In recognizing the importance of replenishing our earth’s oxygen source and combating the continual global deforestation issue, the Phillippines government found a creative way to encourage all their citizens to lend a helping hand. On May 15, 2019, the Philippine House of Representatives officially passed the “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act.” This bill was first introduced in 2016 by congressman Gary Alejano in an effort to promote “inter-generational responsibility” over environmental protection.
The new law will require that all students from elementary school, high school, and college must plant at least 10 trees in order to graduate. In addition to altering the state of our climate, more trees also hold internal benefits for the citizens of the Phillippines. For instance, the shade and evapotranspiration produced by more trees mean cooler summers. Having more trees can cool the air in the countries hotter months up to 9 degrees.
Prioritizing Local Biodiversity
Fortunately, the bill does not leave anything to interpretation and has issued a few ground rules to coincide with the law. For instance, the bill prioritizes planting indigenous tree species over imported ones in order to preserve the local biodiversity. This is especially true for indigenous trees suffering from endangerment. One such tree is the rose-scented national tree of the Philippines, pterocarpus indicus, otherwise known as narra. The tree has gone extinct in some regions, making it a higher priority within the planting initiative.
The bill also defines where students should plant their graduation trees. It puts a much higher priority for kids to grow trees on government-owned land. This could include rainforests, mangroves, existing forests, protected areas, military ranges, abandoned mining sites, as well as city streets.
Those enforcing the bill estimated that every student planting 10 trees should result in 175 million new trees in the Philippines each year. They hope that over the course of one generation, the country will have already planted 525 million new trees.
In Need of Solution
The Phillippines is currently one of the world’s most severely deforested countries. The nations forest cover dropped from 70 percent to a mere 20 percent throughout the 20th century. Illegal logging practices remains to be a major concern in the country and the lack of trees in these areas has elevated the risk and impacts of floods and landslides.
Heading the bill is the Philippines’ Magdalo Party representative, Gary Alejano. Alejano, who is the principal author of the legislation, said “with over 12 million students graduating from elementary and nearly five million students graduated 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 addition to the long term impact of this bill, Alejano also hopes it will ignite an educational benefit. He hopes the legislation will bring environmental understanding to future generations which will then lead to future such ecological initiatives. Although the bill has been passed by the House of Representatives, it has yet to be passed by the Philippines Senate or signed into law by the president. None the less, the initiative proves a necessary step in the right direction.