Reflections on blogging, my blog entry for Global Voices Online….
Last August 25, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched the Green Philippine Highways project which involved the planting of trees along all major highways and thoroughfares from Laoag City to Zamboanga and Davao cities.
Around 516,000 seedlings of trees indigenous to the country like narra, mahogany, acacia and banaba, as well as ornamental plants were planted. In a show of all-out support to the activity, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo planted a “Saraca” seedling, an indigenous tree species renowned as “the King of Flowering Plants,” at the “Kilometer Zero” site near the Rizal Monument in Luneta.
According to the DENR, it was one of the biggest and most ambitious projects of the department. It gathered two million participants in planting the 2,176- kilometer stretch of the Pan Philippine Highway, 824-kilometer stretch of the West Nautical Highway in the eastern seaboard, and 439-kilometer stretch of the Manila North Road.
Trees fight the greenhouse or global warming effect by sequestering carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, and turning it into oxygen during its food-making process or photosynthesis. They also help cleanse the air by intercepting airborne particles, reducing heat and absorbing such pollutants as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
The Philippines has the second most polluted air among eight ASEAN countries. About 70 percent of air pollution is caused by vehicular emissions. At present, we have around five million registered motor vehicles, 31 percent of which are in Metro Manila.
Based on studies, around 10 trees are needed to capture the emissions of one car. Thus, with the current number of registered vehicles, the country needs about 50 million trees to counter air pollution in major highways.
The country does not have a shortage of tree-planting activities. What DENR did was to coordinate the efforts of various groups and embark on a centralized tree-planting effort intended to have the most effective greening result.
A total of 1,060 memoranda of agreement have been forged by the DENR with some 3,852 different public and private organizations which pledged to plant trees, as well as adopt the planted seedlings to ensure their survival and proper growth.
The DENR deserves to be commended for the initial success of Green Philippine Highways. At the same time, I encourage DENR to brainstorm on how to improve this noble project.
Recognizing that typhoons can easily destroy small trees, President Arroyo has a concrete proposal to create urban parks and not just plant trees. At this instance I remember Senator Loren Legarda’s pet project: Luntiang Pilipinas.
This program planned to create 1,500 Forest Parks all over the archipelago. Each Forest Park will have a minimum of 100 trees of various species, planted at a maximum of four meter apart in available lots and two meters apart along the roadways.
What happened to Luntiang Pilipinas? Was it abandoned since it was associated with the leader of the Opposition? If Sec. Angie Reyes resigns his post, what would happen to his Green Philippine Highways?
President Arroyo’s proposal allowed us to realize that we need more than just trees along the roads. Green highways may blind us from recognizing that we have denuded mountains. I would rather have bland highway sceneries as long as I am confident that mountains are covered with forest trees.
In short, green highways are not enough. We need green mountains that would prevent flashfloods, landslides and depletion of water sources. If DENR placed high hopes on trees to combat pollution, then it should rethink the issuance of logging and mining permits to big (and foreign) corporations.
Sec. Reyes was quoted by the media that the “country will have lush forests and green urban areas if only every Filipino plants at least one tree a year as his/her contribution to protect the environment.” The good secretary may be correct but he should also not forget to pinpoint the industrial firms and mining companies which destroy millions of trees for their operations.
A project like Green Philippine Highways should not be boasted as THE most impressive project of a national government agency. Planting trees is an effort which should be spearheaded by civic groups, youth organizations, environmentalists and local government units. The DENR should now focus on a realizable and long term plan to reverse water pollution, mining disasters and diminishing forest cover.
But Green Philippine Highways may be more than just trees along the roads. Sec. Reyes succeeded in informing the motorists and voters about his laudable environmental mission. At this instance, I remember Dick Gordon’s Wow Philippines which sent him to the Senate in 2004.