MATI CITY, Davao Oriental -- The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the provincial government here agreed on Tuesday (December 10), to start the Agarwood Protection and Propagation Program to save the province's fabled "million-dollar" tree.

In his Facebook post on Wednesday, Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said that Governor Nelson Dayanghirang has informed him that Agarwood Tree, locally known as "Lapnisan," grows wild in the province but is now threatened by poaching because of the highly-valued resin produced from the tree.

"Governor Dayanghirang brought up Agarwood during my meeting yesterday (Tuesday) with the members of the Indigenous People's communities, mostly Kalagan, where the MinDA presented the Green Mindanao Project which proposes tree farming in critical watershed areas," he said.

He added that the governor asked about the propagation of Agarwood since it is growing wild in the mountains of the province

"I have long heard of the incredible value of Agarwood but I dismissed it as another tall tale and another get-rich-quick product which victimized farmers in the past," Piñol said.

"When I checked on the available information about Agarwood did I realize the value of the tree whose resin is processed into perfume, and resin is believed to have medicinal value," he added.

Following the recommendation of Dayanghirang, MinDA will craft the Davao Oriental Agarwood Protection and Propagation Program to conserve the remaining Lapnisan trees in the forests of the province.

"Had I not traveled to Davao Oriental to present the Green Mindanao Project, how would I have known that the tale about Agarwood is true and that the tree grows wild in the mountains," he said.

Piñol added that Lapnisan or Agarwood also grows in other parts of Mindanao and there is a need for its protection and propagation as it could generate more income for the locals.

"Once again I have to emphasize that officials like me must really get out of our air-conditioned offices and travel to the neglected parts of the country," he said.

He added: "We might just find the answers to the problems of poverty in the countryside by talking to people and discovering new things." (PNA)