The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified 17 more state universities and colleges (SUCs) that will be enlisted this year by the agency to raise quality native tree seedlings using clonal technology in its bid to meet its target of raising some 1.5 billion quality planting materials for the 2011-2016 National Greening Program (NGP).

“We shall have around 29 SUC-based clonal nurseries before the year ends,” Paje said, noting that 12 SUCs have already been enlisted in DENR’s national clonal production program for the construction and operation of clonal nurseries within their campuses.

Paje bared that the 17 SUCs are currently undergoing appraisal to assess their respective qualifications and competencies to operate a fully functional clonal nursery based on the criteria used by the Philippine Forestry Education Network (PFEN), adding that these partner-SUCs will primarily produce indigenous tree seedlings.

“PFEN is almost done with its appraisal of the 17 SUCs and we are just awaiting the green light from them to formally forge a partnership with these SUCs through the signing of memoranda of agreement,” Paje bared. The MOA signing will pave the way for the construction of the clonal nurseries which will be funded by the DENR in the amount of P3.5 million each.

PFEN is an association of academic institutions advancing the forestry education in the Philippines by offering the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Forestry. Included in the list are Benguet State University (La Trinidad, Benguet), Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (Bauko, Mt. Province), Ifugao Sate College of Agriculture and Forestry (Lamut, Ifugao), Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (Bacnotan, La Union), Nueva Viscaya State University (Bayombong, Nueva Viscaya), University of the Philippines at Los Banos (Los Banos, Laguna), Southern Luzon Polytechnic College (Lucban, Quezon).

The list also include Occidental Mindoro National College (San Jose, Occidental Mindoro), West Visayas State University (La Paz, Iloilo City), Negros State College of Agriculture (Kabangkalan, Negros Occ.), Biliran National agricultural College (Biliran, Biliran), Samar State College of Agriculture and Forestry (San Jorge, Samar), Leyte State University (Baybay, Leyte), Western Mindanao State University (Zamboanga Del Sur), Central Mindanao University (Musuan, Bukidnon), University of the Philippines–Mindanao ( Davao City), and Mindanao State University (Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur).

According to Angelito Esconde of the DENR’s Ecosystems and Research Development Bureau (ERDB), candidate-SUCs located in areas that are far from a DENR clonal nursery are given priority in the DENR-SUC partnership.

“This is to optimize the production capacity of an SUC-based clonal nursery in augmenting the DENR’s capacity to produce as many quality planting materials, particularly the indigenous tree species which are difficult to raise if produced through the conventional method,” Esconde added.

Through a technique called “vegetative clonal technology,” cloned seedlings are grown from cuttings of premium donor plants that were carefully collected from the forest floor when they were still wildlings for their desired qualities.

These wildlings are then “pampered” at a clonal nursery to produce robust stems that are harvested and, in turn, undergo maintenance care to grow roots lasting up to five months with the help of root-growing hormones, before they are distributed for planting.

Esconde said the method produces abundant tree seedlings that are genetically identical their parent-tree on a year round basis as against the conventional method which make use of seeds gathered from the fruits of the trees.

“The problem is our indigenous tree species like yakal, kamagong, mayapis, molave, tindalo, toog and teak bear fruit only every seven to 10 years,” Esconde added.

Last year, NGP planted some 69.3 million tree seedlings in more than 118,000 hectares. Of the total planted seedlings, five million consisted of indigenous species.

For this year, the NGP aims to raise some 114 million seedlings, 14 million of which are native tree species to be planted in over 200,000 hectares.

Among the SUCs with existing MOA with DENR for clonal nursery operation are the following: Apayao State College in Conner, Apayao; Kalinga-Apayao State College in Tabuk, Kalinga; Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City, Ilocos Norte; Isabela State University in Cabagan, Isabela; Ramon Magsaysay Technological University in Iba, Zambales; Western Philippines University in Aborlan, Palawan; Bicol University in Guinobatan, Albay;

Negros Oriental State University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental; Bohol Island State University in Bilar, Bohol; University of Eastern Philippines in Catarman, Samar; Pampanga Agricultural College in Magalang, Pampanga; and Caraga State University in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte.

In February this year, the DENR has also entered into a partnership with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, Inc (PTFCF) tasking the two to raise indigenous tree species seedlings for the NGP through their members from civil society organizations (CSOs), numbering around 200.

Last week, Paje, together with DOST Secretary Mario G. Montejo, led the groundbreaking ceremony for the 1.12-hectare DENR-DOST clonal nursery to be build inside the DOST compound in Taguig City.