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Jun 10th
Home Sections Ecology and the Environment Funding Reforestation as a Solution to Global Warming (Part6)
Funding Reforestation as a Solution to Global Warming (Part6) PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Ecology and the Environment
Sunday, 06 May 2007 10:15

A massive reforestation is probably the easiest thing the Philippines can do to help in fighting global warming. The following are excerpts of a 2003 proposal that I sent the office of the Philippine President about “resurrecting” the Emergency Employment Administration and using it exclusively for the reforestation drive.

How to fund what I call for want of a better term the "Emergency-Employment and Ecological-Evolution (E4)" Program? Here are the suggested ways, as updated, of obtaining the needed funds:

*  1.0 Convert the so-called "Countryside Development Funds" of congressmen and senators into funding for the E4 Program. Since the E4 Program will really involve development of the countryside, what better way than to channel these billions of pesos in pork-barrel funds to the tree farms and support infrastructures? The congressmen and senators may still be given the honor of inaugurating tree farms and naming trees (or tree farms) after them.

* 2.0 Organize the farmers and the rural folks into "tree-farm cooperatives (TFC)." 

                     2.1  Campaign among Overseas Filipinos to join the TFCs in their home provinces or hometowns. The Overseas Filipinos may be able to provide (invest) the capital for the seedlings, labor and the purchase of tools and even the initial goat stocks. The Overseas Filipinos are the country's middle class and, especially true of the Filipino Americans, have been described as having increasing disposable incomes. Investment for the TFCs can come from the "Overseas-Filipino Monetary Fund (OFMF)" that this writer has proposed as part of the Filipino answer to the problem of Global Warming.

                   2.2  So as to encourage the members of the TFCs to protect and nurse the seedlings, compensation for the caretaker may be arranged at the rate of $1.00 per tree for the initial three years. Those overseeing the growth of the hardwood-tree varieties may be paid a similar amount for the first 10 years (or half of the time it takes the hardwood tree to mature). This compensation scheme will pump literally hundreds of millions of pesos in the countryside commerce and trade. Increasing the purchasing power of the people in the rural areas will spell huge increases in the production of the country's factories and manufacturing sectors and thereby create a multiplier effect.

                  2.3  Since the Overseas Filipinos are estimated to be earning per annum in excess of an estimated $60 billion (spelled with a B), it is a question only of doing the right approach and a businesslike presentation of the TFC Initiative and its downstream projects. Investors, including Overseas Filipinos, know a good investment opportunity when they see one. Besides the investors shall get what I call the "emotional returns," aside of course from the financial "return on investment "(ROI). Knowing that one's investment has resulted in tree farms that produce oxygen for the world and that help the ecology is good for the investor's soul.

* 3.0 Obtain grants from foreign governments and ecology-oriented international organizations. After all the trees produce oxygen, which circulate worldwide (and not only in the
Philippines). The natural production of oxygen will even help cut down the so-called "warming of the planet" and may help prevent or at least delay the supposed melting of the icecaps that shall result in the inundation of low-lying areas.

                   3.1  Some multinational companies based in the G-7 countries may be permitted to give grants for the Filipino TFCs in exchange for (ecological) credits that they use in lieu of building for instance more-expensive scrubbers for the emission (exhaust) towers of their manufacturing plants.

                   3.2  Grants may be obtained from companies and wealthy families in exchange for naming rights of tree plantations or tree parks.

* 4.0 Lobby for the conversion of some of the international debts of the Philippines for the use of the TFCs or the creation of forest reserves or parks. This plan is similar to that engineered by James D. Robinson III, when he was chairman and CEO of the American Express in the 1980s. Mr. Robinson was able to help Costa Rica maintain its remaining virgin forests by swapping debts held by the American Express Centurion Bank for credits that were used for ecological purposes.

                  4.1 Yes, it is the same James D. Robinson III, an American captain of industry. Mr. Robinson proposed the organization of a new entity that he called the "Institute of International Debt and Development (I2D2)" Details of the I2D2 will be published in a subsequent chapter in this series of articles.



