Reports that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has mandated franchise applicants to plant trees in a bid to boost the government’s reforestation program should be welcome news to all ecology warriors.
The mandatory tree planting for public transportation operators was scheduled to start last Tuesday, 1 December.
Under its memorandum issued last 20 November, those applying for a certificate of public convenience with at least 10 units and those applying for extension of CPC validity must plant trees. One unit is equivalent to one tree.
After three months, the policy will eventually cover all applicants with less than 10 PUV.
The LTFRB said transportation operators should coordinate with local government units, as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for their tree planting activity.
Aiming to plant 50,000 trees, the LTFRB said the mandatory tree planting came after most of Luzon areas were battered by typhoons “Rolly” and “Ulysses.”
Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade first raised the recommendation during the public briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte and other Cabinet officials in typhoon-hit Cagayan.
LTFRB Region II director Edward Cabase reportedly recommended the idea after Region II, composed of Cagayan Valley, Cagayan and Isabela were submerged by massive floods brought by typhoon “Ulysses.”
In a previous report, the Ecological Threats Register (ETR) revealed that more than a billion people will be displaced from their houses in the next 30 years due to the climate crisis.
The report studied the risk profiles of 157 countries including the Philippines on threats such as population growth, water stress, food insecurity, droughts, floods, cyclones and rising temperatures and sea levels.
At least 60 percent of the countries in the report are expected to face flooding threats because of rising sea levels and temperatures.
The Philippines, under the medium-risk group of the ETR, will reportedly face at least three ecological threats in the coming years.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government is reportedly also planning to plant some 200 million trees in a massive campaign next year as a response to the devastating floods caused by the recent typhoons.
The entire Luzon is currently under a state of calamity after the recent typhoons that devastated most parts of the island. Typhoon “Quinta” left at least 22 dead after exiting the country on 27 October. It was followed by super typhoon “Rolly,” dubbed as the strongest typhoon in the world in 2020, which killed 25 after making four landfalls in Southern Luzon early November.
The idea therefore of replacing the trees damaged by such calamities is perfect for a country visited by storms at least 20 times a year. And involving transport operators whose business involves vehicles that could be a contributing factor to pollution because of continued use of diesel engines already banned in other countries is a good way to start such a campaign.
We do applaud the widespread enthusiasm for increasing forest cover, but planting trees is not a simple solution. It’s complicated and we need to be realistic about what we can and cannot achieve. We need to be thoughtful and plan for the long term.
In the first place, we have to be sure that this would not be another source of corruption coming from operators who would rather circumvent the LTFRB order.
Planting trees can indeed improve biodiversity, water quality and increase shade. But depending on where and how it is done, experts say tree planting can also harm native ecosystems and species, reduce water supply, dispossess local landholders and increase social inequity.
To be successful, tree-planting initiatives, they say, need to engage local stakeholders and confront conflicting goals for land use. We need to keep existing forests standing and allow trees to regenerate in areas that were formerly forests.
In many cases, trees will recover on their own. That is why, experts claim planting trees should only be the last option.
What is more important, we believe, is slowing the pace of climate change with a comprehensive strategy that starts with burning less fossil fuel.
We’re better off not releasing greenhouse gases to begin with.