Philippines: “Bantay Gubat” program employs 13,000 to fight deforestation & poverty

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has lauded the Department of Natural
Resources (DENR) in Region 2 for its “Bantay Gubat” program designed
to fight both poverty and deforestation in the Cagayan Valley area.
Forest protection in the past, despite active participation by
communities, had little success due to lack of funds and government
support. Bantay Gubat, however, has funding support and is expected to
generate employment to some 13,000 residents. The number will be
parceled out to each province in the region depending on the size of
impact areas. Cagayan Valley is composed of the provinces of Batanes,
Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

Cagayan and Isabela are
among the few remaining provinces in the country with extensive
logging activities, but recent incidence of landslides and floodings
has sparked calls for a halt to forest destruction. Under Bantay Gubat
program, the government will train and hire forest guards from
low-income families of communities that are considered as stakeholders
or protectors of the environment where they reside. They must belong
to the out-of-school youth sector and not more than 30 years old.
After training, the deputized forest guards will receive regular
government standard wage and are expected to assist regular forest
officers in monitoring large expanses of forests in the region. DENR
Regional Executive Director Clarence Baguilat disclosed that they have
already received more than P12 million from a total of P40 million
needed to fund the project based on the 2008 work and financial plan.
With the biggest area up for development at more than 56,000 hectares,
Baguilat said that the environment agency will have to work closely
with local government units to ensure the success of the project. The
livelihood programs which are aimed to fortify the protection of the
environment include the implementation of the upland agro forestry
projects and environment-related programs such as public land survey
of ancestral domain. President Arroyo has said she would like to see
similar programs duplicated in other regions of the country.

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