MANILA Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has urged local government units to prioritize developing their respective urban forestry programs.
Cimatu said such programs will help promote sustainable and resilient urban development amid climate change and possible disasters.
"Despite awareness of the public on benefits of forests, development of urban forestry programs is still not a priority agenda of most cities," he said in a message read by DENR Assistant Secretary Nonita Caguioa on Wednesday, March 21, at the forests and sustainable cities symposium conducted by the Forest Management Bureau.
Cimatu raised the urgency to develop an urban forestry program, as he noted that pollution, flooding, as well as inadequate water and resources for basic services continue to plague urban areas and hinder socio-economic development.
"There's a need for fresh, sustainable and resilient urban models that respond to the needs of humans but at the same time does not put the environment at risk," he said.
Rapid urbanization and increase in urban population worsen the problems, thus the need for immediate action.
"The past few decades have been characterized by increasing urbanization with 54 percent of world population at present living in urban areas in the Philippines, this figure is at 45 percent or a total of around 42 million Filipinos, owing to the promise of a better future for themselves and their families," he said.
Environment advocate Senator Loren Legarda also urged the private and public sectors to help improve urban areas by growing trees and providing green spaces.
She noted that urban forestry the management of trees for urban communities' well-being is crucial in helping address various environmental concerns.
"Urban forestry breaks the notion that there's no space for trees and natural ecosystems in the urban setting," she said in her March 20, 2018 press release.
The forests and sustainable cities symposium was among the activities marking the annual International Day of Forests (IDF) this year. This year's theme, "Forests and Sustainable Cities", highlights urban areas' benefits from forests and trees.
Among such benefits are providing food, capturing carbon to help mitigate climate change, filtering the air to reduce pollutants as well as regulating water to help provide freshwater supply, said experts.
The benefits also include storing water in soil and branches to prevent flooding, providing habitats for biodiversity, regulating temperature to cool down areas and creating jobs by serving as tourist attractions, they continued.
Such benefits help promote sustainable and resilient urban development, they noted.
"Trees and forests are at the heart of sustainability," FMB Director Nonito Tamayo said at the symposium. He also sees the need to integrate forestry into the planning process.
Davao Oriental First District Rep. Corazon Nunez-Malanyaon agrees. "We need implementable and resilient urban designs," she said at the symposium. She called on planners nationwide to start developing such designs.
Aside from promoting tree-growing in urban spaces, Legarda urged the DENR's Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau to help educate the public on species suitable for urban forestry.
"In this global celebration of forestry, we reiterate the importance of our trees and forests in improving the well-being of our society - we have witnessed rapid urbanization and modernization at the expense of our environment but it is now time that we reform our ways and work towards a greener and more sustainable life for all," she said in her 2018 IDF message.
In 2012, the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 of every year as IDF Day to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests.
Source: Philippine News Agency