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30 April 2009

Subic schools urged to produce more “green graduates”

Educational institutions in the Subic Bay Freeport area have pledged their support to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) after the agency urged schools to participate in its “adopt-a forest program” and help produce more “environmentally-sensitive” graduates who care for the planet’s future.

The call for more “green graduates” was made by SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya dela Llana-Koval following the recent conference held here by the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PCFTF), which was attended by officials of the SBMA, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and representatives from non-government organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and the academe.

Talking about the causes and ill effects of global warming, Koval stressed that the environmental situation “has reached a state of urgency” and that environmental protection activities, like the agency’s reforestation program at the 140-hectare Mt. Sta. Rita, must be stepped up.

“This means that more people must be involved, so we turn to one sector here which churns out thousands of capable people annually— the colleges and other educational institutions,” said Koval.

In the same meeting, Mondriaan Aura College, which had supported the SBMA’s environmental projects since its relocation to this free port in 1999, immediately rose up to Koval’s challenge and “adopted” two hectares of land for reforestation at Mt. Sta. Rita.

Last week, Aura’s faculty and staff, headed by college president Edgar Geniza, planted “monumental trees” — symbolic precursors of the more than 2,200 trees that they pledged to plant in the school’s adopted reforestation site.

Geniza said the SBMA’s adopt-a-forest program is “an excellent hands-on approach to instill social and environmental values” among students, who will make up the bulk of the project manpower through the college’s National Service Training Program (NSTP).

“Aside from instilling environmental concern, the adopt-a-forest program provides an avenue for social awareness as we will work hand-in-hand with government personnel (SBMA) and our indigenous brothers— the Pastulan Aetas who make up the Pastulan Forest Conservation Group (PFCG),” Geniza also explained.

“This is the start of a new relationship — among different sectors of the society, and with nature. We are glorifying God through nature,” Geniza also said.

Aura professor Albert Layug, who also serves as NSTP coordinator, said they have conducted community immersion projects with the Pastulan community in February this year to prepare for the reforestation project.

“Our Aeta brothers will ensure our safety, given their intimate knowledge of the forest,” Layug said. “We have lots to learn from them,” he added.

As in other “adopt-a-forest” setup involving Subic business locators, agencies and civic organizations here, the SBMA will provide the seedlings to Aura, and, together with PFCG, will provide technical assistance to the college throughout the three-year reforestation program, Koval said.

“With this first adoption by Aura, we expect other schools to follow soon,” she added.

Koval also said that concerted efforts by various stakeholders in Subic have yielded a total of 152,713 new trees under the SBMA reforestation program since 1996.

The successful implementation of the “adopt-a-forest” program, which boasts a 100 percent survival rate, had so far yielded a total of 4,345 trees since it was initiated by the Ecology Center in 2005, Koval said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)


PHOTO: Aura College faculty members and Aeta forest conservators plant a tree at the school’s “adopt-a-forest” reforestation site.

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