Let youth drug offenders plant trees

Published April 30, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Zoilo P. Dejaresco III
Zoilo P. Dejaresco III

Can the lack of drug rehabilitation facilities and budget for youth drug-offenders need be such a burdensome a community problem? Why not let them plant trees instead- in coordination with the (Department of Agriculture) or its equivalent), LGUs, DENR, and private corporations?

That, Watson, is hitting two birds with one stone.

From 1900, Philippines’ forest cover is now down to only 24% (Wikipedia). According to the Forest Management Bureau of the DENR, the nation loses 47,000 hectares of forest cover every year. The culprits are illegal mining, kaingin, mining, tourism and subdivision development and devastation from Mother Nature.

The Philippines is infamous for being one of the most severely deforested areas in the tropics and the worst deforestation happening “during the last 40 years”.

Precisely, the “National Greening Program” which was launched in 2011 to 2016 has been extended to the year 2028. The first target was to plant one billion trees. That is how badly we need to reforest our denuded landscape from years of neglect and commercial abuse.

The above-proposed program can provide “free labor” from the youth drug dependents, help in the “greening of the Philippines” and stop the threatened biodiversity of the nation which had resulted in 46 endangered plant species. That can also provide “health benefits” for the addicts – who instead of being emaciated through chemical abuse can develop strong bodies due to the physically-engaging tree-planting program.

In Malaysia, we learned that individuals, corporations, and multinationals who sponsor (finance) such greening projects can get “tax credits” for the effort. Why not here, dear legislators?

Our elementary science teachers had taught us about trees and their importance in converting the dangerous carbon dioxide in the air emanating from fossil fuels into oxygen and, thus, help cleanse the environment. The process is called photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide from fuels is said to account for half of the woes leading to the earth’s severe climate change.

Climate change experts cite the role of trees in preventing landslide and flooding, preserve watersheds for the sources of water needed by humans and mangroves can stop storm surges.

Not very far from our ancestral home once grew lofty, bountiful trees. There was the majestic avocado along the street which dropped its fruits at the slightest dash of the winds -which our helpers converted to avocado shake.

There were two caimito trees at the back whose violet-colored fruits just fell on the tin roofs ready for pick-up. There was the sturdy jack fruit tree beside the house whose fruits made for a delicious fruit dessert. And the lowly “kamias” by the garden- used to put more zest to the sinigang broth.

Alas and alack, all of them gone-devoured by commerce and civilization.

The world community, therefore, truly needs to act in unison versus climate change through massive tree planting,

In 2018, in the presence of Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn, Thailand launched the “Forest of the Future Project” under the “The Billion Tree Campaign”. Like us, Thailand’s rainforest cover also dropped from over 50% of its land area to only 20% today.

We heard that the Thailand government is encouraging this community-based tree-planting movement, especially in its northern districts. We can replicate some of the things they do there even in our daily activities.

For instance, this summertime, we will see the abundance of fruits in the markets including mango, mangosteen, jack fruit, lanzones, rambutan, durian, etc.. We are enjoined by a circulating social media memo not to throw the seeds of these fruits away.

Instead, we can clean the fruit seeds, dry them and wrap them inside a used newspaper and place them at the back of the car. Whenever one finds “an open barren land be it along the village road, empty motorway or in rural open spaces- throw these seeds away.”

They will germinate easily in the coming rainy seasons.

This way, each and every one of us can at least help in erecting a tree every season in our lives and if we multiply that by the millions (people), we shall have contributed in great measure to reclaiming a green Earth and make it worth living again.

“Grain upon a grain- a bread loaf. Stone upon stone, a castle,” Let’s help a Green Philippines be a reality!

(Bingo Dejaresco, a former banker, is a financial consultant, media practitioner, and book author. He is a Lifetime Member and Chair of the Broadcast Media of FINEX. His views here, however, are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of FINEX. [email protected])