Students in elementary schools, high schools and colleges across the Philippines have a new task they must complete, beyond passing their exams, if they want to graduate. They are now required by law to plant at least 10 trees apiece so that they can receive their diplomas.
The country’s House of Representatives has passed the “Graduation Legacy for the Environment Act,” or Bill 8728, which tasks graduating students with planting trees in forest lands, mangrove forests, protected natural areas, city parks and other suitable spaces.
“These planted trees must be appropriate to the location, climate and topography of the area, and there will be a preference for the planting of indigenous tree species,” a news report explains. Government and municipal agencies will be responsible for producing seedlings and preparing sites for new trees planted by students.
The island nation has lost much of its once verdant forest cover over the past decades as trees have been felled to make way for agricultural land. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost nearly a third of its forest cover. At the turn of the 20th century the Philippines boasted 21 million hectares of forested land. By the turn of the 21st, the sum was a mere 5 million hectares and forest cover is still being lost.
The bill’s supporters hope that by enlisting youngsters in reforestation efforts, much of the Philippines can sprout lush new greenery in coming years.
“With over 12 million students graduating from elementary and nearly five million students graduating from high school and almost 500,000 graduating from college each year, this initiative, if properly implemented, will ensure that at least 175 million new trees would be planted each year,” Gary Alejano, an MP who was an author of the bill, wrote in an explanatory note.
“In the course of one generation, no less than 525 billion can be planted under this initiative,” Alejano went on. “Even with a survival rate of only 10 percent, this would mean an additional 525 million trees would be available for the youth to enjoy, when they assume the mantle of leadership in the future.”