TACLOBAN CITY,  (PNA) — The government’s National Greening Program (NGP) aims to plant trees in 15,000 hectares of land in Eastern Visayas on its fifth and last year of implementation this 2016.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said the target is lower compared to the past years due to budget limitations.

The new area is part of the national target of 1.5 billion trees covering 1.5 million hectares for a period of six years from 2011 to 2016, said DENR Eastern Visayas assistant regional director for technical services Carlito Tuballa.

The DENR expects to plant 2,000 trees for each hectare.

Last year, the DENR has embarked on reforestation of 27,000 hectares for upland, beach and coastal forest. In 2014, the government has reforested 20,700 hectares in all areas.

“We are still on the process of finalizing our monitoring and validation of the final report for last year. We are almost 100 percent of 13,950 hectares of coastal and beach area and 14,260 hectares for upland last year,” Tuballa explained.

About 82 percent to 85 percent of all newly planted trees under NGP survived after planting despite factors detrimental to growth such as human activities, natural calamities, and extreme weather conditions.

“After 2016, we are hoping that massive tree planting will be institutionalized so that this will continue whoever will lead the country,” Tuballa added.

The NGP is a massive forest rehabilitation program of the government established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued on Feb. 24, 2011 by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

In Eastern Visayas, the NGP targets planting of timber, fuel wood, coffee, cacao, bamboo, rattan, other fruit trees, indigenous species and mangrove. The target for Eastern is the highest among the 16 regions in the country in the past three years.

To hit the target for NGP, the DENR has forged partnership with government agencies and non government organizations. Another major strategy is provision of incentive to people’s organization involved in preparation; seedling production; planting; maintenance and protection; and harvesting, utilization and re-planting.

Aside from being a reforestation initiative, the NGP is also seen as a climate change mitigation strategy as it seeks to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide, which is largely blamed for global warming.

It is also designed to reduce poverty, providing alternative livelihood activities for marginalized upland and lowland households relating to seedling production and care and maintenance of newly-planted trees, according to the DENR website. (PNA)