* 5.0 Foreign investment by international conglomerates and multinational concerns. The world is running out of hard wood. And pulp and paper are becoming scarce commodities due to the pressure by environmental groups against the destruction of virgin forests and even new-growth forests. It shall be easy to accept investments from foreign investors. The payment of the loans may be made by exporting to them the timber and lumber or even pulp and paper after an agreed period of gestation period. Wood is certainly one of the best renewable sources of energy and building materials.

* 6.0 Taxes accruing from the increased usage of what are now essentially idle real estate and from the income taxes of the millions of farm workers benefited by contracts with the TFCs.

                    6.1  A family of six that takes care of five hectares may easily earn an additional income of anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 per year. A hectare of land may be able to grow 300 to 500 trees, depending on the variety. Five hectares, therefore, may accommodate at least 2,000 trees @ $1.00 per tree per year, the income shall reach $2,000 or the equivalent of Pesos 100,000. After the third year, the income increases, as some of the trees would then be bearing fruits.

* 7.0 Other sources of income that may be feasible, such as income from "ecological tours" that domestic and foreign tourists may undertake - just to see the revival of forests and the saving of endangered species. When and if this projected "ecotourism" gets developed, it will surely jump-start the Philippine tourism industry. Part of the capitalization needed by the TFCs can come from a pool of investors that can course their investments in shares floated in the Philippine Stock Exchange by a corporation organized to handle investments for this particular project.

Downstream Projects

T here are other social benefits that shall accrue by doing the proposed E4 Program. There will be downstream projects, aside from the cottage-industry production resulting from the harvests of fruits, the sale of lumber and timber, the dairy, tannery and leather craft industries from the raising of goats. When watersheds teem with vegetation and even wildlife, the TFCs may be able to generate their own power by operating their mini-hydro power dams. The TFCs may be able to provide cheap electricity to their villages or towns and sell the excess power generated to the district electric cooperatives or even to the National Power Corporation.

As the income of the people increases year after year, their towns, provinces and regions also amass bigger and bigger tax revenues. Pretty soon all of these political subdivisions may be able to afford participating in the building of the Filipino equivalent of the California Aqueduct, so that no farmer is left without water even at the height of summer.

When hardwood varieties of trees are planted on mountain ranges, slopes and hills, there is a need to construct permanent "logging" roads that may be used also for tapping marble and other mineral deposits. As the people get more and more financially independent, their political power increases and they obtain more respect. And all of these coming from the simple back-to-the-basics project of planting trees done a massive national scale.

Once the people start earning more, there will be a huge domestic demand also for wood and lumber. Because more and more of the families involved will decide to build better and more comfortable homes. The results will be like the chain reaction of a reactor, with the elements feeding themselves, as more and more economic benefits go to the people. By the time the first hardwood trees are harvested in 2030, the Filipino people would by then have started their second half of their millennium of recorded existence, counting from 1521 when the Magallanes expedition made the first chronicles about the inhabitants of what became the Philippine archipelago.

T he E4 Program simply needs the honest-to-goodness stable and sincere leadership coming from the national level and the development of an equally-strong political will among the regional leaders and their constituents plus the support of Overseas Filipinos.

There is also the need for the people to force the national and local candidates to present platforms of government and of socioeconomic concerns. The people have to force, if needed, the candidates to discuss the issues about this proposal and other matters such as the repayment of the foreign obligations of the country. The people must speak during the 2010 election campaign and tell all congressional and senatorial candidates that they should all pledge to give up their multimillion "Countryside Development Funds." The voters must support only those who pledge in writing to give up the pork barrel.

An adage says, "only God can make a tree." But surely a Filipino forestry scientist or agriculturist can make things happen with a seed or a bud and grow it to become a tree. The Filipinos do not need divine intervention a la Deus ex machina to reinvent their landscape and improve their lot. They only have to plant 100 million trees from 2010 to 2016 and repeat the cycle with every inauguration of a new Philippine President. # # #

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Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2009 16:37

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