Why your tree planting isn’t helping the Philippine environment

Planning to join a tree planting event?

Hold up, you might be doing more harm than good.

Native seedling in germination
Do the trees you plant actually help nature? It depends.

As far as helping nature goes, “Plant a tree” probably rules the Top 10 list of things you can do for nature, beating out “Recycle” and “Don’t litter.”

And for good reason.

I’ve been taught since I was a kid, and you probably were too, that trees create oxygen, store water, house wildlife, and that planting a tree does a whole lot of good in the world.

It does, but too bad they never taught us how to do it the right way.

It turns out, many tree planting activities today are flawed, creating “forests” that fail to give these benefits.

I was disappointed that while I may get that warm fuzzy feeling of having contributed to the conservation of the environment, the actual help I do may be less than what I think.


Because not all trees are equal.

Some of them are actually better at restoring nature simply because they originally made up the forest when it still existed instead of being imported from someplace else.

One of these exotic species I’ve encountered that end up damaging the local environment instead of helping it is Mahogany. It is also one of the many trees prioritized for planting in the Philippines.

Take for example, the government’s own National Greening Program, a project that aims to plant 1.5 billion trees by 2016. Of the 25 million seedlings prepared as of 2011, guess how many are exotic to the country?

NGP pie chart of native and exotic species
That many.

I’m singling out Mahogany because its pretty special in its own way.

Even though it grows naturally in South America and not in the Philippines, Mahogany grows really really well here because it can transform the soil until it becomes what it needs to survive.

Sounds like a superpower right? It actually sounds kinda cool, in a super villain kind of way.

So why is this bad?

Because it prevents native trees that face extinction from growing.

You see, mahogany is self-centered and vain. It doesn’t care what the others around it are feeling. It won’t share its position in the food chain and if you don’t like it, GTFO.

Regina George is Mahogany in disguise
Regina George was originally meant to be a metaphor for Philippine forests

It just so happens that soil with a serving of acidity that Mahogany loves so much isn’t so good for other organisms.

This makes them very invasive and able to choke out other plants. I learned from this review of local reforestation studies that the pseudo-forests they make up are often devoid of wildlife when compared to natural forests.

You won’t see much bacteria in the soil, insects on its leaves, birds on its branches, nor anything else you’d expect to find in a real forest.

You can see the difference for yourself by visiting Bohol’s man made Mahogany forest in Bilar, which is as close to a biological dead zone as you’re gonna get.

Bagras, a tree native to Mindanao
I mean, wouldn’t you want something more fabulous? Like Bagras, i.e. rainbow eucalyptus.  Yes, that’s really purple and gold. Photo from Phil Native Trees 101.

Here’s one example I found of what we are set to lose:

You might be familiar with Narra because it was either your section in grade school, or you remember an Araling Panlipunan lesson on how it’s our national tree.

Well, Narra is classified as Vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

And it’s not the only one.

I did a quick search on the official Red List of Species that revealed that Molave, Apitong, Rafflesia, and 682 other native plants (so far) are threatened with extinction.

I didn’t even know we had that many.

This massive disappearance is mainly due to habitat loss, meaning the destruction of forests, which is made even worse by their natural range being taken over by exotic species.

So should you and I still be planting trees?


Our forests have been steadily disappearing for the past century so if we want to survive for several more, I think we definitely should.

After all, we only have 3% of original forests where native trees grow left in the country. That’s primarily thanks to decades of both legal and illegal logging, conversion of forest lands, unsustainable management, and a number of non-Mahogany related factors.

But including artificial "forests" for production, the DENR says there is 23% is left.
But including artificial “forests” for production, the DENR says 23% is left. From the Haribon Foundation.

Just do it correctly and remember what it is you’re planting for.

If you want to conserve nature and prevent extinctions, go join a tree planting activity for native species. Check out this page for a list of the right trees you can plant.

If you’re looking to grow trees to cut them down later on, find an isolated area and go crazy with mahogany.

