Ilagan, Isabela. — Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the country’s leading producer of geothermal energy, is turning over its 200-hectare reforestation project and nursery facilities to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Provincial Government of Isabela, respectively. EDC, upon the request of the provincial government to help rehabilitate the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park and provide alternative livelihood to bugaderos, established the two projects which directly benefit 280 members of the Villa Gracia Agro-forestry Producers Cooperative (VGAFPC).
Premium indigenous species such as narra, white lauan, tindalo, and kamagong were used for the 200-hectare reforestation project located inside the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. The nursery in Brgy. Villa Imelda in Ilagan, meanwhile, boasts of good quality seedlings which can be used for the government’s National Greening Program (NGP). Both projects continue to help VGAFPC members most of whom are former bugaderos, turn away from destructive activities in the forest and engage in environment-friendly and sustainable livelihood. Today VGAFC has networth of more than P4 million.
Aside from the provincial government and DENR, the Provincial Cooperative Development Office is also a partner in this project having trained VGAFPC in project and financial management.
The project is a component of EDC’s landmark greening program BINHI which aims to help restore the country’s forest cover, enhance forest ecosystems, and contribute in rescuing and securing the gene pool of endangered premium Philippine timber species.
“We are happy to have played a significant role in transforming the lives of the bugaderos and for finding new and committed partners in our biodiversity conservation efforts. We have intended BINHI to be a nationwide project to benefit as many communities as possible. Ultimately, BINHI seeks to empower the target publics so they may go the extra green mile individually or collectively,” EDC Chairman Emeritus Oscar Lopez said.
BINHI, launched in December 2008, is the brainchild of Mr. Lopez. It has four major components: tree for the future, tree for life, tree for food, and tree for leisure. The tree for the future component is the flagship program of BINHI. Its aim is to recover the biodiversity of the country by establishing a tree park in every province and in selected cities and schools using prime endangered species. Fifty per cent (50%) of the seeds to be harvested from the planted trees shall then be given back to EDC which will put up a seed bank for future forests. In the future, EDC envisions that the reforestation efforts of the country will use these premium and economically important species.
The tree for life component aims to address the ecological problems of the country by establishing protection forests through assisted natural regeneration (ANR) or rainforestation farming. EDC will target to bridge the forest gaps between important mountain systems in order to avoid fragmentation of habitats of these valuable ecosystems.
The tree for food component aims to hasten re-vegetation of open and denuded forest lands and at the same time provide significant source of livelihood for the farmers living inside EDC’s geothermal reservation areas.
The tree for leisure component is intended to provide recreation, enjoyment and study sites for students, visitors and local communities while preserving the natural beauty and ambiance of the forest’s protection zone.