DENR Branch Distributes Invasive Tree Species on National Tree Planting Day
Every June 25, the Philippines observes Arbor Day, a national tree planting day around the country. The Arbor Day Act mandates local government units to designate a day of the year to observe Arbor Day and to allocate a budget for an annual tree planting activity.
But one branch of the DENR distributed an invasive alien species (IAS) of tree on Arbor Day. The DENR CENRO Capas Tarlac handed out 585 seedlings of a variety of trees—cashew, guyabano, narra, cacao, sampalo, atis, bignay, and notably, mahogany, to passersby at the Capas Shrine Monument.
Mahogany is indigenous to the Americas and is considered an invasive species in the Philippines. It was not mentioned how many mahogany seedlings were distributed.
Esquire Philippines reached out to DENR CENRO Capas Tarlac for comment on June 26. The office acknowledged its receipt of our queries but has not responded to the questions.
Environmentalists and biologists have campaigned against the planting of mahogany in the Philippines because the tree does not develop a relationship with the local ecosystem where it is planted.
Bohol’s man-made forest, which is composed mostly of mahogany, is a prime example of the effects of planting invasive tree species in a forest. The forest is considered biodiversity-dead because native species of insects, animals, and other plants do not recognize it. No birds make nests in the canopies, and no ants and aphids inhabit its bark or feed on its sap.
In 2014, the DENR through its National Greening Program had planted the country with millions of seedlings of mahogany. But finally, in June 2020, the DENR banned the use of mahogany in reforestation efforts in the country after years of campaigning against the species by biologists.
In the comments section of its Facebook post documenting the distribution of trees, the DENR CENRO Capas Tarlac wrote, “Mahogany, gmelina and the like are not really banned, but being discouraged or not prescribed for replanting especially in Protected Areas or in protection forest bec they do not enhance biodiversity. But they can be planted for timber production in production forests or in private lands to address our deficiency in domestic wood supply.”
It was quoting the Philippine Information Agency on an article about banning the use of mahogany in reforestation efforts. That article has been disabled as of this writing.