Wildlife can be picky when choosing where to live. Most nests of the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, the largest in the world, are made on native trees like Red Lauan (also critically endangered) that reach over a hundred feet high.  
Click here to learn more about the Philippine Eagle and see the rare photo of it getting ready to feast on a monkey.

This post was written by volunteer nature lovers. If you think it was helpful, please consider sharing it on Facebook and Twitter to help raise awareness about the Philippine environment.
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154 thoughts on “Why your tree planting isn’t helping the Philippine environment

  1. Very informative. I heard about the government’s National Greening Program, but I did not know that majority of the species they are planting are non-native ones. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I beg to disagree with your observation that mahogany is invasive thus prohibiying other trees to survive..this is not true..i have a private plantation and i was able to intercrop this tree with other hardwood and fruit trees.I guess the mahogany plantation that you have observed was planted at a closer spacing of 2m x 2m so that as they grow, there is high competition for sunlight. Those that recieve a better sunlight became dominant and the other suppress.Regardingbthe wildlife, i have seen a pair of “ibong kilyawan” frequently visiting and even nesting on them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I am from Mama Earth Davao and we planted 705,000 mangroves in the Gulf of Davao, but also in intercropping system 100,000 mahogany tees for lumber purposes. This is also on the way to protect the remaining virgin forest for illegal logging. We plant also in different areas many endemic trees: In our opinion are only one way successful: Different ways! Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is very very informative. I’ll share this with other people when going on tree planting activities! I love learning new things / facts like this!


  3. This is an eye opener. I don’t really pay so much attention to this fact until I trekked up to Lake Holon (in my hometown Tboli, South Cotabato) last March. There is a small village called Sitio Nabol. It got its name from the dense Nabol trees (Elaeocarpus gigantifolius) that used to exist in the area. There are already few trees standing these days. The dwindling number of native trees species in the Philippines has reached a very alarming level. The only solution is to plant. The time is now, and we need to do it fast.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m sure it is vulnerable to extinction. My brother had photos of Nabol trees in the same are 2 years ago and I saw a lot. When I went up last March, I could easily count the last few standing. Nabol trees are huge and tall and beautiful to look at. I will coordinate with our local gov’t unit for the seeds. I will keep you posted. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I used Falcata as border trees for my farm in Mindanao but we will harvest it for wood soon (if I can get past the barricade from insurgents) but I am wondering if I am using the right tree the right way or should I find an alternative?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi D! I suppose that you chose Falcata because it can be harvested in a relatively short time? I heard that it’s a favorite in plantations for that reason. I’m not an expert on Falcata, but I think it should be ok as long as your farm is away from forests and not on the uplands.

      There are better alternatives though that you can try after you harvest your next batch. Check out this manual for Rainforestation Farming, which is a method of using native trees to support the growth of crops and fruit trees.

      Have you also tried including Abaca in your farm? It’s a good fast strategy to do while you’re still starting out with Rainforestation Farming, which can take several years to be fully functional. Here’s a manual for that 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shame. Familiar story though (hence my rather sarcastic comment above). Not quite the same, but it’s a bit like when you by toilet rolls in the shops over here and says on the packet something like: “for every tree we cut down we plant two in its place”, but they never say which trees they are planting. Good that there’s folk like you to make the point.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Support the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PTFCF) and the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), two NGOs that extend grants (financial assistance) to appropriate actions of responsible people who are in forest conservation. I should know, I had been its BOT member for many years! Link up with them, their connection can be goggled.


    1. Hi Rowie, thanks for the info! So honored that this post somehow reached you. I will definitely add the FPE in my list of local NGOs to contact in order to find out which issues need more attention.

      I’ve found that while there are many conservation orgs who do great work in the Philippines, I feel like most of them can still do a lot in terms of translating their findings/lessons into a more easily understandable and mainstream form. From my limited experience, most of them only create scientific papers or technical management plans? That is just my opinion though. This is one of the major reasons why I decided to put this blog up so having you here is boosting my motivation to do so 🙂

      I’m a corporate writer, but I’ve always wanted to contribute my skills (no matter how imperfect) for an advocacy, similar to how BOT members like you take the time to help manage the FPE. Hopefully I can do this full time someday.


