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Tree Experts: Prioritize Planting Native Trees in Idle Lands

August 21, 2020

Native tree experts and enthusiasts highlighted the importance of native trees in enhancing biodiversity and addressing climate change, as well as encouraged the public to plant more native trees, including fruit-bearing species, in idle and private lands as a commercial venture, during the 14th episode of “Stories for a Better Normal: Pandemic and Climate Pathways” with the topic “Planting Native Trees.”

The online conversation hosted by Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda featured native tree enthusiasts, including Atty. Asis Perez, Senior Legal Adviser of Tanggol Kalikasan; Dr. Ephraim Cercado, a medical surgeon and manager of the Philippine Native Tree Enthusiasts initiative; and Ms. Lee Ann Canals-Silayan, founder of Kaleekasann nursery, who willingly shared their expertise and knowledge on native tree species and their propagation.

Atty. Perez represented his organization Tanggol Kalikasan, composed of dedicated foresters and environmentalists focusing on forest rehabilitation, upland reforestation, and biodiversity conservation. He shared how tree farms promote ecosystems integrity and biodiversity and encouraged landowners to devote their idle lands to tree farms.

“Over this period of 10 years, we have these takeaways: Unang-una po, napakaraming private lands ang nakatiwangwang, wala pong tanim at available for planting trees. Pangalawa, what we saw is pwede sa isang lugar madami kang puno na itanim. And we also realized na maganda ang family-based approach, kaya ang ginawa po namin, talagang pami-pamilya ang kinakausap namin and they are the ones whom we deal directly,” said Atty. Perez.

Dr. Cercado presented photos of various species of native trees that are used as timber or wood and discussed the economic comparison of several agroforestry crops versus native trees.

“Philippine biodiversity has so much to offer, meron po tayong 3,600 tree species. We’ve been planting a lot of mahogany, gmelina, at falcata. Bakit po tayo nagti-tiyaga sa barya kung pwede naman tayong kumita nang mas malaki? Mas maganda kasi yung mao-offer sa atin ng native species. Kung tanim po tayo nang tanim ng puro exotic species, masisira po ang biodiversity hanggang sa microscopic level, at nagpro-promote po tayo ng mas maraming pandemic. That’s why we need to plant native species,” said Dr. Cercado.

Ms. Silayan shared her beginnings in growing native trees and maintaining her native tree nursery, Kaleekasann. She showed some of the trees good for urban landscaping, as well as her group’s advocacy in conserving and preserving the trees and biodiversity in Ipo watershed and other natural protected areas in the country.

“Nagsimula lang ako sa pagpulot ng mga buto kung saan-saan—sa campus, sa park, sa subdivision, lagi akong nakatingin sa kung ano-anong puno na nakatanim sa paligid. At pupulutin ko sila, aalamin ang pangalan nila, at paano sila itanim. Karamihan sa mga seeds natin, simpleng patong lang sa lupa tapos hihintayin mong umusbong siya, pero may ilan na kailangan ng kaunting preparation. Makakatulong na mayroong libro tungkol sa propagation ng puno at magtanong online sa Philippine Native Tree Enthusiasts, pati sa aking Instagram and Facebook accounts,” said Silayan.

Legarda noted that planting and maintaining green spaces have been vital in maintaining people’s mental and physical health through the COVID-19 pandemic. The planting of native trees should be prioritized in the tree-planting efforts of communities as these not only sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but also helps restore the natural biodiversity of landscapes.

“We cannot stop the global recession, and we cannot stop the global pandemic, but we can limit or turn around its impacts on our lives. If we have to pause and we have the great reset, we can seize the opportunity to change our ways and to focus on the good, to focus on the green, to focus on implementing all laws which are already there. So plant, plant, plant, collect water, promote a zero-waste lifestyle, and be safe, be positive,” Legarda concluded.

As an online discussion to promote health, environmental consciousness, and climate-adaptive practices, Stories for a Better Normal aims to change the mindset of individuals, families, and communities by demonstrating ways in which a ‘better normal’ can be realized within our communities.

This online discussion is organized in partnership between the Office of Deputy Speaker Legarda and the Climate Change Commission, with support from the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, The Climate Reality Project-Philippines, and the Mother Earth Foundation. ###