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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Too many tree planting bills

"Why not come up with one consolidated Tree Planting Law that will be easy to implement?"


A new law is in the works that will require all graduating grade school, high school, and college students to plant at least 10 trees each as a “mandatory prerequisite for graduation.”

House Bill 8728 was approved on third and final reading by the House of Representatives last Jan. 14 and sent to the Senate the following day. The ‘Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act’ taps the educational system as a “locus for propagating ethical and sustainable use of natural resources among the young to ensure the cultivation of a socially-responsible and conscious citizenry.”

In the bill’s explanatory note, its principal author, Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, said “this initiative…will ensure that at least 175-million new trees would be planted each year,” for a total of 525-billion new trees in one generation.

This calculation is based on the following numbers: over 12-million grade school, nearly five-million high school, and almost 500,000 college graduates yearly.

“Even with a survival rate of only 10 percent,” Alejano said, “this would mean an additional 525-million trees would be available for the youth to enjoy, when they assume the mantle of leadership in the future.”

Indigenous species of trees are preferred, and the choices of trees should take into account the location, climate, and topography of the areas recommended for tree planting and reforestation: Forest lands, mangrove and protected areas, ancestral domains, civil and military reservations, urban areas under the greening plan of the local government units, inactive and abandoned mine sites, and other suitable lands.

Many agencies are mandated to help implement this proposed law, among them the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform.

However, there are already two bills that require Filipinos to plant trees.

Republic Act No. 10176, the Arbor Day Act of 2012, provides that “All able-bodied citizens of the Philippines, who are at least 12 years of age, shall be required to plant one (1) tree every year.” The activity shall be done in coordination with the local government units.

Presidential Decree No. 1153 of 1977 states that “every citizen of the Philippines at least ten (10) years of age, actually residing therein, unless physically disabled to do so, shall plant one tree every month for five (5) consecutive years.”

This law further provides that “the trees to be planted shall be fruit-bearing, shade, ornamental or forest trees, and the same shall be taken care of for at least two years after each planting and replaced if the same die, are diseased or are defective.”

While the laws differ in some respects, such as their rationales and the point agencies, all three are cognizant of the need to care for natural resources and the environment.

The question is, does the proposed Alejano bill, should it pass the Senate, repeal these two older tree-planting laws? Or do they all exist in conjunction and are for implementation at the same time? If a student planted trees in their province for Arbor Day, are these considered the same as their quota for graduation, or not?

The recent midterm elections have brought to mind again the legislative function of government, as has newly-minted Senator Bato del Rosario’s statement that he wants to take seminars on lawmaking. Scrutiny now falls on this proposed bill and its related laws.

Crafting laws requires logic, commonsense, a knowledge of issues, and the imagination to solve problems. However, as these three tree laws show, over the decades some laws become redundant, their raisons d’etre and essential provisions duplicating others.

While we all agree that trees can help refresh the air with oxygen and reduce our carbon footprint, and the more that are planted, the better, our legislators should consolidate these laws to prevent confusion.

Why not come up with one consolidated Tree Planting Law that will be easy to implement? Corporate entities and government agencies can include tree planting in their yearly corporate social responsibility programs. Other solutions can be found to make sure all Filipinos remember to fulfill this duty to the country and the planet. 

Trees are a living organism: Scientists recently announced that they have mapped, on a global scale, the ‘Wood Wide Web’, a “vast, interconnected web” of fungi and bacteria living at the roots of trees. /FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO

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