Thursday, June 24, 2010

15 Saturdays to help save the earth

15 Saturdays to help save the earth
Companies join hands for a greener Cebu through
the 2010 Cebu Hillylands Reforestation Caravan

In Central Cebu, a majestic backdrop of greens nourishes the communities with its rich resources and calming presence. Known as the Cebu Hillylands, this rustic row of forests and farmlands is known to capture the hearts of many for its sloping hills and refreshing breeze, uncharted caves and lakes, and lush, affordable produce.

A gift of nature, the Cebu Hillylands is home to various plant and bird species that are endemic to Cebu. The Cebu cinnamon plant, known to Cebuanos as the kalingag, is one of Cebu's treasures threatened to extinction. Along with other indigenous trees in Cebu, the kalingag serves as both home and food for the Cebu black shama, also known as the siloy, and the Cebu flowerpecker.

For the people who live in Cebu, the hillylands is what they depend on for water. The Buhisan Dam, located in the Buhisan Watershed Forest Reserve, is one of the five protected areas of the Cebu Hillylands. For the farmers and communities, it is where they could get their main source of livelihood—farming—as well as a place they could call their home. 

The Cebu Hillylands is one of Cebu's greatest treasures and most important legacies that its protection has become one of the most focused efforts Cebu has done for the following years. 

Looming doom. The recent environment news, however, present very alarming projections that might eventually endanger the hillylands and those that depend on it. 

Earlier this year, a series of forest fires hit the Buhisan Forest Watershed Reserve, damaging a total of six hectares due to the recent dry spells that hit the country. On February, a few weeks after the fires happened, MCWD declared that the amount of water they can get from the Buhisan Dam has dropped down from 10,000 to 2,000 cubic meters.

A month after, most of Metro Cebu's major water resources were drying up due to the El Niño that a need for a rainwater catchment system has been raised so Cebu could have a more sustainable source of potable water. The situation worsened on May when power shortage further crippled MCWD, which used pumps to transport groundwater from its private wells so it could continue providing water for its constituents. 

All of these events are linked together by one cause: climate change. 

Something must be done to help Cebu recover from the dry spell and further protect the Cebu Hillylands. It is from this intent that PBSP enjoins its member companies and other corporate sponsors to plant tree seedlings in the Cebu Hillylands and help put a stop to climate change.

Companies helping save the earth. On Saturday, June 19, 2010, more than 800 volunteers from 28 companies joined the reforestation caravan kickoff at Sitio Cantipla I & II, Tabunan, Cebu City.

This is the biggest number of employee volunteers PBSP has gathered for its reforestation caravan since 1988.

Airlift Asia (Cebu), Inc., KEEP Foundation, Asiatown IT Park, Cebu Daily News, Cebu Energy Dev't. Corp., Cebu Private Power Corp., East Asia Utilities, Fooda Saversmart Corp., Jollibee Foods Corporation-RBU Vis-Min, Lexmark Research & Dev't. Corp., Ng Khai Dev't. Corp., Phil. Guardians Brotherhood Inc., PLDT, Qualfon Phils. Inc., San Miguel Corp., Shell Phils., SMART, Sun Star Publishing Inc., TMX Phils. Inc., Toledo Power Corp., Cebu Microelectronics Inc. and Sto. Niño de Cebu Agustinian Social Development Foundation are among the companies that joined the kickoff.

Aside from the companies, volunteers from barangays Luz, Magsaysay, Sudlon and Tabunan and cooperatives like the Battalion Irrigators Association and Tabok Workers Multi-Purpose Cooperative also pitched in.

Janith Boyonas, General Manager of the Tabok Workers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, said the preservation of nature is one of the cooperative's community involvement objectives.

The cooperative started joining PBSP's annual caravan last June 2008. Their first reforestation site was located in Sitio Manunggal, Barangay Magsaysay, Balamban. 

