President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday pledged to fill around 750,000 hectares with trees during his term, or as many as the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources has in the last 25 years.
Speaking at the anniversary of the DENR, Aquino said the Philippines has already lost around half of its 15.8 million hectares of forests. He added regreening efforts in the past administration had gone slow, and that if the current administration adopted the pace of those efforts, it will take around 280 years to restore the country's forests.
Instead, he said, the government launched the National Greening Program, which he said is the biggest reforestation project in Philippine history.
"Kung 750,000 ektarya ang nataniman ng puno ng DENR sa nakalipas na 25 taon; sa NGP, dodoblehin natin ito sa loob lamang ng anim na taon," he said.
Aquino said that by the end of 2011, the NGP had already planted around 89.6 million seedlings on 128,600 hectares of land.
"Kung gusto pa n’yong pabilisin, sang-ayon din po ako," the President said.
Aquino also called on the DENR, as well as the Justice and Local Government departments, to send a clear message on a logging ban in place since 2011.
"Siguro uutusan na rin natin ang Bureau of Corrections na maghanda ng mga dagdag na lugar doon. Para makapagbakasyon na ‘yung mga akala’y nagbibiro ako. Inaasahan ko rin na tuwing buwan na may nire-report sila sa akin, parami nang parami ang mga nahuhuli at naco-convict hanggang maubos na po sila at magbakasyon lahat sa Bureau of Corrections," the President said.
Operations against illegal logging have meanwhile netted logs worth P330 million, he said. Those "hot" logs were turned over to the Department of Education to turn into school desks.
In December 2011, Tropical Storm Sendong caused flooding in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City and left hundreds of people dead. The floods were attributed to illegal logging and the conversion of land for agricultural use.