A panel in the House of Representatives has advocated for the mandatory planting of trees in urban and countryside parks.
The House committee on reforestation approved House Bill 4002, authored by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, which addresses the fast depletion of trees and forest areas in the country.
“There is depletion despite the efforts of various government institutions such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which has 293 nurseries distributed all over the country to provide seedlings nationwide,” Rodriguez said.
The program on mandatory tree planting was implemented during the Marcos administration.
Rodriguez said the Philippines was once known for its vast and lush forests. “Over the last 15 years, the environmental situation of the country has undergone a transformation,” he said.
The proposed “Greening Act of 2016” aims to develop and maintain forest parks in provincial, city and municipal plazas, elementary school grounds, and to boost planting of trees in national, provincial, municipal or barangay roads and other public open spaces where appropriate.
It also seeks to promote environmental consciousness among the community members—the students, youth, and other civic action groups—by encouraging their active participation in tree-planting activities.
The bill also aims to require from the national agencies and local government units (LGUs) to plant trees and shrubs in specified areas as well as to protect trees from various human activities.
The bill provides for the creation of the National Greening Committee with the DENR Secretary as Chairman and the respective secretaries of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) as members.
It also calls for the creation of the Greening Committee for every region in the country in cooperation with the various local government offices to initiate and oversee all the tree-planting activities to be done in barangays, municipalities, cities and provinces in the respective regions.
The Regional Director representing the DENR Secretary and the lead official of the concerned local government unit (LGU) shall co-chair the Committee.
The members of the Committee representing the respective Secretaries will be the regional directors of the DOT, DILG, DepEd, and DA and at most three representatives from civic action groups appointed by the Chairman.
Aside from its Committee responsibilities, the DENR shall determine the suitable species of trees and provide seeds or saplings to be planted along or on major thoroughfares, suited to the kind, classification, and condition of the area and shall provide technical support involving tree-planting activities.
On the other hand, the LGUs shall mobilize all local concerned agencies and communities to ensure prompt and effective implementation of the said Act in every barangay, municipality, city and province and provide for effective measures and ways for the optimum maintenance and sustainability of trees and shrubbery, among other things.
The DPWH and the DA shall provide the technical support; the DOT shall assist in the conceptualization and site-evaluation and cooperate in the maintenance of parks and specified areas and provide additional funding from its resources. The DILG shall coordinate the LGUs to ensure prompt and effective implementation of the Act while the DepEd shall integrate the tree-planting activities into the school curriculum to raise awareness and to promote environmental consciousness.
The bill makes the planting of trees mandatory in urban and countryside parks as well as in school grounds, vacant lots, and other unutilized sites identified with the quality of soil where different or certain species of trees can thrive. This shall apply to all publicly-owned lands, without exempting the properties of interested private individuals or institutions.
The issuance of a permit allowing a person or company to cut, uproot and in any way disturb the planted trees given by the DENR should also be approved and co-signed by the Regional Committee following public consultations done by and the consensus of the Regional Committee.
It prohibits the cutting and destroying of trees and plants except when the cutting and destroying of the same is necessary for public safety and subject to the issuance of permits.
The bill mandates the National Greening Committee to submit periodic reports to both houses of Congress of the Philippines for evaluation and consideration within 90 days after the approval of the Act and every 180 days thereafter.