The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has so far awarded 33,387 job contracts or “Letters of Agreements” (LOA) to upland farmers under its Upland Development Program (UDP), representing 64 percent of this year’s target goal.
Another 7,200 applications or “Letters of Intent” (LOI) are presently being processed at various DENR field offices and are expected to be issued with LOAs within June or early July.
At the rate the UDP is moving, I wouldn’t be surprised if our target of providing ‘green collar’ jobs to residents in the uplands as well as in coastal areas is attained within the third quarter of the year, noting that the latest figureas on LOIs and LOAs issued altogether represents 77 percent of UDP’s targeted 52,425 jobs.
Launched last February, the UDP is in support of the government’s “Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program” (CLEEP), which is part of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s efforts to curb the country’s unemployment rate being aggravated by the current global economic crunch.
The DENR has already released a total of P724 million to its 15 regional offices nationwide, including the DENR-Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, following the issuance of a “Special Allotment Release Order” or SARO by the Department of Budget and Management last June 11 for the release of UDP funds amounting to P1.5 billion.
This is in sync with NEDA’s formula on accelerated government spending on job creation to keep up, if not overtake, the rate of lost jobs as a result of the global financial meltdown.
The accelerated implementation and improved monitoring of CLEEP programs is one of NEDA’s recommendations for the government’s economic stimulus package to go well.
Through the UDP, the DENR aims to reforest or boost with agro-forestry activities some 50,000 hectares of denuded upland areas and about 2,000 hectares of mangrove areas.
Such opportunities will help give our upland families economic resiliency in dealing with the impact of the current global financial crisis while enabling them to take active part in fighting global warming.
As much as one hectare will be allotted to every UDP beneficiary to develop into an agroforestry farm, with a yearly projected earning of around P23,000 from the proceeds of his agro-forestry activities, including a monthly allowance of P3,270.
Under UDP’s reforestation scheme, each UDP beneficiary will likewise be given a hectare to plant and maintain trees suitable to the area. Each worker will get as much as P19,400 to defray the cost and services for seedling production (P8,500) and planting and maintenance (P10,900).
Areas for UDP’s reforestation component include denuded areas in watersheds, stream banks, mangrove areas, and open and denuded forestlands outside of any DENR-issued tenurial instrument like community-based forest agreement but needing immediate rehabilitation.
At least 22 million forest and fruit-bearing trees are expected to be planted in the undertaking.
The upbeat employment figures recently released by the National Statistic Office (NSO) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) as indication that President Arroyo’s economic stimulus plan is indeed gaining headway by mobilizing government resources to open up job opportunities especially in the countryside.
According to NSO, the unemployment rate reached 7.5 percent as of April this year or an improvement from eight percent rate posted within the 1st four month period in 2008.
President Arroyo’s broad-based approach resulted in the employment growth posted as of April this year which particularly benefited economies in the provinces. NEDA figures showing a total of 408,000 new jobs were created in agriculture, fishery and forestry sector or 3.4-percent employment growth for the period compared to its 2008 record.
NEDA said that in April this year, total employed persons increased to 34.99 million from 33.54 million in the same period last year.