We are still pushing our old “Billion Trees” program for the Philippines and hopefully for other countries which we launched when we had the good fortune, by God’s grace, to be elected five times as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Our dream at the time was for a worldwide launch of a “Trillion Trees” to green the countries and the communities of the world, provide timber, housing, and fruits for all peoples, and save our environment at the same time.
Although, rightfully, our attention and efforts are now focused on stamping out the raging coronavirus pandemic, let us not negate other threats of nature that have been besetting our country and the world for many years now and for which we have been warned about.
One of those is environmental degradation which, sadly, most of us have been taking for granted, if not completely ignore. While this columnist is not an environmental expert, we believe this clear and present danger could explode in the near future.
This global threat is becoming more and more serious that the World Economic Forum last January, 2020, launched a program to “grow, restore, and conserve one trillion trees around the world and in a bid to restore biodiversity and help fight climate change.”
As we mentioned in our column much earlier, we were elated by the same initiative by the World Economic Forum as we have been advocating a “Trillion Trees Program” in the international community since our earlier years as speaker of the House of Representatives and as founding chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), as well as in the various international organizations which we are privileged to serve.
We believe reforestation and tree farming, on the scale and intensity the planet needs, can and must become a significant jobs-creating economic stimulus for developing countries, if not all countries, that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the regional banks, parliaments, political parties, and civil society should champion.
Massive tree planting can become a virtuous circle — of planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing timber, and replanting, a forever cycle that can generate tens of millions of jobs worldwide for poor young men and young women in the emerging countries, apart from addressing food shortage and expanding upland agriculture, and especially, perhaps more importantly, contributing in a most significant way to the battle against climate change and environmental degradation.
For just as valuable, these new forests control mountain erosion, prevent the silting of streams and rivers, save human life from destructive floods that overflow the rivers, destroying crops, fish farms, livestock, cities, townships, villages, and hard-won economic gains.
We proposed these programs can be organized through what we might call “Billions of Trees Foundations” managed by civil-society groupings, and strongly supported by governments, parliaments, and political parties, or perhaps, even better, undertaken by governments themselves, and actively supported even managed by the private sector.
We wish to note that in 1933, during the Great Depression, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the Civilian Conservative Corps (CCC), composed of 6 million young jobless Americans, mostly from the East, which, in less than 10 years, built more than 800 parks and planted 3 billion trees nationwide.
Roosevelt put the then younger Douglas MacArthur, before he became the legendary World War II hero, in charge of the CCC — or Roosevelt’s Tree Army.
Our country should support and be in the forefront of the global effort to plant trillions of trees to save the present and future generation and insure the longevity of our planet Earth.