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NGP nurseries: Not a waste of money

12:03 AM June 27, 2017

This is in reaction to Juan Yu’s letter titled “Waste of people’s money, paging Cimatu.” May I clarify the issues and allegations he raised in the letter, including the claim that investments made on mechanized nurseries (MNs) for the National Greening Program (NGP) were a waste of money (Opinion, 6/19/17). On the contrary, the amount spent for the MNs was money well spent.

Purchase of mechanical seeders—a waste? In any reforestation program, there is a need to establish a central nursery to supply the activity’s seedling requirements. Since the NGP is considered the most ambitious and largest reforestation program of the
government, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources introduced advanced technology to facilitate seedling production. To this end, the DENR purchased 11 (not 12) sets of mechanical seeders (MS) and double-rail irrigation booms from Urbinati Nursery Technology of Italy at a cost of
P7.2 million per set. Each set can produce at least 20,000 seed bags per hour compared to manual filling which can only produce 200 seed bags per hour. Further, seedling produced through MS costs P2.50 while a seedling produced manually will cost P12;
this means savings of up to 80 percent or P950 million for every 100 million seedlings produced. How can this be a waste?

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On the MS’ failure to supply right kind of species: An MS can process both small and big seeds, exotic and indigenous. Small seeds include acacia mangium, lanete and molave, and big seeds include coffee and cacao all of which are indigenous. All these seeds can be used for the establishment of agroforestry plantations and rain-forestation. On the other hand, mangrove rehabilitation requires propagules, not seeds. There are many heavily denuded areas that have to be planted with fast-growing exotic species to serve as nurse trees before the agroforestry species are planted for their greater survivability. Exotic species in production forests are likewise excellent sources of wood for domestic and commercial use. They help reduce the harvesting of timber, especially indigenous species, in natural forests.

We also, as practiced in other countries, hand-plant several native species with bigger seeds.

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On the cost of establishing and maintaining MNs: Yu claims that establishing an MN costs more than P50 million, plus another P50 million for yearly maintenance. The fact is, the cost of establishing an MN depends on the seedling production capacity. Each MN can produce 5 million seedlings per year; this costs only around P30 million to set up and another P5 million per
year to operate and maintain.

On the consultant of the DENR: The consultant hired by the DENR in 2015 to design all the 11 MNs in the country is a horticulturist with an extensive experience in nursery operations and management. He is in charge of training DENR personnel to become nursery managers of all these nurseries. He also designs strategies to effectively transfer knowledge of new propagation systems from the nursery managers to the partner communities.

On the MNs’ limited use: The MNs and MSes will not have limited use. Even after the NGP has ended, these nurseries can be used as shared service facilities with farmers for more efficient sowing of vegetable seeds and other crop seeds. Other government agencies can also avail themselves of these services.

Yes, the NGP is not a perfect project. No program is. It has several shortfalls and defects that Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has noted and is now moving to correct.

And I thank Yu for his concern for our forests and environment. We at the DENR share his concern.

NONITO M. TAMAYO, Ceso 4, director, Forest Management Bureau, Department of Environment and Natural Resources

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TAGS: Inquirer letters, Inquirer Opinion, National Greening Program, NGP, Nonito M. Tamayo
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