MANILA – As the world celebrates Earth Day on April 22, Senator Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara pushed for the passage of a bill making it mandatory to plant trees in urban and countryside parks, school grounds and vacant lots all over the country.
Angara said Senate Bill No. 2566 or the Greening Act of 2015 is in support of and complementary to the National Greening Program of the government that seeks to plant 1.5 billion trees covering 1.5 million hectares from 2011 to 2016.
He said the Philippines was once known for its vast and lush forests but over the years, the environmental situation of the country has undergone a transformation.
”This bill aims to improve the country’s environmental conditions by building, developing and maintaining forests parks in local areas, educational institutions and public roads; promoting environmental consciousness among the Filipinos, and protecting the existing trees from further harm,” Angara said.
Angara noted that in 1990, forests covered 35.5 percent of the country’s land area but 2005, the number dropped to 24 percent, the second lowest forest cover in Southeast Asia after Singapore.
The Philippines was also named one of the world’s 10 most threatened forest hotspots in 2011 by Conservation International.
Under the proposed measure, a National Greening Committee will be created with the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as chairperson to undertake the strict implementation of the requirements of the tree planting along national roads and mandatory planting of trees in urban and countryside parks, public vacant lots and other permissible areas.
A Greening Committee for every region in the country, in cooperation with the various local government offices, will be created as well to initiate and oversee all the tree-planting activities to be done in barangays (villages), municipalities, cities and provinces in the respective regions.
The issuance of permits allowing a person or company to cut, uproot and in any way disturb the planted trees given by the DENR should also be approved by the Regional Greening Committee.
Any person who cuts and destroys trees and plants without the necessary permit will be punished with imprisonment of not less than six months to not more than one year and/or a fine of not less than Php3,000 to not more than Php10,000.
“Aside from protecting trees from various human activities, this bill also aims to promote environmental consciousness among the community members, students, youth, other civic action groups, by encouraging active participation in tree-planting activities,” the lawmaker said.
Earth Day, which is annually celebrated worldwide every 22nd of April, seeks to broaden the base support for environmental programs, rekindle public commitment and build community activism around the world through a broad range of events and activities.
On Wednesday, Angara will lead tree-planting activities in Dasmarinas National High School and Development Academy of the Philippines organized by the Youth for Environment and Science Organization and the Alliance for Green Philippines.