DAVAO CITY—Mindanao on Friday broke the record of India for the most number of trees planted in multiple sites in one hour, as organizers viewed the attempt as a likely precedent to conduct a similar massive action to restore the health of the island’s ailing watershed.
Partial and unofficial tally of entries sent from around the six regions in Mindanao already recorded 2,003,251 trees planted as of 2:31 p.m., with more than half of the actual number still to be reported after undergoing validations by community and provincial offices of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The record was made by 113,470 volunteers—from students and members of non-governmental organizations, to government personnel and police and military personnel.
The DENR and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has set the target of 4.63 million trees to be planted within the designated 8:30 a.m.-to-9:30 a.m. period on Friday, more than enough to unseat India from the Guinness World Records. The number of trees would also place Mindanao near the annual target of its national greening program.
The planting of assorted species of trees—from fruit trees, hardwood and mangrove—were done simultaneously in the six regions, from the mostly mangrove areas in the southwestern island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, to the lakeside areas of Lanao del Sur and mountain barangays of Bukidnon and many areas of Davao.
Organizers targeted to mobilize 230,000 people to plant the trees in 9,200 hectares in 289 planting sites.
However, reports from all over the island indicated a swelling number of volunteers, to reduce the ratio of planters to the number of seedlings to plant, from the original 1:20 to an average of 1:4. Planters have been stationed in the planting sites at daybreak, with long lines of people seen trekking as far as 6 kilometers from the national highways.
Government personnel, especially from the DENR, were sent to the planting areas before dawn on Friday.
Planters in Tawi-Tawi, the southwesternmost island province and within visual distance from Sabah, Malaysia, had to ride motorized bancas to reach an islet 35 kilometers from the capital town of Bongao.
“It seems like we are planting mangrove in the middle of the ocean,” a reporter told a government radio station monitoring the activity dubbed as “Treevolution: Greening MindaNOW.”
Mangrove was also planted in Sulu, Basilan, the southern coastal barangays of Zamboanga City and the coastal side of neighboring Zamboanga Sibugay.
In Sulu participants wore specific dress colors, with planters wearing white and the stewards, those assigned to check and validate that the planter has, indeed, planted well the seedlings, wore yellow.
Maychelle M. Nugas, planning officer of government-ran University of Southeastern Philippines, said she had to check that plants “are not buried half of its roots.”
She was assigned to the area in Marilog District, 70 kilometers north of Davao City, which was designated for police personnel.
A 45-degree sloping area southeast of Cagayan de Oro City, was planted to narra after the farmers cooperative asked for it to give them livelihood in the future.
Hardwood was also preferred in nearby Iligan City after the two areas were swept of its residents and houses to the flashflood triggered by Typhoon Sendong in 2011.
In many areas, the kind of trees were determined by their local adaptability and existing presence.
For instance, rubber was planted in the upland sites of Zamboanga Sibugay, a leading rubber producer in the Philippines.
Cacao and coffee were mostly planted to many available areas in Mindanao, with the two cash crops being a recent favorite among agribusiness ventures.
Cacao industry leaders, cautioned the DENR and the MinDA about the sensitive agriculture practice needed to plant cacao, saying it needed longer land preparation than the one-hour attempt could meet.
Layering of the ground with banana trunks and then applying fertilizer were needed to plant cacao.
Director Joselin Marcus Fragada of the Davao regional office of the DENR, the organizer of the event, said the overwhelming statistics coming in should give government an inspiration to carry out similar reforestation venture with massive support. He said Friday’s attempt at planting more than 4 million trees was also a quarter of the annual target of President Benigno Aquino’s National Greening Program that started in 2011.
“This signifies that we can promote this kind of widespread planting not only once,” he said.
Sec. Lualhati Antonino, chairman of MinDA, said the activity was properly coordinated with the management of the Guinness Book of World Records.
She said the activity was being monitored and checked by the third-party institution, the accounting firm Sycip, Gorres and Velayo, with the validators, called stewards, recruited from and by the Department of Education.
“We have tapped many indigenous communities to take care of the planted seedlings and ensure their growth after this,” she said.
The tribes would be paid of their effort under the cash-for-work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Image credits: PIA