In response to the clarion call of President Rodrigo R. Duterte to protect the environment, the Department of Education is mulling over the idea of harnessing 25-million learners all over the Philippines to each plant a tree every year in schools, communities and other designated areas such as key watersheds.
This was disclosed by DepEd Undersecretary Alain del Pascua in his keynote speech the other day at the Annual Million Tree Challenge Recognition and Pledging Day even as he congratulated the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System led by Administrator Reynaldo V. Velasco, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu represented by Undersecretary Rodolfo Garcia, Ylang-Ylang tree advocate Pangasinan Rep. Leoploldo N. Bataoil, Maynilad president Ramoncito S. Fernandez, Manila Water president Ferdinand de la Cruz, MWSS RO Chief Patrick Ty, and the supporting 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, referencing to the Makakalikasan core value of education.
Pascua added that “by involving our learners to each plant a tree every year, we will not only further educate them about reforestation but also bring to their consciousness the importance of preservation and conservation of one of the most basic resources: Water.”
According to the DepEd official, the Annual Million Tree Challenge initiated by MWSS is a call to arms for its partners including 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 o livelihood and lives due to climate change. We all have to do our part, in our own capacities since each of our departments, agencies, and organizations, to help in the task of reforesting and rehabilitating our watersheds. In line with one of DepEd’s core values: MAKAKALIKASAN, the Department takes on the challenge to help in the conservation and reforestation of key watershed areas," Pascua said.
DepEd is 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 natives and endemic plant species, leading to an increased appreciation of their country’s own natural resources,” Pascua said.
He 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 Usec said.
Pascua said 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.