A new Filipino law would require all graduating high school and college students to plant at least 10 trees each before they can graduate.
The law, which has been passed by the country’s lower parliamentary house, formalises a tradition of planting trees upon graduation, which is also hoped to simultaneously combat global climate change.
The proponents of the law say the legislation could result in as many as 525 billion trees planted in a generation if it is properly adhered to. It has not yet been considered by the Senate (the upper parliamentary chamber), which must approve it before it can be signed into law by the president.
The Philippines’ Magdalo Party representative Gary Alejano, who was the principal author of the legislation, said: “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.
“In the course of one generation, no less than 525 billion can be planted under this initiative,” Mr Alejano said in the bill’s explanatory note.
“Even with a survival rate of only 10 per cent, 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.”
The trees will apparently be planted in mangroves, existing forests, some protected areas, military ranges, abandoned mining sites and selected urban areas, according to CNN’s Philippines news service.
The backers of the bill said the species selected for planting must be appropriate to each location, climate and topography of the area and there will also be a preference for indigenous species.
In addition to the immediate carbon-absorbing impact of the trees, it is hoped the legislation will help bring environmental understanding to future generations and lead to further ecological initiatives.
The country’s Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education will implement and ensure compliance with the bill if it is ultimately enacted.
The Philippines is one of the world’s most severely deforested countries with total forest cover dropping from 70 per cent to just 20 per cent during the 20th century. Illegal logging remains a problem for the country and the lack of trees in some areas has exacerbated the risk and the impacts of floods and landslides.
Update: This article has been amended to make clear that, while the bill has been passed by the House of Representatives, it has not yet been considered or passed by the Philippines Senate (the country’s upper house), nor signed into law by the president. 4/6/19
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