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Adaptation Notes

Agriculture and Development Notes on Climate Change Adaptation1
Vol. 8 No. 3 | Prof. Pastor L. Malabrigo, Jr.2

BINHIPlanting native trees is vital in restoring the forest cover and its biodiversity resources. For any reforestation effort to flourish, however, people must appreciate the key role that native trees portray.
 
The decline of the forest cover of the Philippines began during the three-century Spanish colonization. Reduccion, encomienda, and hacienda caused 6M hectare (ha) decrease in the country's total forest resource. The greatest forest degradation in the country’s history was during the American period when Philippine Mahogany was famous in the world market, and log export constituted the main sources of the national income.

The forest cover continued its downturn at the end of World War II, and 20th century ended with only 18.3 percent forest cover remaining. In 2010, the total forest cover was 6.84M ha, based on the Philippine Forestry Statistics. By 2011, the Philippines landed fourth on Conservation International's list of "World's 10 Most Threatened Forest Hotspots," with 7 percent remaining forest, predominantly tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests in 2011. Of the 694 threatened plant species in the country, 539 are endemic, including the Philippine dipterocarps (e.g., ironwood, ebony, oaks, and nutmegs).

Now, Philippine biodiversity remains to be one of the most threatened in the world, with 380 threatened tree species of which 40 are critically endangered, 57 are endangered, and 77 are vulnerable. The most beautiful and unique tree species found only in the country are in serious danger of being extinct forever.

BINHI Tree for the Future

BINHI Tree for the Future program, or simply BINHI, is a science-based reforestation initiative by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) to save and protect 96 of the most threatened native tree species known in the country.

The Philippine government had initiated reforestation efforts as early as 1910, with the same goal as BINHI's–to restore and protect both the country's forest cover and its biodiversity resources. However, 95 percent of the species planted through these initiatives were exotic, which were both invasive and harmful to the country’s biodiversity. Exotic tree species have been introduced to the local biodiversity and preferred over native tree species, which were presumed lacking in planting material and slow-growing. BINHI’s experiences and learnings debunked these beliefs, proving that native trees are promising.

Based on existing literature and series of investigation with the help of botanists, foresters, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), 96 most critical species of the total 3,600 Philippine plant species are initially prioritized for production. EDC then started seed sourcing from the remaining fully grown mother trees from around the country.

EDC’s experience testifies that there is, in fact, an abundant source of planting material if only seed collection will be optimized. Bagtikan (Parashorea malaanonan) alone, a native and member of the Dipterocarpaceae family, produces at least 20,000 seedlings on single fruiting. Other dipterocarps that flower every 3–5 years only can produce seeds that are enough to satisfy the resource need for the next 3–5 years. Seeds from these dipterocarps are still available on the forest floor 1–3 months after flowering or fruiting season.

Through the Vegetative Material Reproduction technology, the collected seeds are planted in hedge gardens for production of cuttings. These are kept in an Automated Mist Irrigation Germination Shed to simulate natural forest conditions. The cuttings, which developed roots, are then transferred to a hardening area and exposed to natural forest conditions.

Seedlings are sent to “safe havens” like school campuses, public parks, and industrial estates to ensure high survival. These are nurtured with the help of 131 partner institutions including students, employees, executives, and local communities from 16 regions across the country. EDC closely worked with their partner institutions to ensure that the seedlings are well-sustained. Several native tree species have been proven to grow in a shorter period, contrary to belief. Kamagong (Diospyros discolor) and molave (Vitex parviflora) took only 4–5 years to grow into young trees, while an Ipil tree (Intsia bijuga) from the Bayan ni Juan 2009 Project produced flowers and fruits in three years. Yakal saplungan (Hopea plagata), known to flower only after 20–25 years, bore seeds in a span of five years. In addition, seedlings from BINHI had 98 percent survival rate.

Thus, it is neither the absence of planting material nor slow growth of native trees but people’s lack of awareness that hindered the government to plant native trees.

The future of BINHI

EDC puts premium on raising awareness about BINHI through their book and website, to drive more people to action. The “BINHI Tree for the Future” book documents the program’s entire journey from the inspiration based on the history of the country’s forest cover, up to efforts in sustaining their reforestationinitiative. On the other hand, their website (binhi.ph) makes for easier tracking and documentation of the trees’ status.

Genuine as it is, the future of BINHI lies in the hands of all partner institutions and every Filipino, as each one partakes in saving biodiversity, one tree species at a time. From species rescue and protection to advocacy, the process goes on and on until every endangered tree species is finally saved.

Download pdf.

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1 This learning note is written based on Prof. Pastor L. Malabrigo, Jr.’s presentation at the Agriculture and Development Seminar Series held on 28 February 2017 at SEARCA. For more details, contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2  Associate Professor at the Department of Forest Biological Sciences, College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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