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26 January 2009

SBMA cites 152,700 trees planted under Subic refo program

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials revealed that a continuing reforestation program by the agency has resulted in the massive replanting of trees in about 140 hectares of grasslands and barren slopes in this free port.

Calling the reforestation program "environmentalism in action, not in words", SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga said that concerted efforts by various stakeholders Subic has yielded a total of 152,713 new trees in forested areas here under the SBMA reforestation program.

"Laid out in a single row and 10 meters apart, these new trees would cover more than 1,500 kilometers, or about 16 times the whole length of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, the longest tollway in the country," he said.

"This is one concrete proof of our environmental commitment here in Subic," he added.

Salonga said that the SBMA reforestation program has been a continuing activity since 1996, under the first SBMA chairman, now Sen. Richard Gordon.

"This has become a legacy project since then, with the SBMA, Subic business locators and civic groups from nearby communities doing their share in replanting grasslands and barren slopes in Subic," Salonga said.

The various groups had actually planted a total of 261,985 trees under the reforestation program. However, some trees died just before they reach three years — the minimum period before seedlings could survive without periodic care, Salonga said.

But even with a survival rate of just more than 58 percent, the 152,713 total number of surviving trees meant that close to 17,000 new trees become part of Subic's new growth forests each year, Salonga added.

The tree count under the reforestation program did not include trees planted by SBMA employees, students and business locators under the agency's annual tree-planting projects that are undertaken along major roads in Subic.

These would account for "another couple of thousands that had survived," Salonga said.

According to figures from the SBMA Ecology Center's Environmental Protection and Community Development Division (EPCDD), an average of more than 29,000 trees have been planted in Subic in the past nine years that reforestation projects were undertaken

The species planted included hardwood like narra and mahogany, as well as fruit trees like mango, cashew, avocado and jackfruit, and ornamentals like agoho and fire tree.

Most of these, Salonga said, have been planted by the Pastolan Forest Conservation Group (PFCG), which is composed of Aeta tribesmen from Subic's upland community of Pastolan.

"This group has become our spearhead in the reforestation effort in the Freeport zone," Salonga said. "After orienting them about the need to conserve forests, both to protect the environment and to create livelihood opportunities, our Aeta brothers have become indispensable as forest protectors."

EPCDD data showed that the Pastolan group had so far planted 102,100 seedlings since its creation in 2005. Of these, a total of 96,152 survived, giving the group's efforts a high survival rate of 94 percent.

Meanwhile, business locators or contractors with the most number of trees planted here included the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corp., with a total of 15,998 surviving trees it had planted, or an 80 percent survival rate; Toyo Corp., with 13,332, also 80 percent survival; Shell Philippines, with 8,888; and construction firm A.M. Oreta, with a total of 6,888 surviving trees.

SBMA's reforestation efforts also received a big boost with the successful implementation of the "Adopt-a-Forest" program, which had so far yielded a total of 4,345 trees since it was initiated by the Ecology Center in 2005.

This program, which boasts a 100 percent survival rate, tapped Subic companies and various community groups to plant trees and maintain them for three years before turning them over to the SBMA.

Last December, Japanese computer parts maker Nidec Subic Phils., turned over its "adopted" mini forest to the SBMA, the first among the program participants to do so. Twelve other groups are scheduled to transfer their reforestation areas to the SBMA this year.

Salonga, who received Nidec's reforestation project on behalf of the SBMA, said the SBMA invites more business locators and civic groups to join the program.

"This is our brand of environmentalism here in Subic — action, not just words. I hope that more would join us in out effort to leave a green legacy in Subic," he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO CAPTION: New-growth forests now thrive in most of the low-lying slopes of Mt. Sta. Rita in the Subic Bay Freeport under an SBMA reforestation program that has already covered 140 hectares. Photo shows a mini-forest of narra and some fruit trees jointly planted by the SBMA Public Relations Office and the Subic Bay Press Corps.

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