MinDA says sorry for Treevolution lapses

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 October) — The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) apologized to volunteers who were reportedly injured in last week’s island-wide tree planting activity dubbed TreeVolution.

The apology came after stories came out in social media that some participants fainted from exhaustion after walking to the sites of planting. There were complaints that organizers failed to tell them about the exact distance of the sites.

In a statement, MinDA said they had already reached out to those who were subjected to physical exhaustion and explained the situation.

“In some planting sites, it turned out that reaching the area by several kilometers walk rather than by trucks was the safest mode given the circumstances,” the statement read.

“It was a decision made on that instance to principally avoid possible catastrophic pitfalls from slippery terrain.”

The statement added that the emergency medical response mechanisms by the Philippine National Police, Central 911, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Local Emergency Response Teams, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils, and the Traffic Management Group helped in preventing any other untoward incidents.

Complaints reached social media over the weekend after participants, in several comments on www.facebook.com/MindanaoTreevolution, berated the organizers for supposedly asking them to walk for two hours despite promising transport to the sites.

“As organizers of the TreeVolution, a composite team of MinDA and DENR had been coordinating with the families and schools of those who went through physical exhaustion, while assisting those who needed further medical attention,” the statement added.

Forums will be held in the next few weeks in those schools to draw out reflections from students, and communicate on the next steps of nurturing the trees they planted.

A MinDA official said they have given medical assistance to those onsite, as well as traced the location of patients in the case of those brought to the hospitals and shouldered their medical expenses.

In an interview at the Grand Menseng Hotel Tuesday, Minda director for investment relations and public affairs Romeo Montenegro told reporters there were only isolated incidents of fainting, mostly in Davao City.

“What we need to understand is that the world record attempt was not the all-encompassing point of the tree planting activity,” he said.

“The point was to raise awareness about planting more trees, and I think we have achieved that.”

He said there were no other untoward incidents reported outside Davao City.

Montenegro, however, clarified that the “promise” of the organizers to transport volunteers to the site via trucks was changed at the last minute, as the rains had made it dangerous to use vehicles.

“If we pushed the trucks to go to the area as planned, there would have been accidents. We tried to prevent that,” he explained.

He added they trusted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with their choice of crops and locations.

“I’m sure that agency would not have picked crops that did not fit the soil profile of the identified areas,” he said.

As of Tuesday, the organizers had counted a total of 3,517,489 seedlings and propagules planted across 260 locations in six regions by 189,755 volunteers, including those in conflict-affected communities.

“In fact, the magnitude of response in some areas was overwhelming with volunteers exceeding the expected number of participants,” the statement added.

In Marilog District, MinDA said at least 13,000 volunteers showed up, which more than doubled the expected number of participants. Most of them were students and members of the academe. (MindaNews)