Bill strengthening gov’t tree-planting program OK’d on 3rd reading

August 23, 2023 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 118 views

THE House of Representatives has unanimously approved on third and final reading the proposed Act providing mechanisms that shall ensure the effective implementation of a nationwide tree-planting program.

Voting 233 against three during Tuesday’s plenary session, the House of Representatives approved House Bill (HB) No. 8568, which seeks to amend various sections of Republic Act (RA) No.10176, or the “Arbor Day Act of 2012”.

“There is a need for a corroborated effort between the State and its citizenry to combat the loss of our natural resources and rejuvenate our environment by rehabilitating degraded forest land areas, improving soil fertility and land productivity, and reducing soil erosion especially in the rural and upland areas, undertaking nationwide tree-planting activities and providing effective measures for their maintenance and sustainability,” read the revised Section 2 of RA No.10176, as proposed by HB No.8568.

The approved measure also introduces changes to Section 3 and 9 of the law, as well as new sections 11-A and 11-B. “Though this bill, we recognize the vital role and importance of trees in ecological stability,” Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, leader of the 311-strong House of Representatives, said, adding, “I think we need trees more than trees need us.” Romualdez noted that the measure keeps the law’s requirement for all provinces, cities, and municipalities with their component barangays to revive, by appropriate proclamation of their respective local chief executives, an Arbor Day at an appropriate fixed date every calendar year.

Reps. Dante Garcia, Noel Rivera, Eleanor Bulut-Begtang, Alfonso Umali Jr., Ciriaco Gato, Jr., Gerardo Valmayor Jr., Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Mark Go, Joseph Stephen Paduano, and Manuel Jose Dalipe are the principal authors.

HB No. 8568 augments the existing Arbor Day Committee of the different local government units (LGUs) by suggesting the inclusion of field officers from the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP). By default, these Arbor Day Committees are preferably composed of field officers from the local Sanggunian, local Environment and Natural Resources Office, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), Department of Education (DepED), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG);,Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Tourism (DOT), Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Civic organizations, Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), Liga ng mga Barangay (LnB), and media associations.

The measure mandates that the LGU, with technical assistance from the DENR, shall identify suitable areas to be planted to various species of trees and plants, including bamboo.

“The DENR shall ensure that national greening program sites within the municipalities and cities are propagated and planted of various species to enhance existing vegetation,” it added.

It further adds that areas of ancestral domain may now host tree-planting activities. Other possible areas for tree-planting activities are public school grounds, gardens or other available areas within the school premises; idle or vacant public lands; public parks in urban and rural areas; and private schools, parks and lands with the consent of the owner thereof.

The bill requires the DILG to monitor the implementation of RA No.10176 and submit an annual report to the Congressional Oversight Committee.

Meanwhile, the DENR shall also submit an annual report to the congressional oversight committee on the areas identified in each LGU that are suitable to tree-planting and reforestation.

The Congressional Oversight Committee created by the bill us mandated to monitor and oversee the implementation of RA No.10176.

It shall be co-chaired by the chairpersons of the Committee on Local Government of the House of Representatives and the Senate, and shall have as members the chairpersons of the Special Committee on Reforestation and Committee on Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives, and the chairperson and vice chairperson of the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change of the Senate.