REFORESTATION. The local government unit of Mangatarem town in Pangasinan province continuously conducts tree planting activities to reforest denuded mountains. It has partnered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and private organizations. (Photo by Hilda Austria)

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan – The Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) has accelerated its reforestation efforts as it recorded a 60-percent survival rate of the tree seedlings planted in the denuded mountain areas here. 
In an interview on Thursday, MENRO head Jessie Sacopla said they are aiming to surpass last year's planted seedlings as over 15,000 were already planted as of July this year. 
"We are planting more acacia and narra tree seedlings as these have higher survival rates as compared to the fruit-bearing trees," he said.
In 2021, some 20,000 seedlings were planted in the mountainous area of this town through the initiative of the local government unit (LGU) with the help of volunteer groups, non-government organizations, private entities, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 
The people’s organizations accredited by the DENR have been helping in monitoring the survival of the seedlings, he said during the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) Pangasinan chapter forum on Wednesday. 
“The soil in the mountains is rocky and there were but few sources of water so we rely mostly upon the rains to water the area,” he said.
Sacopla said they planted last year mostly acacia, narra, some fruit-bearing trees such as calamansi and cashew, as well as cherry blossom.
He admitted the mountainous areas are already denuded, thus massive tree planting activities are lined up yearly.
He added the forested area covers up to 3,000 hectares, which has been under the National Greening Program of the national government through the DENR.
One of the partners of the LGU in the reforestation project is the KBP Pangasinan chapter through its Brodkastreeing program.
Sacopla said the media practitioners will again plant seedlings on Aug. 26 with over 150 participants who will plant four seedlings each.
“The LGU, through the mandate of Mayor Ramil Ventanilla, has built fire vents all over the place in order to prevent forest fires,” he said.
He said there were 20 private organizations that helped in the tree planting activities last year.
Sacopla said they only allow tree planting activities in the area in coordination with the LGU and the Philippine National Police.
The mountainous area of Mangatarem became an attraction following the construction of the Daang Kalikasan road.
The area has become a tourist attraction but was closed to the public due to the disruption in the construction work as people flock to the area aside from the problem on forest fire caused by visitors as well as improper waste disposal by tourists. (PNA)