DENR officials purposely fudging on NGP ‘score’?
Sometime last year, after the Commission on Audit released its findings that the National Greening Program (NGP) was a failure, I wrote President Aquino: If he wanted to save the remainder of the program, he must personally make surprise, random visits to NGP sites. I explained that previous presidents made the mistake of swallowing the rosy reports of their environment secretaries hook, line and sinker; as a result, it would be good if at least 5 percent of all the seedlings distributed by government under its tree planting programs since the presidency of his mother, Corazon Aquino, had grown into trees.
In response, I was given a copy of a memorandum from Marcial Amaro Jr., assistant secretary for field operations, to Ralph Pablo, OIC-Cordillera regional director, stating that per the secretary’s instruction, he must bring me to any NGP site in the Cordillera that I wanted to see. Apparently, my letter was misconstrued: It was plain I was referring to the implementation of the NGP in general, not just in the Cordillera.
Anyway, I wrote Pablo to provide me with their list of NGP sites, together with the pertinent basic data, including the coordinates and the incidents of burning by year starting 2011. Pablo gave me the latter data, but said that for the list and individual plantation data, I must communicate with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Offices. Amaro’s instruction was for Pablo to personally bring me to any NGP site in the Cordillera that I wanted to see, but here I was being directed to coordinate with two offices per province for data available in the regional office!
In response to my letter requesting the same data from the DENR-CAR, Ricardo Calderon, NGP national coordinator, wrote that I will have to get the data on the NGP sites from the the DENR website; and, instead of giving me the national burning incident data, Calderon explained that fires are force majeure. He then enumerated what they were doing to minimize the incidence. Well, it is impossible for Calderon not to know that the masterlist available in their website does not contain the coordinates.
That was not the end of it. When I requested Amaro to issue the same order that he gave Pablo to the regional directors of Regions 1, 2 and 3 so I would also be assisted in visiting sites in those areas, he told me he could not do so unless he first got an instruction to that effect from Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. Same situation, same need, but Amaro still wants me to write Paje for the same treatment from other DENR regions, which Paje thought was all right for the DENR-CAR to extend to me. If that’s not stupidity, I do not know what is.
On second thought, I strongly suspect that these officials are just pretending to be stupid and that their actual intent is to hide the real score. In the case of the burning, the Cordillera data suggest that the national figure could be staggering. The data, as of March 2016, showed that 2,600 hectares had been burned. Multiply that by the budget for the seedlings and the planting per hectare at P10,000; that’s a cool P26 million that went up in “smoke” in the Cordillera alone. No wonder, in his letter, Calderon pretended as if I was asking why the burning of plantations continues. Pathetic.
—ESTANISLAO C. ALBANO JR., [email protected]
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