Thousands join tree growing festival in Koronadal

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) – Thousands of residents braved the early morning drizzle here on Saturday to plant anew “hundreds of thousands” of tree seedlings as part of the area’s third tree-growing festival.

Mayor Peter Miguel said around 20,000 volunteer-planters, who were mainly composed of students and village residents, joined the festivity, which is considered the biggest tree planting activity in Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao.

He said the volunteers converged at the city hall grounds here as early 4 a.m. and almost simultaneously trooped to various planting sites located in two critical mountain ranges – Roxas and Quezon – that straddle the city.

The city government earlier targeted to plant around 500,000 trees in 2,000 hectares of planting sites for this year’s festivity but the mayor said they extended the planting period through the end of the year due to logistical problems.

“We’re very overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from various sectors. Around 10,000 volunteers have enlisted for the activity as of Friday but the number of people who actually showed up has doubled,” Miguel said.

Malacañang earlier declared June 29 as a special non-working holiday in the city in support of the third tree-growing festival.

The declaration was issued through Proclamation No. 593 dated June 6 that was signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

This year’s tree planting sites are situated in 11 of the city’s 27 barangays that are straddled by the Roxas and Quezon mountain ranges.

The planting areas are located in Barangays Saravia, Carpenter Hill, San Isidro, Mambucal Assumption, Paraiso, San Jose, Mabini, Esperanza, Cacub and Topland.

As of noon Saturday, Miguel said 90 percent of the volunteers have already completed their planting assignments and returned to the city hall grounds, where a free lunch was served by the local government.

Miguel said they have yet to account for the exact number of trees that have been planted but noted that the feedback so far from their field coordinators were “very encouraging.”

The mayor said there were no major untoward incidents recorded during the activity but 12 of the volunteers have either fainted or suffered some injuries, mostly minor.

One of them was rushed to a local hospital early Saturday after figuring in a vehicular accident while still on the way to the convergence site, he said.

“Overall, this is another big success for the city because we were able to rally our residents to volunteer and work as one for our environment,” he said.

The city government decided to launch the tree-growing festival in 2011 to highlight the local celebration of the International Environment Month held every June and support for Aquino’s National Greening Program.

Last year’s activity covered around 1,000 hectares of planting sites in five barangays along the Quezon mountain range and with around 250,000 tree seedlings planted.

During its launching two years ago, around 25,000 local volunteers planted a total of 131,028 tree seedlings in 522.78 hectares of idle lands along the Roxas Mountain Range covering six barangays.