MANILA -- An expert sees the need to further tighten quality control for the National Greening Program (NGP), the government's biggest reforestation bid so far.

"We must use quality planting materials (QPMs) suitable for sites where these will be planted," NGP consultant and former Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) director Celso Diaz said on the sidelines of the international forest landscape restoration conference in Makati City on Wednesday.

Diaz raised the point, noting that it is unclear where some people's organizations (POs) get the planting materials or seedlings they provide for the NGP.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) must be stricter in monitoring POs involved in NGP, he said.

Diaz said since QPMs have a better chance of survival, thus, using them would help the DENR implement the NGP successfully.

"Clonal facilities and seed production areas (SPAs) ERDB turned over to DENR field offices, as well as state universities and colleges (SUCs) are sources of QPMs," he assured.

Forecast climatic conditions and the annual onslaught of typhoons and other weather disturbances elevate the need for QPMs, he noted.

This month, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) confirmed the development of the drought-driving El Niño phenomenon.

PAGASA also forecast dry condition, dry spells and drought this year in various parts of the country.

These conditions are threats to NGP plantings, Diaz noted, adding that expects lower chance for survival of threatened low-quality plantings.

The DENR launched the NGP in 2011 to reforest some 1.5 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestland around the country by 2016. 

In 2015, however, Malacañang issued Executive Order 193, which extended NGP's implementation period from 2016 to 2028 so this program can cover the country's estimated 7.1 million hectares of remaining unproductive, denuded and degraded forestland.

The NGP aims to promote Philippine self-sufficiency in wood and wood products, economic security and environmental stability.

Diaz recalled learning that some POs have not been getting planting materials from SUCs.

"We don't know where those POs get planting materials," he said.

It's also unclear where some POs get seeds and cuttings that they use in growing seedlings, he continued.  

Those seeds and cuttings must be of good quality so seedlings grown from these will be of good quality as well, he said.

Clonal facilities ERDB turned over to DENR field offices provide quality cuttings for seedling production, noted Diaz.

To ensure seeds for seedling production came from genuine sources, he said the ERDB earlier established SPAs and clusters of individual plus trees in selected sites nationwide.

The NGP's demand for QPMs led ERDB to also partner with 27 SUCs on mass-producing these materials using propagation technology developed by the bureau, he continued.

Latest official DENR data, as of December last year, show the NGP registered a 109 percent planting accomplishment during the 2011 to 2018 period, greening nearly two million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestland nationwide.  

Some 1.7 billion seedlings were planted during the period, the DENR also said.

"We must know how many of those seedlings are surviving," Diaz said, adding such information will enable the DENR to replant, using QPMs, the NGP sites where seedling survival is low. (PNA)