      1. This makes a lot of sense! The reason why advocacies that make sense get hushed up by the less relevant sometimes vain ones is that they are inaccessible to the masses. This blog has turned the good cause into something mainstream. And this is really selfless! It must have been tough deciding whether to package a cause as sacred as this in a vile style as 9gag’s.
        But the fight is tough because those less relevant pseudo-causes are peddled around by big corporations who control the media…Nobody really bothered to ask what becomes of the world when we turn off our lights for an hour..or when we use paper bags instead of plastic…We just take it for granted that those causes are good because ABS CBN says so. It is not every day that we find writers like you guys who can make use of a special skill to get across a politics-and-corruption-free message to the public so as to create a massive relevant change. I have already started sharing your articles.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. This is what we actually need at present,people who serve as bridge between the scientific community and the people in general. Im an ecology major and am aspiring to spread this advocacy in our region as well:) Keep up the good work!:)


  6. aside from the Bolivian Mahogany which you mentioned above, Auri (Acacia auriculiformis) is also self-centered and vain. But until now, this species is still being used for reforestation at Mt. Balagbag which is part of Ipo Watershed.


  7. Just shared your article, this is what I really fear the most. the day when our native species will disappear along with the birds and insects. We plant too many mahoganies and non-native ornamental plants. Also who knows what kind of diseases/viruses/bacteria these imported plants would bring to our ecosystem. Our Baranggays, towns and cities are named after the our native trees (Maynilad, Calumpang, Bakawan etc.) Lets keep planting native trees~!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve read about that dead forest in Bohol some 2 years ago and why it was one big clusterf*ck of a mistake. Hopefully the DENR learns about it and adjusts their reforestation priorities.


  9. great article! We planted around 2000 mahogany trees in laguna. I wanted to get rid of them last year after learning that mahogany is a dominant self centered tree. When typhoon Glenda hit us onky 16 remained. Nature is now giving me a chance to replace them with our native species.

    I hope we can find a list of where to plant those local endangered species so that next time we go tree planting we’re planting the right species.


    1. I read somewhere a long time ago about the perils of planting non native trees to reforest our country. The native fauna don’t recognize them as habitat or food source. And these trees have not evolved to “live” with our natural calamities. Just take a look around whenever a strong typhoon has passed by. The native trees like narra, lauan, molave, coconut, etc are relatively intact with only a few broken branches, while the imports like mahogany, acacia (rain tree) are usually fallen or badly broken.


    1. Hi Drei! From what I’ve read, I think you’re right. A big reason why Mahogany was imported to the Philippines was for construction materials because they grow fast and need little help. Unfortunately, they became a problem when people started falling in love with it a little too much and started planting it outside of lumber plantations (which are supposed to be isolated from natural forests).


  10. Informative article…just want to share of the 2 nat’l govt financed programs in cagayan valley, manggo trees in middle sorrounded by 2 lanes narra and mahogany (very slow growing tree) as mark of division of adjacent lot and the coconut tree planting. Can we consider this as reforestation program as the govt rep. (DENR & Phil.coconut auth.) claim?


  11. I have attended a planning on tree planting which will be implemented very soon, and I learned that not all mahogany are exotic trees. There are species of mahogany which are natives in the Philippines. Examples are lawaan and apitong. They are both species of mahogany. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Mark! The Mahogany I describe here is Sweetenia macrophylla, but you’re correct that there are native Philippine Mahogany species. But, based on what I’ve read, Apitong and Lawaan/Lauan are better referred to as dipterocarps (which we need more of). Calling them Philippine Mahogany may have added to the confusion that lead to people planting the exotic type. Besides, it’s much better to use their local names 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I believe most people who plant “mahogany” here indeed plant lauan. Moreover bagras is pretty but sucks up so much water from the water table which is why it’s only planted in swampy areas.


