Benguet taps locals to protect communal forests

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — The province of Benguet sees the importance of involving the community in preserving and protecting its 76 existing communal forests.

A report obtained from the Provincial Environmental and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) said that in due time, some of these communal forests would be turned over to various municipalities.

According to the report, among the communal forests up for community management are: Bokod Central, comprised of 164 hectares; Ambassador Tublay, with 34 hectares; Sagpat Kibungan, one hectare; Sablan, 10 hectares; Poblacion Atok, 56 hectares; and Loo in Buguias, with 67,923 hectares of forest land.

Under the Local Government Code, local government units (LGUs) are given the right to plan and manage identified communal forests.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), thus, has adopted a program of community-based forest management (CBFM) to assist LGUs in managing the natural resources within their areas of jurisdiction.

The PENRO Benguet chief said the goals of the program include sustainable management of forest resources, social justice, improved well being of local communities, and a strong partnership among local communities and the DENR.

The Philippine Master Plan for Forestry Development recognizes the indispensable role of local communities in forest protection, rehabilitation, development, and management. It targets the protection, rehabilitation, management, and use of at least 4 million hectares of forestlands through the community-based forest management strategy.

Benguet, being located in mountains, is endowed with thick forests, which contribute massively to achieving sustainable development.

In the Cordillera region, one can find many indigenous communities, who have maintained community-owned forests, which the indigenous people recognize as the main resource for their basic needs, such as food, shelter, and clothing.