Legarda calls on DENR, SUCs to maximize dipterocarp mast year by widespread propagation

September 5, 2023

Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda called for the mobilization of the youth to gather and propagate dipterocarps this year.

Dipterocarps are the towering giants of the rainforest in the lowlands, which include yakal, lawaan, bagtikan, narig and all the other trees whose seeds have wings that chopper down when falling from the tree. They are the emergent trees and serve as habitat for our most important flora and fauna, hosting nests of many of our important biodiversity including the Philippine eagle.

“Because our laws defined forest as land that is sloping, the formerly widespread range in the flatlands of the dipterocarps have become agricultural and private. The massive erasure of dipterocarps on the Philippines was a result both of legal and illegal logging and of land conversion. Hence, our land policy has almost signaled the end of our most valuable trees and forest types,” Legarda stated.

“To make matters worse, these trees only fruit every 4 to 7 years and the seeds must be planted immediately as they are viable for only a week or two. Every time they do, we are given a window of opportunity to wrest them out of the red list, the list of endangered species,” she added.

Currently, dipterocarps all over the country are fruiting. This massive volume of seeds ensure that predators are satiated and seeds remain to propagate, but the lack of them in the years between fruiting ensure some predators are starved.

Because their habitats have been converted, Legarda explained this evolutionary response is no longer working so well. Hence, humans have to retrieve the massive volume of seeds, care for them so they can be replanted when they are no longer so susceptible to herbivores.

The senator is thus calling on everyone to watch out for these winged seeds, collect them, plant them in seedling bags or any other container that would otherwise go to the trash, and care for them for the next two to three years. By that time, a protocol for finding replanting areas can be formulated and we can ensure the continued existence of dipterocarps all over the country.

She also calls on landscapers and developers to stop using exotics in their projects.

“Not only are exotics not evolved to withstand typhoons, they are also not viable food or habitat for our biodiversity. Every square meter planted to a non-native tree is a square meter not used to help our critically endangered dipterocarps,” she said.

Many of the dipterocarps that are seeding today are either in plantations or protected areas. She urges the DENR and the Society of Filipino Foresters to mobilize to ensure that this mast year is the year when we can stop using the excuse that no seedlings of our native trees are available for our reforestation efforts. (30)