Feature

Secretary Ramon Paje: He's got GREEN on his MIND

(The Philippine Starweek, April 05, 2015)

 
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"...... as long as they are not cut down, the trees will go on growing, greening and giving. "   >>more

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More than breaking the world record, it was one of those rare opportunities for the people of Mindanao to come together as a community to plant millions of trees in a bid to restore the region’s rapidly dwindling forest cover.

Between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. on August 15, 2014, a total of 4,000,841 were planted all over Mindanao by 195,836 citizens, unofficially breaking India’s record of 1.9 million trees planted within one hour. The TreeVolution: Greening MindaNOW! was indeed a great success.

treevolution piccollage in-action-webTreeVolution was initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in collaboration with the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA). It is considered as a strategy to implement the National Greening Program (NGP) in Mindanao, address climate change and mobilize its people to plant trees.

According to DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, the TreeVolution served as an opportunity for Mindanaoans to take part in a larger effort to reforest the region, which has been suffering from serious deforestation during the last decades.

“It would be a great achievement to break the Guinness record, but the primary focus is to reforest a large portion of the region to restore the integrity of the environment and enhance our efforts against the negative impacts of climate change. This is what NGP is all about,” Paje said.

NGP is the flagship reforestation program of the Aquino administration that seeks to cover 1.5 million hectares with trees by 2016. It is also a national effort that aims to address food security, poverty reduction, environmental stability, biodiversity conservation and a mechanism for climate change mitigation strategy to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide.

Conceptualizing TreeVolution

treevolution piccollage meetings-webThe idea of planting trees to beat India’s record was conceived during Region 11’s celebration of Arbor Day on June 25, 2014.

DENR Regional Director Joselin Marcus E. Fragada discussed the concept as the region’s way of mobilizing all sectors to help in the fight against climate change. This resulted in a massive tree planting activity during Arbor Day celebration as a dry-run for the Guinness attempt.

Simultaneous tree planting activities were conducted in 114 NGP sites within Region 11. A total of 292,679 seedlings were planted in an hour within a 553-hectare area involving 15,439 participants from various sectors.

One significant observation made during the activity was that each participant was able to plant an average of 20 seedlings, which were pre-positioned, in 30 minutes. The assumption that 17 planters can plant an average of 340 seedlings per hectare was also achieved; hence, the conclusion that 17 planters can plant an average of 680 seedlings in one hectare for an hour.

Based on this data, Fragada made a proposal to Secretary Paje to conduct a massive tree planting activity and submit it as entry to the Guinness World Record. After several deliberations, the DENR chief gave the go-ahead signal to proceed with the project.

NGP and TreeVolution

treevolution piccollage misc-webThe project, with a working title “Green & Break: Make the Nation Greener, Record Breaker,” was presented and approved with suggestions from several stakeholders.

Following a series of meetings and consultations, the DENR-Region 11 and MinDA finalized the proposal and came up with “TreeVolution: Greening MindaNOW!” The two agencies agreed to make TreeVolution a substantial campaign on environmental protection, climate change mitigation and social mobilization.

At the height of the TreeVolution campaign, Fragada always emphasized that breaking the world record would just be an added incentive as the real goal of the project was to create environmental awareness, and to show the world that Mindanao is capable of increasing its forest cover and mitigate the effects of climate change.

“With or without Guinness, Mindanao will still plant trees within designated areas as we are currently implementing the NGP in the region,” he pointed out.

The DENR’s national target for 2014 was to plant 150,853,538 seedlings on 264,414 hectares. In Region 11, the target was to plant 8.8 million seedlings covering a total of 16,223 hectares of forestland.

During the NGP’s implementation, it was observed that in order to have higher chance of seedlings survival and greater productivity, proper planting site characterization is a must. The program’s commodity roadmap served as a guide on what species best thrive in specific geographic locations.

Tree species planted in TreeVolution

treevolution piccollage species-web

 

Under the NGP Commodity Roadmap, among the high-valued crops identified are rubber, coffee and cacao. Planting these crops will help address the government’s goal to attain food security. These commodities are also preferred by people’s organizations since coffee and cacao can be harvested in two or three years, while rubber sap can be picked after five years.

Several indigenous species and forest trees were also planted during the TreeVolution to increase Mindanao’s forest cover and conserve its rich biodiversity. The demand for falcata in the region has remained strong and tree farmers are still planting and expanding their plantations to meet the demands for veneer, plywood, blackboard, fuel wood, furniture and handicrafts.

 


Davao Region participants

In Region 11 alone, some 84,560 volunteers from the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley have gathered as early as 3:00 a.m. to register. Registered volunteers were given wrist bands before being assigned to their respective planting sites.

treevolution govt-webDue to the massive number of volunteers who participated in Davao City’s Marilog and Paquibato districts, the actual planting of trees was finished within 30 minutes only. Volunteers came from the private sector, local government units, national government agencies, and schools.

Region 11 was able to plant a total of 1.4 million seedlings.

The tree-planting activity in Marilog was led by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Demetrio Ignacio MinDA Chair Luwalhati Antonino, Director Fragada, MinDA USEC Janet Lopoz, Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Romulo Arancon Jr., and Councilor Leo Avila, who represented Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In his message, Ignacio described TreeVolution as “NGP-Mindanao style.” He thanked all the volunteers, not only those from the Davao Region but all over Mindanao, for having the enthusiasm to help in such massive reforestation effort.

“The influx of volunteers in the TreeVolution event is very overwhelming. It just shows the willingness of Mindanaoans to unite and re-green Mindanao and restore its watershed areas,” Ignacio said.

For her part, Antonino urged the participants to be committed in preserving the environment for the years to come even without having to beat a Guinness record.

“I do hope that all of us will continue to have the passion, the will and the courage to rehabilitate and preserve our environment because a healthy environment is the best gift that we can give to our children. As parents or grandparents, education is not the only best thing we can give to our kids but a healthy environment as well,” Antonino stressed.

treevolution piccollage participants-webParticipants mobilized by DENR and MinDA include Mindanao-wide cooperatives, river basin organizations, the Local Chief Executive Confederation; business chambers, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, academe, Media, peace and development communities, the youth, religious and women sectors, people’s organizations, national government agencies, local government units, mining and industrial companies, wood processing plant owners, among others.

Next Steps

Since the NGP requires an 80 to 85 percent survival rate, the DENR will conduct a validation activity to determine how many seedlings planted during TreeVolution have thrived. In case of low survival rate, a replanting activity will immediately follow and this will be undertaken by people’s organizations.

TreeVolution organizers are also considering the idea of holding another massive tree planting event in Davao Region next year, but without having to enter into the Guinness World Record.

“The idea is to have a massive tree planting activity that is more enjoyable and entertaining to the TreeVolutionists. At the same time, this is one way of urging people, most especially the youth sector, to continue to help in the reforestation program of the government specifically the NGP,” Fragada said. ###

 

 


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