Dr. Jacqueline Badcock is also expected to attend to receive the NGP Plans and Targets, the country’s contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF). Through a resolution, the UN has declared 2011 as IYF.

In a fitting show of example, Pres. Aquino will launch the government’s 6-year reforestation program by registering on-line to the NGP website, thus shall becoming the first NGP registrant, in an apparent gesture of inspiring the citizenry to follow suit and cast the citizens’ support as well.

Targeted at greening some 1.5 million hectares of degraded forest lands, NGP will focus essentially at developing a sustainable forest resource base to accelerate the national greening campaign and rejuvenate rural economies in parts of the nation’s most chronically poor areas in the uplands, ultimately providing livelihood opportunities for some six million families in the upland areas across the country within six years, from 2011 to 2016.

NGP also seeks to improve water quality in rivers and irrigation for farm lands, reduce the potential for flooding, soak up carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and lay the foundation for an expanded wood-products economy.

President Aquino issued EO 26 on February 24, 2011 establishing the NGP not only to reforest 1.5 million hectares of land but also to promote a sustained environmental awareness campaign in the face of the deleterious effects of climate change.

Earlier, Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23 which bans logging in natural and residual forests nationwide and, at the same time, calls for the preparation of a blueprint for a National Greening Program (NGP) to be formulated by the DENR, DAR and DA through a Convergence Initiative, in coordination with concerned national line agencies including the local government units. The launching ceremony will start at around 9:30 a.m. at the DENR Social Hall, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement between DENR Secretary Paje and Energy Development Corporation Chairman Emeritus Oscar M. Lopez for the joint implementation of “BINHI: A Greening Legacy,” a 10-year program that aims to contribute to the restoration of forest cover in the country while addressing the problem on biodiversity loss.

It will be followed by messages from Agriculture Secretary Alcala and Agrarian Reform Secretary Delos Reyes.

DENR Secretary Paje comes next with a presentation on the overview of the National Greening Program as a new development model that offers incentives to stimulate tree nurturing. The NGP Plans and Targets will then be turned over by Paje to UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, as the Philippine contribution to the International Year of Forests (IYF).

President Aquino has earlier issued Proclamation 125, declaring 2011 as the National Year of Forests in the Philippines, in support of the UN declaration.

During the event, the President will also give posthumous awards of recognition to seven “environmental heroes” (four are DENR, three are non-DENR) for having stood up to the call of duty and sacrificing their lives for the protection of the country’s environment and natural resources.

The launching will be concluded with Pres. Aquino planting a Narra sapling at the Heroes Park located at the back of the DENR main building.