  12. If, hypothetically, all the native trees and shrubs of a country with very few people belonging to indigenous, tribal groups, were to be replaced by imported ones, and all the endemic animals of that country get affected by this and become extinct, setting aside symbolic importance and any other attachment to local wildlife, how exactly would this change that country’s human way of life aside from incurring some losses in the tourism, food (exotic native animals), construction (native woods) and agricultural (I don’t even see how this is connected) sector?


    1. Good question! Here are some of the more direct things that come to mind:
      1. Exotic trees are less resistant to typhoons (which we get 20+ each year) so they are less capable in protecting communities/cities from landslides, flooding, and in acting as carbon sinks
      2. When trees are gone, siltation into oceans and rivers is increased. This spreads anything from soil, chemical runoffs, and organic materials that destroy coral reefs which are nurseries for fish, threatening jobs and livelihood. This is a problem because 60% of municipalities in the Philippines are coastal.
      3. Loss of local wildlife means abundance of pests, leading to decimation of crops. Insect eating birds help farmers generate higher yields. China led itself into a famine that caused millions to die when Mao ordered sparrows be killed, which led to insect infestations eating up its supply of grain.

      From those 3 alone, the effects will cascade into other ecosystems and sectors including the labor market, disaster prevention, and poverty.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The native vs exotic debate is old. Yes, native trees would be ideal, but you also have to understand that the land is not the same as it was before when said species flourished. Lack of habitat due to human encroachment is actually the greatest contributor to extincinction. Not what we label as invassive. Because technically humans are the single most invassive of all species in nature.

    Correct we do need trees so any bit helps. Whether it’s mahogany or nara, or a mango tree we need it.

    To say mahogany or a certain species is invasive though is incorrect. Nature knows best, and it grows what it can grow where it can grow it. We only label species we don’t like as invassive. Nature will grow where conditions are favorable.

    To understand it more I recommend you read Masanobu Fukuoka’s one straw revolution. Or Toby hemenway’s gaias garden. These two books will help you understand why there is no such thing as in invassive species. It’s only us humans who call it such.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for those resources Carlos! I agree that the main cause of extinctions is lack of habitat (part of that is forests being transformed in to other use areas), but I have to disagree with your other points.

      As I’ve said in the post, Mahogany (the Sweitenia macrophylla kind) is not natural in the country. Because of this, it has little relationships with other organisms in the local ecosystem. Organisms have their ecological nich, and the environment has its own checks and balances that prevent one species from overrunning the entire place. Nature does know best, which is why mahogany seeds aren’t capable of spreading from South America to the Philippines on its own. If you think people actively importing mahogany to the country is a natural process (like pollination), then where do you draw the line? Do the buildings people put up in the middle of forests also count as natural?

      Another example I can think of is climate change and global warming. They are both normal processes, but they have been accelerated beyond natural levels due to the higher amount of emmissions. Would you still call the rate it is affecting the world natural?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. You have already contradicted yourself. You consider humans encroaching on forests as particularly invasive, yet you don’t think it’s invasive when humans introduce trees from one habitat to another and the latter gets disrupted.

      “you also have to understand that the land is not the same as it was before when said species flourished” — But of course! It’s precisely because of that human element.


  14. Indeed.we should’ve already learned the dangers of invasive species by now,learning from our past mistakes:) (golden apple snails and bufo marinus were supposed to help agriculture on pest management but became pests themselves; mahogany prevents other trees from growing in its periphery; janitor fish in laguna de bay wiped out other species in the area). Passion and good intentions should always be partnered with informed actions 🙂
    You have a great blog here :)))

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You got a very good article. Im from Bohol and im very sad to hear that we have a dead forest in our province. Our government should step forward and educate people about this matter. They should be distributing seedlings that are really eco friendly. I just hope that they are aware of the impact of planting mahogany trees. Reeducate people. Create awareness. When i was a kid i used to grow mahogany as these is being taught and distributed for tree planting. I hope our children should be educated first. Im a mother and and ofw. In my own little way i will start educating my children. Good luck to your cause. Im sharing your article now


      2. Yes I agree that the introduction of other species of flora and fauna will ‘destroy’ the current ecosystem of an isolated area such as the Philippine archipelago, but at the same time the same ecosystem will adapt to the change, including humans. Trees in particular have a neat way of ‘terraforming’ their occupied region. In my opinion this is no different from, say, the hypothetical extinction of the carabao. Even if it changes things, maybe to the extent of affecting the human population, I still don’t see why it’s an issue. Maybe you’re talking about preserving the ecological status quo?


