Lopez eyeing UP Arboretum development with informal settlers as partners

Environment Secretary Gina Lopez is planning to turn the man-made forest area along Central Avenue, a property of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, into an "ecological paradise" with the help of stakeholders, including its informal settlers.

Lopez said the 17-hectare UP Arboretum has the potential to become an ecological model for development and its informal settlers can be tapped as partners and benefit directly from livelihood projects.

"I want an ecological paradise here where there is renewable energy, good septage, medicinal plants; where people from all over the country, the world even, can converge. You can make some money, the community makes money. That's the way they get out of poverty," Lopez said during the launch of the nationwide tree-planting project of the Far Eastern University Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation Beta Sigma Fraternity Alumni Association Inc. (FEU-NRMFBSFAAI) held in the arboretum.

Lopez, an advocate of entrepreneurship, strongly believes that economic development should benefit all the people, especially the underprivileged. She wants a holistic plan where people are part of the development. 

For the UP Arboretum, Lopez is looking at agroforestry and the use of environment-friendly technology as business opportunities, particularly those that can be used for production of fertilizers and medicines.

"We include the people and if the people's lives here do not improve, consider the model a failure," Lopez pointed out. "Let them live here and show how people can live in paradise."

Lopez also discussed with UP Vice-Chancellor for Community Affairs Prof. Nestor T. Castro her intention to meet the heads of the UP Colleges of Architecture, Sociology, Psychology, Community Development, Forestry and Medicine to explore how the academe can be part of the plan for the area.

She said the UP Arboretum can also be a learning ground for the community, the students and even the DENR.

Castro, whose office attends to the university's community concerns, welcomed Lopez's move to include the informal settlers in the plan for what has been dubbed as the "only remaining forest in the metropolis."

The tree-planting program targets to transform the arboretums of UP and the La Mesa Dam into world-class botanical gardens in five years. It is the centerpiece of the medium-term carbon-sequestration project for Metro Manila of Beta Sigma Fraternity and the Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines (CCAAP).

A medical mission and a feeding program for the residents were also held after the tree planting.

Also present in the event were running priest and environmentalist Fr. Robert Reyes, Dr. Mike Aragon of FEU-NRMFBSFAAI, Project Chair Butch Madarang, CCAAP President Herminio Buerano, Forester Rolly Acosta of DENR NCR, and Barangay UP Campus Chair Isabelita Gravidez. ###


Civic groups commit to rehabilitate 30 hectares more of Marikina watershed

Buoyed by the success of their six-year-old alliance, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has renewed its partnership with two service-oriented organizations for the rehabilitation of the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL).

This time, the Rotary Club of Makati-Rockwell (RCMR) and the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) agreed to plant trees on an additional 30 hectares of forestland within the UMRBPL, a major source of water supply for Metro Manila and nearby areas.

The DENR-RCMR-CESB partnership originally covers only seven hectares at Sitio San Ysidro in Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City under the National Greening Program (NGP), the government’s flagship reforestation initiative.

RMCR has been funding the planting and maintenance of some 3,000 tree seedlings planted by its volunteers since last year under its “Preventing Disasters, Providing Livelihood Project,” which received technical support from the DENR’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) in Rizal.

The planted seedlings cover three of the seven-hectare area, which has an elevation of 350 meters above sea level, following two planting activities held on October 3, 2015 and last July 23, 2016.

Rizal PENRO chief Isidro Mercado said the expansion is expected to raise the benefits the residents of Sitio San Ysidro have been getting from the project, both in terms of economic and environmental opportunities.

According to Mercado, the residents were hired to conduct maintenance and protection activities on the planted areas, including the right to harvest the fruits from the grown trees like guyabano, mabolo, laputi andbunga.

Mercado said the additional 30 hectares cover steep hillsides that have been plagued by severe erosion, affecting the agricultural activities of families trying to establish small, intensive household farm lots in the area.

The head of the Rizal PENRO also endorsed the plan of RMCR to bring the DENR’s partnership with RMCR and CESB to other provinces.

He said former RMCR president Rolando Metin plans to include coastal planting somewhere along the coastal areas of Quezon province and do the planting activity twice instead of once a year.

The tripartite partnership began in 2010 when Metin, a former DENR undersecretary and CESB member, engaged the DENR for a tree-planting activity along the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).

The SLEX Tree-Planting Project aimed at improving road safety and comfort for motorists by planting and growing trees along the 45-kilometer expressway.

By 2014, the project planted some 18,423 indigenous and ornamental tree seedlings, which included golden showers and fire trees, with a 50 to 70 percent survival rate based on the assessment done by the DENR-Region IVA office in Calamba , Laguna. ### 


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