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President Aquino stands by logging ban –DENR chief

MANILA, June 27 – President Benigno S. Aquino III's nationwide logging ban will remain throughout his term.

"He promised the logging ban in natural forests nationwide will stay during his term," said Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Ramon Paje.

Natural forests are areas mainly consisting of self-sustaining native species and where ecological dynamics hardly change unless human intervention occurs there.

Paje clarified the matter amid queries about the possibility of the Chief Executive's lifting the ban he imposed beginning this year through Executive Order No. 23.

"There's no chance for that under this administration," Paje said.

The ban aims to help promote growth of trees in Philippine natural forests so the country can regain as much of its forest cover as possible.

Such greening also targets achieving and sustaining long-term ecological balance and biodiversity enhancement.

River Basin Control Office Executive Director Vicente Tuddao Jr. said greening likewise helps increase deforested areas' capacity to absorb and store rain water.

"Such water merely flows on the surface of bare areas so flooding occurs," he said.

Experts also said greening deforested areas will help lessen emission of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases they identified as driving climate change.

Available data point to the urgency in fast-tracking greening activities nationwide.

Earlier, authorities reported the Philippines' forest cover already shrank from some 70 percent around 1900 to nearly 18.5 percent only in 1999.

DENR also reported about half of nearly 16 million hectares of forest land nationwide is already open, denuded and degraded.

The agency as well as the Department of Agriculture and Department of Agrarian Reform are joining forces in implementing the 2011-2016 National Greening Program (NGP) to help address deforestation, food security, environmental protection as well as climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Greening under NGP covers protection areas, where trees will be grown to provide forest cover, and production areas where species will be raised for commercial purposes.

"We'll harvest trees from production areas only then plant there again to replace what's taken," Paje said.

He noted such arrangement is viable since there are fast-growing tree species that thrive in the country and which can be harvested within a decade.

Trees in temperate countries generally take several decades to mature, he noted. (PNA) scs/CJT/utb

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