Do Filipinos know enough about climate change and its effects?
A youth organization had an ambitious plan: to plant 50,000 trees across the country in one day to mark Philippine Environment Month. That did not materialize but the group is now committed to continue what it started and make it sustainable.
“Tree-planting is one of the simplest contributions an individual can offer to address various environmental issues,” said Ellirie Nicolas Aviles, founder and national president of Sigaw ng Kabataan Coalition (SKC).
Last June 22, the coalition mobilised its members for an activity called ‘Reforestation in Progress’ with the goal of planting 50,000 trees nationwide.
Up to 7,000 volunteers were able to plant around 25,000 trees or half the target, Aviles said, adding that the activity would continue beyond June, declared in 1998 as Philippine Environment Month.
“Honestly, the 50,000 trees in a day really is an ambitious goal for a youth-led activity. That's just a challenge for our members to push our limits, thinking that maybe, if we could plant 50,000 trees this year, we can do more in the following years,” said the Coalition leader.
The SKC is a national, non-partisan non-government organization that aims to amplify young people’s voices in addressing developmental priorities such as climate and environmental action, health and social welfare, poverty reduction, among others.
The reforestation activity on June 22 took place in 16 locations nationwide, including one in Metro Manila.
“We chose a single location in Metro Manila as recommended by the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) as a trial effort,” said Aviles.
“We will look at how residents of the Metro will respond to this call and slowly expand this effort since there needs to be ownership and participation of the communities to be able to make these efforts sustainable and effective,” he added.
In Metro Manila, 80 volunteers were able to plant 100 seedlings overall.
The other locations were Pilar, Abra; Tarlac Agricultural University; Victoria, Tarlac; Villasis and San Nicolas in Pangasinan; Panglao, Bohol; Las Navas, Northern Samar; Aklan; Iloilo; Sagay City and Don Salvador Benedicto in Negros Occidental; Surigao City; Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay; Pasonanca, Zamboanga City; Bongao, and Tawi-tawi.
The types of trees and seedlings planted depended on the locations, as recommended by City Environment and Natural Resources Offices (CENRO) and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Offices (PENRO).
“In some areas, we planted mangroves. There are coastal areas, so we planted beach-type trees. We also planted fruit-bearing trees, and mahogany trees in mahogany plantations,” said Aviles adding he would encourage planting fruit-bearing trees, which are both a source of food and livelihood for the community.
More important, trees reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and help curb climate change.
Climate Change Commission Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said,“Planting trees and rehabilitating degraded forests are critical to meeting the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the global warming limit needed for humanity to survive and thrive, and to building the adaptive capacity of our communities to climate change.”
To maintain the warming at 1.5°C, global carbon dioxide emissions need to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by mid-century, according to a2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“To this end, the Climate Change Commission commends Sigaw ng Kabataan Coalition and its partner organizations for cultivating the spirit of youth volunteerism for climate action and environmental protection,” said De Guzman.
The SKC will continue its tree-planting program next year.
“Even if this tree-planting blitz is done, we have schedules of tree-planting in different parts of the country until we complete 50,000 (trees) or even more,” said Aviles.
“In the face of climate change and environmental degradation, the youth by now should realize that the future lies in their hands. It is high time for us to step up, take on active leadership roles, and start a genuine and grand movement towards saving the environment which in turn signifies saving the future generations,” he added.