MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte, July 17 (PIA) -- On top of the regular National Greening Program (NGP) that began four years ago until 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Eastern Visayas has an added mission: plant a billion fruit trees more within the 40-meter no build zone limits along shorelines.

This was revealed by Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Ricardo Tomol, head of the DENR office in Southern Leyte, during the Action Center Kapihan sa PIA Cable TV program Wednesday.

The Cable TV Kapihan taping at the Senior Citizens building will be aired Friday, July 18, as a special edition in addition to its weekend regular showing, to coincide with a simultaneous nationwide launching of a joint PIA-DENR advocacy project on Climate Change Adaptation (CCA).

Planting trees, be it forest or fruit trees, has long been proven as a way to mitigate the effects of erratic climatic conditions, because they absorb carbon dioxide in the air and give off oxygen for people and animals to breathe, aside providing shade and acting as buffer against winds and waves during bad weather.

Asked for updates on the nationwide NGP for Southern Leyte province, Tomol said that since the year 2011, they have covered more than 4,000 hectares of timberlands planted with varied species of trees in coordination with various People's Organizations (POs).

This translates to over 2,000,000 trees grown now at three years old at a conservative estimate of 500 trees planted per hectare at 85% survival rate.

As to the billion fruit trees campaign specifically for Region 8 and implemented through former Senator Panfilo Lacson, the Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction for post-Yolanda, Tomol said they had finished the survey and other necessary paperworks and submitted those already to their central office.

The idea is to coordinate with private landowners in open spaces and lots in-between barangays and municipalities along the coastal roads, so these areas, even under coconut trees along the 40-meter limit from shorelines, can be planted with fruit trees provided by DENR but "demand-driven" by landowners on what kind of fruit trees they would like to plant, Tomol explained.

Tomol said he is just waiting for the final approval of their submitted plans so they can start to implement, if possible within the year, the Yolanda-themed fruit tree planting in the province as part of the Lacson-led initiative for the entire Region 8. (mmp, PIA8-Southern Leyte)