MANILA — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is pushing for increasing the productivity of degraded upland areas, but such should be done in an “ecologically sustainable manner” using various crops not just palm oil.
“We need to develop and make our lands productive. But we will only allow this if this is in accordance with our needs and it is ecologically sustainable,” DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said.
According to Paje, there are around 8 million hectares of denuded and degraded areas in the country, but said his agency’s proposal is to utilize these to establish ecologically-sustainable plantations using native forest species and other high value crops that would strategically address not only the food needs of the Filipino people but also should have high economic value, like rubber and palm oil
Contrary to news reports, Paje stressed that there is no plan to convert the entire 8 million open and degraded areas to palm plantations.
“While we have big opportunity to learn from the lessons of other countries, both best and worst practices, we are not recommending the massive monoculture of palm and rubber,” Paje stressed.
In the same manner, Paje stressed that the whole 8 million hectares could not be converted into food production such as rice and vegetables as this will engender soil erosion and floods.
“As I have cited in Cagayan de Oro City during the launching of the Mindanao Barangay Strategic Forest Project (BSFP) and the Payment for Ecosystem Service (PES) Project, we are recommending upland perennial crops that will improve the water holding capacity of uplands and generate revenues that improve the level of living of upland communities,” he said.