The Philippines has issued a new law that will require all high school and college students to plant 10 trees in order to graduate. The law is meant to fight climate change while simultaneously adhering to an old tradition.
525 billion trees in one generation
"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," wrote in the bill's explanatory note Magdalo Party representative Gary Alejano and principal author of the regulation.
“In the course of one generation, no less than 525 billion can be planted under this initiative. Even with a survival rate of only 10 per cent, 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.”
This is a welcome move as the Philippines is one of the planet’s most severely deforested countries. In the 20th century alone, their forest cover dropped from 70 per cent to just 20 per cent.
In total, 46 species are endangered, and four were already eradicated. Only 3.2 per cent of the total rainforest has been left.
This is partially due to short-sighted policies by the Filpino government that granted logging concessions of less than ten years.
"Since it takes 30–35 years for a second-growth forest to mature, loggers had no incentive to replant. Compounding the error, flat royalties encouraged the loggers to remove only the most valuable species. A horrendous 40 per cent of the harvestable lumber never left the forests but, having been damaged in the logging, rotted or was burned in place. The unsurprising result of these and related policies is that out of 17 million hectares of closed forests that flourished early in the century only 1.2 million remain today," said scholar Jessica Mathews.
According to CNN's Philippines news service, the trees will be planted in a variety of settings including "forest lands, 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." These chosen trees will be appropriate to the conditions in which they are planted and there will also be a preference for indigenous species.