  15. Exactly! Thanks for taking the effort to raise public awareness on this issue. it was tough enough getting the DENR to agree on the 5 million native tree seedlings. As foresters, the lot of them should have known better yet they insist on doing this. Something doesn’t feel right. Neither the science nor the socio-economic aspects make any sense….


    1. Thanks for reading Igol! I agree, but one of their reasoning behind it is that exotic trees will be able to provide livelihood when they are harvested several years after they plant. Whether the benefit of that is greater than the benefit of ecological services of native forests, is another topic 🙂


  16. Thank you for posting the true situation of the different tree planting/growing/parenting.

    This will enlighten the minds of different organizers and will focus on the most applicable solutions to address climate change and disaster risk and reduction.

    Special Project Chairman/ Public Relations Officer- Board of Director ,
    Pollution Control Association of the Philippines, Inc.-XII

    505 Disaster Rescuers for Emergencies, Assistance and Management.


  17. HI, you are partly right in what you were writing but otherwise, many of them are not really supported by science or research or plane common sense. The first question you should ask when doing tree planting is to ask yourself: What for? Then you will start to consider factors that will guide you. If you are planting for environmental reason, then you start with the wrong foot. Why? You don’t need to plant! Nature can take care of itself. Want evidence? Go around the city or town or barangay where you are now and take a look at lots which are left alone and undisturbed. Even with a concrete on top of the lot you will soon find out grasses and small herbs starting to grow. In just few months you will soon find out (assuming the lot remained undisturbed) that small shrubs usually leguminous start emerging and before the year ends, small trees will start to emerge. The common ones are called manzanitas, binunga and balanti. There are also species belonging to the jackfruit family like is-is. If you are planting to use the wood later on, then you would consider trees with high value and preferably local or endemic and not introduced. You have choices of dipterocarps which have the species red and white lauan, bagtikan, yakal, guijo, apitong and many others. There are other types of premium wood producing trees like narra , tindalo, molave, nato and ipil. Mahogany and gmelina are two of the common exotic trees with lumber highly acceptable and widely used by many furniture makers in the country. It is very hard to collect seeds of dipterocarps because they don’t flower every year and once they do flower and produce fruits these are easily attacked by insects or eaten by small animals. Besides, it will take 50 to 100 years to grow them to commercial size. You may be wrong to believe that narra is a threatened species. It is very easy to propagate and there are many sources of trees where you can collect fruits. The real threatened species which I seldom see now is Tindalo. Mahogany and gmelina takes only 8 to 15 years to become harvestable. That is why, it might be wrong and purely ignorant to simply lump all introduced species as bad like mahogany. Want examples of introduced trees or plants in the Philippines? Examples are avocado, corn, cacao, coffee. Are these plants bad? I wish to write so much more. Hope to do soon. God bless.


    1. Hi Ed! You brought up a lot of good discussion points. I wrote this primarily to make people think whether what they are doing is really having the effect they want it to. This is why I especially like the “What for?” question you presented: because most people enter tree planting for the broad purpose of “helping the environment”. What I included here is the way one common example (mahogany) doesn’t do that.

      If you read until the end, I said that if you want to plant trees to cut them down later on for lumber go for mahogany. Same goes with cacao, coffee, etc. which are all part of the government’s NGP and have become sources of livelihood and everyday food. I agree with you that we definitely need them despite being exotic to the Philippines (I can see where you’re coming from because I didn’t really include this point for the sake of brevity and focused instead on the aforementioned purpose). The problem I stated in the article still exists though when they’re planted in areas where the good they bring is being offset by the bad (in watershed/protected/national park areas with great ecological worth) making it not contribute much towards “helping the environment” part.

