The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) marked the celebration of World Environment Day on Tuesday (June 5) by declaring a hundred-year old balete (strangler fig) tree, growing behind a declared heritage house, as Manila’s second heritage tree.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, together with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Jessie Coe Lichauco, centenarian widow of the late Philippine Ambassador Marcial Lichauco, led the unveiling of the marker at the Lichauco heritage house compound along the Pasig River in Sta. Ana, Manila.

Paje said that although the DENR and its partners were able to plant more than 93 million seedlings under the government’s National Greening Program, “this Heritage Tree is better than our accomplishments.”

The balete tree inside the Lichauco compound is the eighth Heritage Tree proclaimed in Metro Manila. It is, however, the second in the City of Manila, and the first inside a residential compound. The city’s first Heritage Tree is the balete tree inside the Malacañang compound.

The DENR secretary commended the Lichauco family “for having that kind of ascendancy to devote this lot, a prime lot, as a heritage site.”

He added that although the tree is “a witness to the decay of Sta. Ana, of Manila, and of the Pasig River,” it is also a symbol of hope that the present generation can “do something to turn over a much better environment to the future generation.”

During the event, the DENR, Lichauco, and the Lola Grande Foundation for Women and Children, a non-government organization founded by Lichauco’s daughter Sylvia, also signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the regular monitoring of the Heritage Tree. The MOA will also open the Heritage Tree for public viewing for educational and research purposes.

Under the DENR’s Heritage Tree Program, a Heritage Tree must be a healthy tree with a diameter of at least one meter, measured at one-half meter above the ground. The tree’s aesthetic, historical, cultural, social and educational significance must be established. Its nomination into the Heritage Tree Program should be endorsed by a group or an individual who will also serve as the tree’s “adopter.” Any work on or near the tree, including pruning, cutting or removal will require permission from the DENR.

The event was also witnessed by DENR-National Capital Regional Executive Director Neria Andin, Heritage Conservation Society Chairperson Gemma Cruz-Araneta, former Manila Mayor Mel Lopez, former education secretary Jaime Laya, Sta. Ana Parish Pastoral Council president Ernest Panis, and other members of the Lichauco clan.