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Authorities pilot-test social fencing for NGP

MANILA, July 2 — Government is pilot-testing the social fencing component of the 2011-2016 National Greening Program (NGP) – the country's biggest reforestation bid so far – to help better realize its anti-poverty, food security, environmental stability, biodiversity conservation and climate change goals.

Shalom Macli-ing, National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) focal person for NGP, said social fencing was a strategy for achieving the program's goals.

NAPC spearheads the pilot-testing in coordination with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the agency at the forefront of NGP's implementation.

Authorities aim to conclude the pilot testing by yearend, afterwhich they would assess outcome of such activity to better help NGP realize its goals.

In its pilot-testing guidelines, NAPC said social fencing refers to communities' "rules and regulations in accessing, using and managing resources underpinned by participatory decision-making and equitable sharing of benefits and responsibilities by members."

Government's social fencing project emphasizes conservation, protection and development of resources that's supported by alternative livelihood opportunities like agro-forestry, NAPC noted.

The project "also takes cognizance of diverse groups, use and claims on natural resources in the project sites, thus processes will be instigated to institute mechanisms to address potential conflict," NAPC said.

"Our thrust is addressing those communities' socio-economic needs without destroying the environment," Macli-ing said.

NGP aims greening in six years some 1.5 million hectares of open, denuded and degraded forest land nationwide using some 1.5 billion seedlings of indigenous and exotic tree species.

For 2012, DENR said NGP targeted greening 200,000 hectares of such land.

In establishing the social fencing rules and regulations, Macli-ing said inputs from communities concerned would be considered since residents there were well-acquainted with their surroundings.

"They know where trees must be planted and which species are best suited to their surroundings," she said.

She also said the residents had indigenous and environment-friendly practices that would help boost environmental protection efforts.

Such residents could also help identify sustainable alternative livelihood, which the economically displaced in their communities could engage in, she said.

"Alternative livelihood is essential particularly for those who formerly made a living from 'kaingin' or slash-and-burn activities and other environmentally destructive undertakings," she said.

NAPC is expected to soon release the list of 25 pilot areas authorities earlier identified for the nationwide social fencing project.

Such areas were primarily NGP sites within the 609 focus municipalities across the country, NAPC said.

"Those are the country's poorest municipalities," Macli-ing noted.

She said NAPC and the Cabinet's human development-poverty alleviation cluster identified the municipalities.

Government had partner groups in each of the pilot areas to help facilitate organization of communities there, Macli-ing said.

"Community organization is very critical in social fencing," she said.

The communities will discuss and agree on which rules and regulations to adapt for respective NGP-related environmental efforts, she said.

She said community mobilization activities already commenced in some pilot areas.

"Reception to the project has been warm so far as communities concerned like the idea of being consulted about what must be done to protect their surroundings," Macli-ing reported.

The government instituted NGP in 2011 through Executive Order 26.

DENR believes NGP can increase nationwide forest cover and boost productivity in forest land. (PNA) RMA/CJT/mec

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