      You could also click on the links in the article itself to check the sources I used. I’d appreciate it if you can let me know if you find something that shouldn’t be there. Maybe you can let me know too when you get to write more about the points you raised to make more people understand the importance of having a purpose 🙂


      1. The National Greening Program actually ensures that ONLY native growing species are planted in watersheds and Protected Areas. The Forestry Management Bureau (FMB) which is the arm of the DENR tasked to spearhead this project has always collaborated with Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) in this endeavor.


    2. Nice comment. I couldn’t agree more with the idea that there is no such thing as bad or good tree. All trees sequester carbon. They all produce oxygen. They all end up as food or home to certain animal or fungi. I’ve seen termites attacking mahogany. I’ve seen wasps cutting edges of mahogany leaves. I’ve talked with an official of MCME about mahogany being water voracious and he said that there is no proof of that yet. Mahogany may not be a good species for boosting biodiversity but for sure it has its important uses even to the environment.


  18. There is the ‘ Trees for the Future ‘ organization’s who is specialised in growing sustainable forests with great success for over 20 years.Amongst other projects they have they replant desdicated areas with the correct trees who have been cut down but also grow mixed sustainable forest gardens which feed the farmers and give them also a income without having further need to take down existing trees.
    They are all professionals and can be hired by any government around the globe.So tree planting yes, but best left to professionals who have studied nature.


  19. Hello po. Sadly the authorities here are behind in recognizing invasive plants. Here is what other experts and countries think about Acacia auriculiformis (an iconic but invasive plant in the Philippines) from cabi,org:
    “In Florida, USA, A. auriculiformis is a category 1 alien plant (Langeland and Burks, 1998). Space et al. (2000) list A. auriculiformis among species that are invasive elsewhere and are invasive or potentially invasive on the Pacific island of Chuuk. Similarly, PIER (2001) grouped A. auriculiformis among species that are known to be invasive elsewhere, and are common or weedy in Tonga. Further monitoring in the anticipation that this species might spread more rapidly was recommended. A. auriculiformis is presently rare or uncommon in American Samoa but was listed among those naturalized species considered invasive elsewhere and classed as common or weedy. A. auriculiformis is also listed as a category 2 invasive plant species in the Bahamas (BEST Commission, 2003). Islam (2002) reports that following recent introduction of this species to Bangladesh, A. auriculiformis germinates naturally in plantation forests and prevents the germination of native species. It is one of 17 plant species named on a preliminary list of invasive alien species for Singapore (Tan and Tan, 2002). Starr et al. (2003) recommended the eradication of A. auriculiformis in Hawaii, USA, where it is presently sparingly cultivated on Maui, to prevent its invasion.”


  20. The way i look, exotic trees is not the only reasons why tree planting activities isn’t helping the environment, it is because of the management. Example NGP in ARMM, if you look at the report the project have already 100% completed, but if you go to the ground out of 100 hectars plantation site, there are only 5-10 hectars had been planted for picturial and justification purposes only. Mostly ghost project ghost benificiaries.


  21. Thanks for sharing this very informative article sir! Now i know.
    As what I have observed in our area, planting mahogany trees degraded the area and lessen the growth of other trees. We have coffee trees planted in a mountainous area somewhere in Iloilo wherein it is planted together with Ipil-ipil trees because of their slim bark and wide leaf coverage that protects the coffee trees from direct hit of sunlight and storms. Some areas were planted with mahoganies together with coffee trees but sad to say, all those coffee trees beneath those mahoganies were suddenly withered and died. Theres also an area where there is some huge native trees like Lauan, Talisay and many more naturally grown trees. Although coffee trees were dwarfed with their neighbouring native trees and their trunks were slim yet they survive with their ecosystem unlike of those planted along with exotic mahoganies…


  22. We have no idea what are the negative effects of planting mahogany to the ecosystem when we started early reforestation efforts in the Philippines. We just realized this in the 1990s just in time when we also realized the importance of biodiversity. It is really surprising that DENR as a whole is promoting mahogany and other exotics when biodiversity conservation is one of its goals. In Cebu however, mahogany is still planted in some NGP sites although it is not substantial base on results of our validation.


