Residents from 11 Catanduanes Towns Plant 11,000 Trees for 1.11.11

VIRAC, Catanduanes, Jan. 11 (PNA) -– Thousands of school children, barangay residents and town officials from 11 municipalities in this province went out in the field and to plant 11,000 trees during the 1.11.11 Catanduanes Synchronized Tree Planting Project on Tuesday.

Local offices of national government agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Environment and Natural Resource s (DENR) were mobilized in the undertaking organized by Rep. Cesar Sarmiento of the province’s lone congressional district.

The DPWH and the Catanduanes Contractors Association were tasked in the hauling and deliveries of the planting materials to the planting site in 11 selected school grounds across the province. On the other hand, the DepEd has directed all public elementary and secondary schools to extend full support to the project.

The Catanduanes State College (SSC) the lone higher education institution run by the government in the province is among the participants with most of its students planting trees on selected areas including its vast complex here.

Assisting the DENR, who guided the participants in identifying suitable planting sites, was the Mountain Care & Hikers Association, a private organization of environmentalists here led by its president Ruben Geromo.

As a precursor of the big 1.11.11 event, the association, led several other groups last Dec. 31 in a tree planting activity around the provincial capital.

Geromo said that pre-New Year’s Day activity also served as the launching of their year-long commitment to plant trees all over the province until 11.11.11 or Nov. 11, 2011.

“We will be out to a municipality every 11th day of the month and hold tree planting programs up to the 11th month of the year that would see us completing the tour of the entire 11 towns covered by the island province,” Geromo said.

According to Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Benjamin Medel they taught participants the proper techniques in tree planting like choosing the right spot to plant, correct digging of the pit for the seedling and protecting the growing tree.

The DENR provincial office also provided some of the planting materials of forest and orchard trees. Malunggay, coconut, pili and other fruit tree seedlings were also given to participants wishing to grow them in their backyards or farms, Medel said.

In his recent privilege speech in Congress, Sarmiento encouraged all the 13 other Bicolano congressmen to duplicate the project in their respective districts.

Sarmiento said it is the people’s turn to give back to the forest what they had taken from it, noting that a measly forest cover of only 12 percent, or even less, now remains from the once lush forest of Catanduanes.

Sarmiento said he conceptualized the tree planting project after having seen during the course of the recent poll campaign the effect of declining forest cover on the province’s environment as evidenced by massive landslides, floods and decreasing water supply during summer.

Medel supported the congressman’s statement saying that the closed canopy forest of the island province now stands at about five percent of the 151,150 hectare land area or less than 5,000 hectares.

Last year, the DENR launched a project to reforest 208 hectares here and in areas covered by the towns of Viga, San Miguel and San Andres with its agro-forest development project raising some 493,000 seedlings, Medel said.

Cong. Rene Velarde of the Buhay party list, the DENR provincial chief said, also provided P4 million in funds for 303 farmers to reforest 303 hectares under the Upland Development Program whose implementation is now ongoing.

“We also have sufficient reforestation materials with our 213,000 seedlings, mostly of narra, cupang and acacia trees awaiting disposal within this year, Medel said.

Sarmiento also challenged the youth sector especially students in every community to join him in his campaign. “Unlike other congressmen, I may not be inclined on bringing in infrastructure projects to the province because that could be just a waste of people’s money when destroyed by floods and landslides due to forest degradation,” he said.

“We restore first the forest that would enable us to fortify our defense against these disasters then we go ahead with infrastructure development with peace of mind that they are protected by our forests from destruction,” Sarmiento added.

Meanwhile, Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua has reiterated his reminders for the strict compliance of the executive order he issued last November that prohibits the cutting of trees on titled private lands in the municipalities of Viga, Caramoran, San Miguel and Pandan.

Citing the provincial government’s policy to address environmental issues and problems, the order states that the “cutting of naturally growing trees on private titled lands in areas considered as hot spot of illegal tree cutting such as the Municipalities of Viga, Caramoran, San Miguel and Pandan shall be discouraged”.

"Only utilization of typhoon-damaged trees for personal use will be allowed in those areas subject to verification," Cua said.

Cua reportedly issued the order in the wake of the alleged widespread abuse of the Private Land Timber Permit (PLTP) system by lumber smugglers and furniture makers, who have been using private landowners as fronts in applying for the permit and then buying the lumber, mostly premium hardwood such as narra.

The entire province of Catanduanes is under the total log ban policy being enforced by the DENR across the Bicol thus making illegal the cutting of trees for lumber and any other purposes in areas considered as forest and timber lands.

Cutting of trees in privately-owned lands however are allowed under the PLTP system.(PNA)

by Danny O Calleja
Source: PIA Bicol