Fr. Robert Reyes, the running priest, along with runners from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), led this week's advocacy run from Manila to Los Banos in Laguna in a bid to stir up greater public interest and support to efforts to rehabilitate the country’s mountains through the National Greening Program (NGP) which President Benigno S. Aquino III launched last May 13, 2011.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said the advocacy run, dubbed "Takbundukan: Takbo Para sa Kabundukan,” is also in conjunction with the observance of Proclamation No. 125 issued by President Aquino on March 15 declaring 2011 as the “National Year of Forests” in support of the declaration by the United Nations of the year 2011 as “International Year of Forests” with the theme: “Forests for People.”

“Takbundukan goes beyond pure athleticism by making use of this popular outdoor activity as a venue for Filipinos to reflect on the need to renew our physical and spiritual ties to our mountains and have the satisfaction of knowing that in doing so we are contributing to the protection of our mountains as a matter of social and moral responsibility,” Paje said.

The 3-day run from June 6 to 8 started from the DENR central office in Visayas Avenue, taking the Manila-Pasay-Las Pinas-Muntinlupa route to reach Laguna province passing through San Pedro, Binan, Sta Rosa and Calamba cities culminating at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB) where tree planting of “Balakat-gubat” (Balakata luzonica ‘vidal’ Esser), an indigenous tree species thriving in Mount Makiling, was held participated by the UPLB academe community and DENR-Region 4 officers and employees headed by Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria.

Fr. Reyes in a statement said the advocacy run was a call to voluntary simplicity and seeks to reawaken the Filipino’s “essential nature “ as a people with “basic reverence for nature as sacred” which has slowly eroded in the Filipino’s trait as a people and has contributed to the alarming state of Philippine environment.

Calling it “a pilgrimage to the mountains,” Fr. Reyes noted that Takbundukan points to the need for us to take “an outer and inner journey into our spirituality and lifestyle and contemplate (on) mountains as symbols of nature, of creation, of being and redemption.”

The loss of this trait, he said, have resulted in over-consumption, waste, laziness to recycle, pollution, luxurious lifestyles to the disadvantage of the poor, destruction of watersheds and other sources of water.

The advocacy run likewise aimed to shore up public support for President Aquino’s Executive Order 23 which bans logging in natural forests, immediate passage of a new Philippine forestry law, widespread planting of indigenous tree species, promotion of community-based eco-tourism, greater respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and their practices, and declaration of more protected areas by Philippine Congress.






Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje rallied last week his field officials to ensure the success of the National Greening Program, saying the program has full support of the President.

“There is no reason to fail considering that President Aquino has amply given all the support this program (NGP) needs to succeed,” Paje told the regional executive directors (REDs), regional technical directors, and the provincial and community environment and natural resources officers (PENROs, CENROs) attending the 2-day National Convention of Field Officers held May 31-June 1, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

Paje also challenged the field officials “to give their best shot” as their performance in implementing the NGP will be “highly taken into consideration’ in the evaluation of officials for promotions.

“Those who will be performing will be rewarded. Wala pong biro yan,” Paje said, stressing that the field officers will be evaluated fairly based on a purely-merit system “without regard for personal ties or past associations” he has made through over 20 years at the DENR where he started his career as a casual forester.

Paje said the NGP-driven performance-based incentive scheme will first zero in on the PENRO and CENRO positions, with an instruction to DENR Assistant Secretary for Management and Finance Corazon Davis to reserve the vacant PENRO and CENRO posts as rewards for NGP’s top performers especially those that are on an acting capacity.

“If you are a CENRO, you will automatically become a PENRO. Those who are not yet full-pledged CENRO (with temporary appointment), we will make you full-pledged CENROs. Performance lamang, wala nang iba,” Paje stressed.

Of the 168 CENRO plantilla positions, 47 have yet to be filled; while 25 remain vacant in the 73 PENRO plantilla posts.

The incentive scheme forms part of Paje’s overall program to strengthen DENR’s performance-based promotion system to beef up the national leadership’s efforts in professionalizing the Philippine bureaucracy.

But Paje was quick to clarify that the quality of their performance will be determined by the survival of the seedling declared in their performance and not merely on the number of seedling planted.

“Remember, the NGP is a national priority program of President Aquino, and this is not for show but for grow. Gone are the days when tree planting activities were just to set world records or just for photo opportunities,” Paje noted.

At the same time, Paje asked “doubting Thomases” to be forthcoming this early with their hesitation to go all out to meet their targets to allow for management to act appropriately in their particular case.

“We will make sure that everybody performs. Kung sino sa inyo ang tingin ay hindi kayang ipatupad ang programang ito, sabihin na ninyo ngayon,” Paje said.

The performance-based incentive will be based on the field officials’ scorecard in the yearly targets given them and will be validated with the use of state-of-the art technology such as satellite mapping and internet-based technology through NGP’s website at the