    1. Yes, studies regarding native vs exotic I found were mostly from the 1990s. Maybe Mahogany supplies being rampant today is a remnant of the time and focus given to them prior to those studies being made. Things are changing for the better though!


  23. not considered officially as a Tree, nor one of the National Philippine Stamp.. but it sure is an Expressive Symbol of Ours-Filipinos.


  24. Read your post up to the end, including all the comments and your informed replies. Keep up the good intelligent writing. I will read your other articles once I have more time. Apparently, you’re not a single person but a number. Kudos to you all.


  25. Hi,

    This a well written and informative article, but some parts of it is misleading. I worked in the DENR as an object 29 during the conception of the NGP program so I would want to add information that is relevant to the article.

    The National Greening Program is not merely a reforestation effort of the government but is also a sustainable livelihood program for forest dwellers among others.The article describes mahogany as an invasive tree and shows a graph with a label “Mahogany & other Exotic Species” which may lead people to think the the government is majorly planting invasive species, which is not the case. If we delve deeper into the data, only a certain amount of the trees planted are mahogany. A question may arise “why are we planting an invasive specie in the first place?” the answer for that question is simple, it is what the stakeholders or the beneficiaries of the NGP requested for such species. The choosing of the species to be planted is generally determined by the the People’s Organization (PO) and Foresters. They base it on the need of the community and sustainability of the specie. This answers the question “why not plant native growing trees”. Additionally, the National Greening Progam also ensures, that for Protected areas, only native growing trees are planted. Lastly, though we may have good intentions in posting such article, but indirectly saying that the governments projects is doing more harm than good which will only decrease support and appreciation of the project. The National Greening Program may not be perfect, but I can say that it is a start when it comes to our government’s awareness of the ever changing needs of our environment.


    1. Thank you for those points Joshua! I agree that these other purposes should also be made known to the public since exotic trees also contribute in other areas like livelihood. I singled out Mahogany here because I focused on one purpose only, which is ecological services and biodiversity. Perhaps you would be interested in writing about these other lesser known goals of the NGP?


  26. Critical, but not abrasive. As part of a company which participated in the Mindanao leg of the NGP last year, this is indeed revealing. While I appreciate the essence of the govt’s NGP, why did they allow such unequal distribution of plant species in the first place? I think groups like yours should take this up with DENR..and fast. It’s only a matter of time before they achieve their 2016 target. Great read!


    1. Hi Cassandra! One thing the NGP can do better is actually communicating the purpose of the high number of exotic species. These are mostly used for products like timber, fruits, and rubber since they grow relatively fast. I think many people are shocked because the NGP also lists providing livelihood opportunities via these exotic trees as one of their goal.




    1. Hi Alvin! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment here on what you think can be done to make this post better.

      First of all, this isn’t an anti-DENR article so please don’t take it that way. The NGP is probably the project which has the largest potential to actually tackle environmental issues in the country today. But it isn’t perfect. It also isn’t well understood by the public (in my opinion).

      Everything I said here were based on previous news reports, statistics, studies and that you can view yourself by clicking on the text and images. I selected only the most reputable ones so if you think one of my references are unreliable or if I misunderstood what they were saying, please let me know so I can review it.

      Regarding your points:

      Unfortunately, this news article says otherwise, which is where I got the data for the pie chart. This table of seedling numbers on the NGP website suggests that there are more exotics. This DENR article also says that Mahogany was the most planted tree in 2011 along with other exotics. However, it also says that they have since then pushed to include more native species in NGP as shown by Narra overtaking Mahogany as #1 in 2012.

      By looking at the pie chart alone, I think I made it pretty clear that Narra and other native species are being planted too.

      This point I can understand. I mentioned that the introduction of exotic species were making the situation worse, but I didn’t actually get to say what caused the massive deforestation in the first place. Thank you for pointing this out, I have added a line listing the major reasons.

