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Philippines
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Bring back the trees to our forests

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“The President has in mind the massive reforestation program that will minimize the effects of heavy rains and onslaught of super typhoons that batter the islands yearly”

I remember somebody saying years ago, “We are simply killing ourselves.”

He was referring to the unabated denudation of our mountain forests, as well as the land conversion of the agricultural greenery into subdivisions, commercial developments and infrastructure projects in the past decades.

In recent years, the grim reality of that statement has set upon us.

Last weekend, tropical storm Paeng’s onslaught was the latest demonstration of the widespread floods and landslides resulting from forest denudation and illegal logging in protected areas.

No less than President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos, Jr. (BBM) validated the assertion that the loss of the country’s rainforests and vegetation is the cause of loss of lives, properties and livelihood.

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The President and I, along with Local Government Sec. Benhur Abalos and NDRRMC officials, conducted an aerial inspection of the flooded areas, including Cavite and Maguindanao provinces over the Undas weekend.

Thousands of Filipinos have been made homeless and displaced and billions of pesos lost in damaged crops as powerful storms and typhoons hit various regions of the country every year.

It has gotten worse and worse each time.

The extent and the size of floodings have been far greater than those we experienced in previous decades.

“Noong nasa helicopter kami, nakita ko lahat ng gumuho, kalbo kasi ang mga bundok. That’s the problem,” PBBM said.

(When we were on the helicopter, I noticed the areas with landslides had bald mountains.)

“So we have to include tree planting in our flood control. Dapat kasama ‘yan. Kung gagastos tayo sa flood control, kailangan mayroong tree planting,” the President stressed.

(So, we have to include tree planting in our flood control. It should be included. If we spend on flood control, it should include tree planting.)

Calamities cost the government billions of pesos in funds intended for various programs and projects but have to be diverted to rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts.

PBBM declared that flood-control projects from hereon must include tree-planting.

At first, it may sound as contrived images of school children or government employees going “plantitos” as part of their clean-and-green program.

But what the President has in mind is the massive reforestation program that will minimize the effects of heavy rains and onslaught of super typhoons that batter the islands yearly.

We must all agree with PBBM’s assessment and logically there is no reason not to.

We need to bring back the trees to the mountain forests and thicken them to help absorb the massive rainwater and shield the lowland farm communities from strong winds of super typhoons.

It is high time for everyone to be aware of the need for a balanced and sustainable development.

We need to consider seriously maintaining ecological balance which has far-reaching implications in terms of disaster-risk reduction management, agro-industrial production, and food supply.

We, at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), are working hand in hand with the DILG, the local government units (LGUs) and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the continuing relief operations.

No bureaucracy

As DSWD Secretary, I have directed my fellow social workers to speed up the distribution of family food packs (FFP) and other essential items to evacuees, even as we appealed to good-hearted individuals to volunteer to help repack more relief goods.

I have also stressed to our staff in the DSWD central and regional Field Offices to avoid red-tape in extending various assistance, like requiring the nonsensical certificate of indigency.

It is a marching order from the President for us to immediately help our fellow Filipinos in dire need during times of calamity such as this.

I agree with PBBM it is preposterous to aggravate the hardship of our kababayans in distress situation by the requirement of more paperwork than what is necessary before a government assistance is given.

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