The Forestland Management Project (FMP) in Region VI received commendation from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for its outstanding performance in implementing its project activities.
Ms. Ayumu Ohshima, JICA Senior Representative, was impressed with what she learned from the JICA field visit to FMP sites in Iloilo on July 26 – 28, 2017.
During the exit conference of the JICA visit, Ms. Ohshima admitted that her knowledge about FMP was limited to what she read in the documents, but the meetings and dialogues with stakeholders have provided her a good grasp of the Project’s direction in achieving its targets.
“My knowledge of this project is pretty limited. But talking with the partners, as well as the SUSIMO [Sub-watershed Site Management Office] members and also the PO [People’s Organization] members, I am quite confident that this project is maybe a little bit delayed, but I think it’s on the right track, and it’s making people lives better,” said Ms. Ohshima.
Ms. Ohshima was referring to the small delay encountered by FMP Region VI in completing its targets for 2016 under the Project’s Site Development component.
According to Forester Antonio Latoza, Focal Person of the FMP Provincial Project Management Office (PPMO), the delay could be attributed to the additional area for site development, which was contracted in the 3rd Quarter of 2016.
“Plantation establishment is very dependent on the season. The planting activity will be this year,” explained Forester Latoza.
Selecting an appropriate planting period for different site development modalities is crucial for their survival. In 2016, seedlings were not planted in the last quarter of the year due to the extremities brought by the Philippine climate.
Since the start of the Project’s plantation establishment activities in 2014, FMP Region VI has so far attained 40% or about 4,000 hectares out of its target of 11,500 hectares. It continues to complete its remaining targets for the succeeding years.
Ms. Ohshima expressed confidence that the project would catch up with its targets in the remaining terms of its operation.
Validating FMP Sites in Calinog
Part of the JICA visit to Region VI was a validation activity in the FMP’s agroforestry plantation under the Sub-watershed Site Management Office (SUSIMO) in Calinog, Iloilo.
Here, Ms. Ohshima was joined by representatives of the FMP Central Project Management Office and the Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Service in inspecting some of the coffee plantation established by the FMP-assisted People’s Organization (PO).
Representatives of the FMP-assisted PO had a chance to meet with Ms. Ohshima and share their experiences in the implementation of the Project.
Ms. Narcisa Dalupines, President of the Hilwan Indigenous People’s Group, shared how the lack of employment opportunities in their community resulted to her neighbors seeking better jobs in the city.
“Lumiit yung population ng barangay namin. Pumupunta yung mga tao sa bayan. Doon na sila tumitira dahil nagpapa-aral sila ng kanilang mga anak (The population of our barangay dwindled. People migrate to city centers. They settle there since they need to work their child’s schooling),” she shared.
Migration to peri-urban areas is common for people living in upland rural communities. They flock to cities to find jobs that will sustain the needs of their family. However, the case for Barangay Hilwan started to change when FMP was introduced.
“Bumalik na yung population namin at nadagdagan pa yung household population namin. Ngayon, hindi narin sila nahihirapang maghanap ng trabaho kung paano nila papaaralin ang kanilang mga anak. (Our population has gone back to normal and our household population has actually increased. Now, they no longer experience problems in finding a job and how they will sustain their children’s schooling,)” Dalupines testified.
However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing for FMP as some of the POs experienced struggles in implementing its activities. Some community members expressed resistance due to misconceptions about the Project.
Ms. Jovie Camarig, Barangay Captain and PO President of Binolosan Pequeno Upland Farmers Association, said: “Hindi naging madali sa amin ang magkumbinsi ng kapwa naming IP. May agam-agam sa bawat isa. Hindi talaga nawawala yun. Baka kasi balang araw kapag na-develop na yung ridor naming baka kukunin na ng gobyerno (It wasn’t easy for us to convince our fellow IP members. They have qualms to everyone. It’s inevitable. They think that someday the government will claim the lands they developed).”
But Ms. Camarig knew that this was not true and that they would have full ownership of the areas they developed. This did not stop her and members of their PO from accomplishing their targets. They were still able to finish the contracted areas assigned to them. They expressed full commitment to the Project until its completion.
Ms. Ohshima was personally moved by the stories shared by the POs. She also acknowledged the struggles experienced by them in order to accomplish the project targets.
She expressed her confidence that the POs would fully realize their potential and thus continue to develop even after FMP reached completion. (FMP/ Paolo G. Balderia)