      This is actually what I say in the conlusion.

      I agree completely! The main goal of this post was to make people rethink about the concept of planting trees = saving the environment. What they don’t know is that it’s more complicated than that. Planting exotic species have their own importance (especially those that contribute livelihood) which I alluded to in the last few lines.

      Like what another commenter here said last year, it’s important to consider the purpose of planting trees. THis is why I included the line “remember what it is you’re planting for” near the end.

      This article focused solely on trees and forests to provide ecological services (wildlife habitat, water source, biodiversity, etc.), which Mahogany isn’t well suited to. Ecological services, however, isn’t the only purpose of NGP which is why it mixes exotic species. Everything has their respective place, but problems arise when exotics start encroaching in areas where they shouldn’t be found.

      Finally, I think it would be great to have the DENR perspective of the other benefits of NGP. I’d gladly make a new post to complement this one if you can give more data about it.


  28. i am also a tree planter and i prefer to plant narra and out native acacia for its durability and long lasting life but now it is replaced by trees coming from india “yate” and acacia mangium they grow fast but good for making firewood


  29. i would like to lay blame to mostly commercial mindset of people, particularly those who we consult on greening program, DENR folks. They seems to be there, in the said office, without real knowledge of the problem. They want to solve the shortage in lumber industry but never on the ecological imbalance.


    1. Thanks for reading Nathan! I’m sure they know the problem, but, as with any entity as large as they are, they have to balance a lot of objectives when it comes to the environment like conserving it and using for jobs, resources, etc. The is line is kinda hard to The DENR might not be perfect, but it is still our best hope to tackle environmental issues because of their reach, authority, and finances.


  30. I have an enclosed farm with both native and mahogany trees. Plenty of birds and other wildlife love staying there.

    I think the main reason people use mahogany for reforestation is that native trees take way longer to grow. If I’m not mistaken many watersheds and eco parks have grown native and nonnative trees together for both short run and long run reforestation development.

    I’m pretty sure all trees influence the soil to their liking, and with the proper distancing between trees and proper care taking, native species should be able to coexist with nonnative trees.

    Stop it with the racism. All trees are equal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry, I beg to differ. Exotic species introduced into an environment that they are not natives of CAN create many problems, too many problems to list here. They can become invasive and completely alter the natural environment they are introduced into. Maybe you are being humorous with your racism comment, but all trees are not equal. There are hundreds of thousands of different species with countless shapes, sizes, eco-system service functions and environmental conditions. Yes, natives can co-exist with non-natives, but your anecdotal evidence is overly simplifying the issue at hand.


  31. thank you sir for this information. I’m a member of feu outdoors and I’m planning to suggest a tree planting project to help our environment. our group aims to achieve a goal of protecting mother earth and reading this article really helps! 🙂


    1. Thank you for this article. There really is the great need to educate people even some foresters and forest managers about planting the right trees when doing reforestation. Of course one must know that exotic trees is a big no-no in natural forests especially protected areas. And yet unfortunately it is continuing. Not only mahogany. Gmelina, golden shower, kakawate, ipil-ipil. Try visiting some government nurseries and the common ones you will see are mahogany seedlings. Where are the dipterocarps? our anislag? kamagong? Our dao, mapilig, malabayabas and tindalo?

      The usual answer that you can get is that they are hard to produce so on and so forth. We have produced hundreds of thousands of malabuho, nato, amuguis and tuai and some other forty native species in El Verde nurseries in Camarines Sur and most of them did fairly well even in the field. Just a few months ago, the Protected Area Management Board ( PAMB) of Bicol Natural Park in Bicol stopped the use of kakawate and ear pod in a newly awarded contract that covers several hundreds of hectares. Ironically, just a few meters from where we are having our meeting are hundreds of wildlings of dipterocarps that need to be transferred so that they can have better growing space. A large native lamio tree is also nearby, with thousands of fruits just rotting on the concrete driveway and canal. This prompted the PAMB to adopt two projects: one is the exotic species eradication project and the indigenous tree production project. Hopefully , both will succeed.


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