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PIA Press Release

Siquijor to green Manan-ao 'white hills' thru FITS

By Rizalie A. Calibo

Siquior (17 October) -- "It takes a noble man to plant a seed for a tree that will some day give shade to people he may never meet," said David Trueblood.

In what seemed to be a great challenge, the Provincial Government of Siquijor is determined to green the 'white hills', while planning to provide livelihood opportunities to the local folks of barangay Manan-ao in Enrique Villanueva of this province.

This will be made through the Farmers Information and Technology Services (FITS) Consortium of the province that adopts Manan-ao Agro-Forestry Project its focus for this year, says Engr. Mario de la Pena, provincial director of the local office of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

He said the present leadership is looking up to this project as a continuing activity to rehabilitate the area.

Provincial Governor Shane Fua is already giving his 'go-signal' and is setting aside an initial fund of P50,000 from the province's 20% development fund to start the project, Provincial Veterinarian and FITS Chair Bernardith Tabada also said.

Manan-ao is one of the barangays once identified by the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) here to be in the stage of "irreversible descent" and is tagged as "white hills" because it turned denuded and unproductive in so many years. These hills constitute an open brushland and barren area which looks like it is in an advance stage of desertification-which means the area could become a desert in due time.

The place, according to Bernadith Bunado, Provincial Agricultural Technological Coordinating Officer and member of the FITS Consortium, had been the target of reforestation projects in the previous years but nothing has sustained, she said. Until now Manan-ao remains bald, she added.

"It's time we make a difference," Bunado said while stressing the urgency to rehabilitate the area and calling the group's real commitment and involvement to the project.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was prepared signed by the barangay folks as beneficiaries of the project, the Provincial FITS Consortium as the technical working group with the municipal government and the provincial government, to ensure the high survival rate of the trees planted and the sustainability of the program.

As its initial activity, the FITS and the local folks planted 30 mango trees in time with the environment month celebration in June with seedlings coming from the Provincial Agricultural Technological Coordinating Office. It was followed by another tree planting of 300 assorted forest and fruit trees last September 21, this year.

Another tree planting activity is scheduled Friday (October 19) following the FITS regular meeting.

Aside from the forest trees which will take the bulk of the area, the FITS consortium is also eyeing the growing of high-value crops to spur agricultural development in the community.

According to Tabada, they are looking at the propagation of jackfruits, mango, banana and hybrid coconut which can provide livelihood opportunities in accordance with Gov. Shane's vision of making Siquijor not just a hub of tourism but also a big part of what is called the "Green Philippines."

Green Philippines Program is part of the government's eight point priority agenda dubbed 8 by '08 that will fast-track the reforestation efforts and the country's initial contribution to combat global warming.

Earlier, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has underscored her administration's thrust that economic growth must be achieved alongside the preservation and protection of the environment for the Philippines to be a modern nation. (PIA) [top]

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