DepEd eyes requiring yearly tree planting for country’s 25 million students  

In response to President Duterte’s call to protect the environment in his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Department of Education (DepEd) is mulling over the idea of mobilizing and harnessing 25 million students all over the country to each plant one tree every year in schools, communities and other designated areas, such as watersheds, in line with its Makakalikasan (pro-environment) core value.

DepEd Undersecretary Alain del Pascua bared the plan in his keynote speech on Thursday last week during the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) Recognition and Pledging Day organized by the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS).

In a news statement issued by the MWSS, the DepEd official lauded MWSS Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, represented by Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia, Ylang-Ylang tree advocate Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo N. Bataoil, Maynilad President Ramoncito S. Fernandez, Manila Water President Ferdinand de la Cruz, MWSS Regulatory Office chief Patrick Ty, and the supporting and participating agencies in the successful maiden run of the AMTC for the year 2017 with 1.2 million trees planted in six critical watersheds of Ipo, Angat, Umiray, Marikina, La Mesa and Laguna Lake.

“Efforts such as these are not only helpful and relevant in the recovery of the drastic loss of forest cover in the Philippines, but it is an act that shows we love another other than ourselves, and as a manifestation of love for our country,” Pascua said.

He added that by involving learners to each plant a tree every year, students will not only learn about reforestation, but also bring to their consciousness the importance of preservation and conservation of water, one of the most basic but important natural resource.

According to the DepEd official, the AMTC is a call to arms to its partners, including the DepEd, to continue to give focus and priority to the environment.

“It is timely in the wake of massive flooding, catastrophic landslides, and devastating loss of livelihood and lives due to climate change. We all have to do our part, in our own capacities, since each our departments, agencies, and organizations, to help in the task of reforesting and rehabilitating our watersheds,” Pascua said.

In line with one of DepEd’s Makakalikasan core value, the department takes on the challenge to help in the conservation and reforestation of key watershed areas, he added.

The DepEd, Pascua said, is actively in the process of reviving one of its greening programs, the School in Garden, or SIGA, a program aimed at empowering learners to make their own schools green and colorful by planting native and endemic plant species in their campuses, extended into their homes and their communities.

“Through the SIGA program, we hope to inculcate our learners the importance of planting trees at the same time educating them about the value of native and endemic plant species, leading to an increased appreciation of their country’s own natural resources,” he said.

Pascua said that public elementary and secondary schools have the Youth for Environment in School Organization, or YES-O, which is tasked with different projects and activities to address the issues and concerns on the environment and ecology.

“Through the YES-O, tree planting activities such as the Annual Million Tree Challenge becomes a more doable and concrete exercise for our learners to accomplish,” the DepEd official said.

Pascua stressed that “these plans and interventions embody DepEd’s fervent desire to instill not just a love for nature, but of God, our fellow men, and our country. We understand our important responsibility to mold our youth into holistic and dynamic citizens of this country who are eager to contribute to its path to development and greatness,” he added

In closing, Pascua said “while we all have our own mandates and our own projects, but with unifying endeavors such as the Annual Million Tree Challenge, we can work together to further magnify the impact we can create in reforesting our watersheds. Let us continue to work together towards a greener and healthier Philippine environment.”

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Jonathan L. Mayuga is a journalist for more than 15 years. He is a product of the University of the East – Manila. An awardee of the J. G. Burgos Biotech Journalism Awards, BrightLeaf Agricultural Journalism Awards, Binhi Agricultural Journalism Awards, and Sarihay Environmental Journalism Awards.