“If there is corporate social responsibility, there is also what you call cooperative social responsibility,” she said.
PBSP has been organizing annual reforestation caravans to help prevent the 29,000-hectare Cebu Hillylands from complete denudation. It was in 1991 when the foundation started bringing in employee volunteers to help the foundation plant trees within 100 hectares every year. Since then, more and more companies are participating in PBSP's annual caravans at the onset of the rainy season.

“It feels good to know that what you are doing is in line with your coop's principles and is also helping nature,” Boyonas added.

For this year, PBSP plans to plant more than 300,000 indigenous tree seedlings within 124 hectares from June 19 to September 25. As of June this year, more than 30 companies already committed to book a Saturday to help PBSP plant more trees.

“We don't just plant—we make sure it survives. This is the friendliest tree planting activity organized,” PBSP Cebu Hillyland Development Committee Chairman Eileen Mangubat said. 

PBSP targets to achieve an 85% survival rate to all the tree seedlings planted. To make sure that this happens, PBSP partnered with the cooperatives to help the foundation monitor the growth of the seedlings. 

“This is a unique tradition of Cebu and we want to keep it up . Help us regreen it,” she added. 

The right trees. Until now, the Tabunan Forest Corridor, one of the areas of the Cebu Hillylands, remains the only rainforest in Cebu that is home to the most number of endemic birds. This is because most of the trees planted in the forest are indigenous.

For PBSP, planting tree seedlings in the hillylands is not enough—it has to make sure that the employees they brought from the caravan planted the right trees. 

“If there are no birds in the area, that would mean that you do not have the right trees to plant. You may not be helping the place at all if you are planting the wrong tree,” Mangubat stressed. 

Birds feed and nest on the bark and fruits of indigenous trees, making them the most suitable trees to plant in the forests. 

“I feel so happy and overwhelmed that I got the chance to hear the soothing sound of these endemic birds chirping in the refo site where I planted trees. Cebu is still the best place to live in, knowing that it still cradles different endemic species not just these birds,” said Chris Martina Gestopa, one of the individual volunteers.

A domino effect. The kickoff caravan is a venue where the residents of barangay Tabunan could sell their crops and earn income. 

“Nalipay mi na naabot sa among dapit ning mga volunteers kay makakwarta pud mi na wala na'y middleman (We're happy the volunteers can come to our place so we can sell directly to them and earn more income),” Marites Ardiente of Sitio Cantipla said.

The entire caravan is also an opportunity for the other communities of the Cebu Hillylands to obtain another livelihood opportunity. When one esteems to plant as many as 300,000 tree seedlings in a year, a sufficient supply of seedlings is also needed. To meet this need, PBSP coordinated with various cooperatives in the area so they can provide the seedlings the foundation needed for its reforestation activities.

“Gamit kaayo ning among pag-provide og seedlings kay karong tig-init, wala gyu'y tubig so hinay sad ang amoang pagpananom. Karon na naa na mi seedlings, naa mi sideline na madaganan (Providing seedlings for PBSP is a great help to us, especially during the El Niño when water is scarce. By establishing a nursery, we have an alernative source of livelihood that can financially support us even if we cannot plant so many crops),” Aladin Pagatpat of Barangay Sudlon II said. 

The provision of seedlings is set to continue for five years to support the recently launched VECO Reforestation Park Project. 

“Thank you for climbing up this mountain not only to have fun, meet friends and socialize, but to also do small things to help save human life,” retired General Tiburcio Fusilero said.

“I would like to thank PBSP for giving me the opportunity to plant trees—again—and letting me experience an unforgettable memory. I hope that the reforestation caravan will be done throughout the entire years to come. It will surely make Cebu a home to every species, not just to humans,” Gestopa added.

For more photos of the event, you may visit PBSP's Photo Gallery.


dockie said...

the Earth needs more environmental activities such as the reforestation caravan...let's continue to be supportive of this kind of activity...