The government has put up a tree seed center (TSC) in Minglanilla within the 123-hectare Cebu Experimental Forest (CEF) which should jack up germplasm for superior trees to sustain long term reforestation until 2028.

This TSC is the first in Visayas and follows setting up of a similar TSC in Bislig, Surigao del Sur.  Both were established by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), an attached agency of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

”The prospect of reforestation in Visayas region is bright because the tree seed center will not only be for Region 7 (Cebu) but for the whole Visayas,” said ERDB Executive Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado.

A germplasm is a source of breeding material.  It may be of wild species or a pre-selected breeding line. It can have genetic characteristics desired for a planting material’s mass production.  The TSC in Visayas will be a storage for such germplasm base.

“These shall primarily serve as depository banks for seeds from the identified and delineated seed production areas (SPAs),” said ERDB.

Very important, it will certify quality of seeds to be distributed to other regions and will test seed samples for government, non-government organizations, and private enterprises and plantations.

The development of seed material registry and certification systems should upgrade seed quality of tree species.

Availability of a variety of tree species will be enhanced as the TSC as the facility will do seed exchange, according to Dr. Alicia L. Lustica who heads the ERDB research center in Cebu.

The CEF itself is situated in the Philippines’ first reforestation project which is now century old. This is the Osmena Reforestation Project, also the country’s oldest reforestation as established in January 1916 and was a 2,710-hectare forest reserve area ran in earlier times by the Vatican known as the Friar Land Estate.

Many reforestation programs fail due to inferior planting stocks.

“Significant number of mortality, poor growth, and survival affect the overall forestation program of both government and the private tree farming industry.”

The TSC is part of the forest nursery modernization program in line with the enhanced National Greening Program (NGP) aimed to massively produce quality, disease free seeds.  It has a laboratory that may be used for testing germination of seeds.  The Visayas TSC is just waiting for an occupancy permit to start operation.

Through the TSC, ERDB will  enhance existing government facilities—seed bank and laboratory. ERDB will establish orchards and document seed collections in each region. ERDB will improve seed collection, procurement, storage, testing, disposition, seed exchange and marketing systems. It will update the forest tree seed calendar

Based on ERDB records, as of June 2015, Region 7 alone had seed collection and supply of 1.222 million.

Seed requirements will increase as Executive Order 193 mandated the extension of the NGP up to 2028 which envisions a wood and agroforestry product self sufficiency set at an annual production target of 750,000 hectares of timber, 60,000 hectares of coffee, and 300,000 hectares of fuelwood.

Wood and papers products produced is estimated to be worth $900 million yearly.

Partners that may use Visayas TSC’s seed production are DENR-ERDB’s own provincial, city or municipal environment and natural resources offices (ENRO), state universities and colleges or SUCs, community and people’s groups, and private, industrial tree plantations.

The TSC has a seeder area where seeds are sown into containers, and are watered through misting for growth.  Germinants are turned into seedlings in the growing area.   In the harderning area, sunlight allows for drying of the seedlings for sturdiness.

ERDB has been conducting research in CEF since June 1986, covering bamboo, rattan, dipterocarps (hardwood and tropical trees), narra, endemic tree species, neem, tiger grass, flowers, and honey production. It is also a site for training ENRO researchers on cave ecotourism and forest conservation.

Despite being considered a national heritage and a protected and forest reservation area, it is faced with threats of illegal logging.

“Our forest is still threatened by illegal tree cutting and charcoal extraction.  Informal settlement, farming, wildlife hunting, sand, gravel and black stone extract and bamboo harvest are also threats. We need valuable community partners to fight the threats.”

The top 10 tree species here are teak, gmelina, lumbang, lanutan,narra, antsoan dilau, Genguet pine, banaba, and auri.

The CEF site is a biodiversity-rich area. It is home to faunal species as Kokok (Philippine coucal, Alimokon (White eared browndove),Tamsi (sunbird), Maya (Munia), Tikling (Moorhen), Pugo (Buttonquail), Manatad (Common Emerald Dove),Toktor (Barber), Punay, Siloy (Cebu black sharma), Ngiwng (Grass owl), Sayaw (Swift), Kikik (Koel), Gitgit (Swallow), Tagmaya (Bulbul), and Uwak (crow).

“Very native wildlife community in CEF depends on unique plants, caves, rivers, and creeks.”

The CEF has two caves out of seven caves in ORP.

ERDB received a mandate to put up  forest TSCs under NGP.  It now also has a TCP in Los Banos, Laguna.  ERDB is further building TSCs in Loakan, Baguio City; Pagbilao, Quezon; and Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

“Seeds collected from the established seed sources—seed production areas and individual plus trees  (SPAs and IPTs)– nationwide will be submitted to forest TSC for processing and certification before it will be distributed to different stakeholders,” said ERDB.

IPTs are materials in breeding and are selected and crossed with each other as part of producing superior tree breeds. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)