Development and agriculture are the two main causes of deforestation in the Philippines. At around 70 percent land cover decades ago, it is now sitting at just 20 percent. With the island nation being hit by an average of twenty typhoons per year, deforestation has only intensified soil erosion and flood damage. Without these tree front liners protecting the country from threats of severe storms, flooding and landslides, people’s lives are at risk, not to mention their homes.
The Philippines loses about 47,000 hectares of forest every year which makes the island nation one of the most severely deforested countries in Southeast Asia. Its forest has declined from 12 million hectares in the 1960s to its current level of over five million hectares with the island of Palawan being the province with largest forested area. It covers 699,931 hectares out of 1,489,626 land area. However, protecting the forest in this part of the country means risking your life.
A group of environmental activists for the PNNI organisation (Palawan NGO Network Incorporated) protects the forest from illegal loggers but doing so comes at a cost of human lives. Since 2001, a total of 12 eco-enforcers have already been killed on duty.
The effects of deforestation are innumerable such as the extinction of species through loss of habitat and increased human and animal interaction, collapse in the ecosystem, disturbance of indigenous people, as well as climate change.
Deforestation is changing our climate, harming people and the natural world. We must, and can, reverse this trend.”Jane Goodall
The new tree-planting law in the Philippines
Just recently, the Philippines has introduced a new bill where all graduating students from elementary to college are required to plant a minimum of ten trees before they graduate. The bill entitled Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act has been approved in the House. It is now awaiting Senate action.
“The educational system shall be a locus for propagating ethical and sustainable use of natural resources among the young to ensure the cultivation of a socially-responsible and conscious citizenry,” the House bill stated, authored by Representative Gary Alejano.
It has been estimated that 525 billion trees will be planted over the course of one generation. There is 12 million elementary students, five million high school students and roughly 500,000 college students graduating each year, so if they each plant a minimum of ten trees, 175 million trees will be planted every year.
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The new law requires that the trees must be planted in specific areas such as forestlands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban areas under the greening plan of the LGUs (local government units), inactive and abandoned mine sites and other suitable lands.
While it’s the corporations who are responsible for ravaging much of the Philippine forests and should be required to implement reforestation programs, the government has instead placed the responsibility on the younger generations to do this instead.
Through this law, students will hopefully become more connected to their natural environment and desire to secure a better and greener future for all. By planting more trees, graduating students will preserve life – yours, all living beings, future generations and Mother Earth’s.
Other countries should follow Representative Gary Alejano’s lead and introduce similar bills. But let’s not leave it to the youngsters to save the Philippine forests or the world. This should be the cue to get our hands dirty through people power. Together, change is possible.
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Feature image via Unsplash.