The House of Representatives has supported a measure mandating all graduating elementary, high school, and college students to plant at least 10 trees each as a prerequisite for graduation.
House Bill 8728 or the “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act” is authored by Reps. Gary Alejano and Strike Revilla has been approved on third and final reading at the Lower House, and shall be transmitted to the Senate for action.
In pushing for the measure’s enactment, the bill’s authors said “it is the policy of the State to pursue programs and projects that promote environmental protection, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, poverty reduction, and food security.”
“To this end, the educational system shall be 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,” the bill said.
The trees planted by the graduating students shall be their living legacy to the environment and future generations of Filipinos.
In its explanatory note of HB 1154, one of the bills consolidated into HB 8728, Alejano said that while the right of the youth to a balanced and healthful ecology must be recognized, there is no reason why the youth cannot be made to contribute.
“With over 12 million students graduating from elementary and nearly five million students graduating from high school and almost 500,000 graduating from college each year, this initiative, if properly implemented, will ensure that at least 175 million new trees would be planted each year. In the course of one generation, no less than 525 billion can be planted under this initiative,” Alejano said.
“Even with a survival rate of only 10 percent, 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, Revilla said in the explanatory note of HB 3132, on which HB 8728 was also based, that there is no debate regarding the need to protect the environment and preserve the country’s ecological balance.
“With the continued rise in urbanization, our ecology is suffering in the sense that trees are being cut to give way for various infrastructure projects,” he said.
The trees shall be planted in forestlands, 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. The planted species of trees should be appropriate to the location, climate and topography of the area with preference for the planting of indigenous species.
To implement the provisions of the measure, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) shall work in partnership with the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), among others.
The agencies shall be responsible for nursery establishment, seedling production and site preparation, monitoring and evaluation, and technical support and extension services. They must also provide security, transportation, fire protection amenities, and medical support.