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Philippines

Philippine diocese vows to plant 1.2 million trees

Flood-stricken diocese partners with government and civic groups in reforestation project

Philippine diocese vows to plant 1.2 million trees

A family sit on the roof of their home to escape floodwater brought by Super Typhoon Goni in Albay province in the Philippines on Nov. 1, 2020. (Photo supplied)

An archdiocese in the northern Philippines is to plant more than 1 million trees using government-donated saplings in a reforestation project in response to two super typhoons that ravaged Cagayan province late last year.

In a project called Missio 500, organizers in Tuguegarao Archdiocese are looking for churchgoers to plant the trees in 500 days.

“Missio 500 is an ecology initiative that aims to plant 500 trees per day in Tuguegarao Archdiocese together with its suffragan dioceses, namely Ilagan, Bayombong, Tabuk and Batanes. These dioceses suffered great floods during the typhoons in 2020,” the archdiocese said on social media.

Super typhoons Goni and Vamco left at least 12 dead and submerged hundreds of houses in the province in muddy water caused by continuous heavy rains.

The archdiocese said the tree came from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which would also send representatives for the tree planting.

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“Our target is to plant at least 1.25 million trees by early next year. The 500 is also a significant number because the Philippines is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the archipelago,” said Tuguegarao Archbishop Ricardo Baccay in a recent homily.

Archbishop Baccay said typhoons were not man-made but floods were, often caused by man’s abuse of the environment. He cited deforestation in his diocese as a particular problem.

Mayor Cristina Antonio of Alcala, a town in the province, said severe flooding was brought by a confluence of factors.

“From July to September 2020, our native trees that normally retained soil and held water were stripped from our mountains and slopes … there is also illegal logging,” she said in an interview late last year.

Antonio believed flooding could be solved through church and government efforts. “This is a good move. I thank our religious leaders for their commitment,” she added.

Bayombong Bishop Elmer Mangalinao said the flooding in Cagayan showed the urgency needed to protect the planet from man’s environmental abuses.

“The flooding affected thousands of families … it showed the urgency to protect the earth, our common home,” Bishop Mangalinao told reporters.

“Missio 500 is a testament to our commitment to teach, to mold and to remind our faithful that we are the stewards of God’s creation,” he added.

Bishop Danilo Ulep of Batanes also expressed his diocese’s commitment to the project.

“May this project intensify and strengthen our advocacy to protect God’s creation and heal the wounds of Mother Earth for sustainable development of our communities,” he said in a radio interview.

Other non-government and civic organizations are also taking part in the tree planting.

“We are happy to be involved in this project. Advocacy for the environment is indeed a unifying factor regardless of our belief or political affiliation. Everyone, every citizen would agree that we need to protect the environment as it directly affects every one of us,” said Pablo Bolida of Greenpeace Philippines.

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