January 21, 2017
One fine Sunday morning I went to take part in an event that turned out to be more fruitful than I expected.
I have a friend who is a member of the Singapore Philippines Association, and she informed me of a tree planting event sponsored by the Singapore Embassy to be held in Fort Bonifacio. This was actually the second tree planting event organized by the Singapore Embassy, but the first one was held in Nuvali, which was not very convenient for me. I am a supporter of activities that promote environmental protection, and as a resident of Fort Bonifacio, how can I not support such an event when it will happen virtually at my community's backyard? to top it off, I was told that a name tag would be put on each seedling that I would sponsor for a princely sum of 80 pesos each!
The idea that there will be a tree that bears my name as long as it lasts was very appealing. So I put in a sponsorship for 6 seedlings, so that my close family members could also each get a tree named after them. I did not have any other expectation from the event.
On the day of the event, I arrived at the venue at exactly 9am as informed by my contact at the Singapore Embassy. We were told to go to the Kasalikasan Garden that is located near the De Jesus Oval at the end of 3rd Avenue and 25th Street. Singaporeans follow the clock closely, so I was not surprised that the event started at around 9:15am. There was to be a short ceremony to kickstart the event.
From left, Ambassador Kok Li Peng, Senator Cynthia Villar, and Mr. Vivencio Dizon
Ambassador to the Philippines, Ms. Kok Li Peng, gave the opening remarks. She said that, in Singapore, the movement to plant trees started in 1963 when the then Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew planted the first tree, a Mempat tree, at Farrer Circus. This marked the launch of an island-wide greening movement that has continued for over 5 decades. Indeed, this movement has made Singapore the standard bearer in Asia of a green and modern city for its citizens and visitors. The fruit of Mr. Lee's vision and commitment for a green city is plain for all who have visited Singapore to see. Spreading the practice of tree planting overseas is therefore one of the ways that Singaporeans honor Mr. Lee's legacy, and at the same time sharing his vision with other countries.
Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar, the chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, was the guest of honor, and she spoke next. She talked about her endeavour to push for the development of the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Eco-Tourism Area (LPPCHEA) as an alternative destination for urban dwellers and tourists. LPPCHEA, a 175-hectare mangrove forest and marine habitat in Manila Bay serves as a sanctuary for 84 bird species, including migratory birds and globally-threatened Philippine duck and Chinese egret.
The new chairman of Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), Mr. Vivencio Dizon, was also a guest of honor. He commended the Singapore Embassy for bringing their green practice to Fort Bonifacio, an area that is jointly managed by BCDA and its major partners in the area, such as Ayala Corporation. He talked about being inspired by the gardens and parks in Singapore.
Taguig City Councilor Edwin Eron informed us that apart from Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City had other areas that were being promoted for tourism. Last to speak was Atty Roberto Oliva, Executive Director of ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. He told us that the Philippines was one of a few mega countries for biodiversity in the world, as the Asean countries, while only occupy 3% of land mass on Earth, are home to more than 20% of the species of animals and plants.
After the short ceremony, we proceeded to an open space that is located next to BGC Greenway and outside Icon Residences. 100 tree seedlings were to be planted that day, and friends of the Singaporean Embassy were invited to sponsor the seedlings. I was given six name tags and plastic gloves.
At the open space, there were holes dug up on the ground, and a seedling was placed next to each hole. Apparently, all tree planters needed to do was to put the tree in the hole and cover it with soil, and then water it. It was that easy. After watching the Ambassador and guests of honor planted the tree, I went to look for my trees. Unfortunately, it seems that the seedlings were oversubscribed. I was told that each family could only choose one tree seedling to tie all the name tags. I was a little disappointed, and I know many families who started planting the seedling before I did got more than one seedling. But oh well, one should not get upset about a small mishap of a good cause. Now I need to remember to check on our tree seedling once in a while to make sure that it thrives!
When I joined the activity, I expected just to support a worthwhile cause and get our names on some seedlings. I did those things, but I also learned about the reason for this event, as well as an initiative to develop a eco-tourism area in a nearby area (Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat is not far from Fort Bonifacio). I also had a chance to talk to Mr. Vince Dizon personally, whom told me that in North Bonifacio, near Uptown mall, there is a lot that is still owned by BCDA, and of that, 5,000 square meters will be reserved for green space. That talk also helps to relieve my worry that Fort Bonifacio will succumb to the urge to sell every piece of land available for a quick buck and ignore the residents' need for green space. Mr. Dizon seems to understand the importance of balanced development especially in an urban environment. I hope he and his team in BCDA will stay true to this course for all their projects.