As the Philippines joins the world community on February 2, 2011 in New York City for the launching of 2011 as the “International Year of the Forests” (IYF) by the United Nations, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is making sure that the festivities slated are both meaningful to the majority of the Filipino people and especially to the most affected sector by forest ruin – the 25 million Filipino upland dwellers regarded as the country’s “poorest of the poor.”
This, according to DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, who has called for the national launch of the celebration rites in partnership with some of the leading environment-advocate organizations that represent the country’s diverse ecosystems, such as the University of the Philippine, Los Banos-College of Forestry; Society of Filipino Foresters (SFF); Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA); Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFC); Yakap Kalikasan; Women’s Initiative for Society, Culture and Environment (WISE); Bantay Kalikasan, Conservation International-Philippines (CI-Philippines); Foundation for Philippine Environment (FPE); World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); and the German International Cooperation (GTZ).
“The observance of the International Year of the Forest in the country not only serves as a catalyst for raising global awareness of the urgent need to protect the planet’s fragile forest resources, but more importantly, our festivities should focus on the need for reforestation and reducing gas emissions while supporting people and biodiversity for the primary benefit of Filipinos especially those in the upland areas,” said Paje.
According to Paje, the DENR will spearhead the celebration, as he directed the creation of a “National IYF Steering Committee (NISC),” to be headed by Forest Management Bureau (FMB) Director Neria Andin.
Being aware of the importance of the UN declaration, Paje bared that a presidential proclamation declaring 2011 as “the national year of forests” has already been drafted for the signing of President Benigno S. Aquino III, imploring all sectors of Philippine society to act out their important roles in protecting and conserving forest life.
Paje stressed that his agency will exploit the forthcoming event “to the hilt” to get the message across to the general public, especially those in urban centers, that “forests, like the infant’s umbilical chord that brings life-giving nutrients from the mother, are inextricably linked to the country’s voyage towards poverty eradication and food security.
“The government’s program on convergence among the DENR, Department of Agriculture and Department of Agrarian Reform, will be one of the centerpiece activities of the event to stress this point,” Paje added. The convergence program seeks to reduce poverty, promote security and address climate change.
The draft also calls on the 15th Philippine Congress “to facilitate the passage” of the proposed Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management Act which has been filed for 15 years now.
“Passing this proposed law will have ground-breaking impact on the country’s efforts to chart a vibrant future for our forests and the economic fruits that it can give the nation ,” Paje said.
He added that a national calendar of events is now undergoing fine tuning to keep the activities attuned to the four themes laid out by the United Nations Forum on Forests, namely: Forests for People, Finance for Forest Dependent Communities, Forests plus: Cross Sectoral and Cross Institutional Approach, and Forests and Green Economies.
Paje said giving life to the four themes through the country’s celebration rites of the UN declaration “puts in living colors” the need for forests to remain high on the wider development agenda both on the global and regional scale like the ASEAN and APEC poverty eradication.
Paje added that four teams have been formed for each of the four themes and will act as technical working groups for NISC whose overall task is to oversee the implementation of the lined up activities on a national scale.
These are the working groups on Forest for People with WWF as head; Finance for Forest Dependent Communities to be headed by PTFCF; Forests plus: Cross Sectoral and Cross Institutional Approach, WISE; and Forests and Green Economies, SFF.
“As such, the IYF needed to highlight forests as an important part of development and a crucial link with the many other issues being addressed at the global level,” Paje said. .-30-