The Yuchengco Group of Companies (YGC) has embarked in a forward-looking project of planting 50,000 native trees within a sprawling 100 hectares in Mt. Bangkaan in the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines.
Such a massive project will benefit not only Sierra Madre’s biodiversity but also the entire population of Greater Metro Manila, from a sustainable watershed protection.
The choice of Mt. Bangkaan is crucial, being part of the micro basin of the Laiban Watershed, a vital potential source of water for Metro Manila.
In 2011, the denigration of the forest cover in Mt. Bangkaan was already apparent. This same condition appears to be the common landscape in many parts of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges and most of the country’s forestlands.
That same year, the YGC Earth Care Project was born, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Indigenous People (IP) of Tanay.
The objectives of the project include reforestation and watershed protection, both of which are expected to contribute to the overall well-being of Filipinos.
To date, there are 23,000 forest trees planted along the 58-hectare plant site, most of which are now over 20 feet high.
“We thank our dedicated partners, namely the DENR for the 100 hectares that they have entrusted to us for this project and for continuously sharing their expertise on forest management, and to the indigenous people of Mt. Bangkaan- the Dumagats and Remontados who have warmly embraced this project from the start and have faithfully nurtured and protected the trees as their own,” Helen Yuchengco Dee, Chairperson of YGC, said.
“Lastly, I would like to commend our YGC Earth Care Mountaineers – the volunteers from different YGC companies who have selflessly shared their time and energy in ensuring that we maintain this fine balance, protecting the present and our futures,” she added.
A Decade of Change
After 10 years, the once denuded forest is now teeming with life of flora and fauna, Felomen Antonio, DENR Superintendent on Protected Areas, said.
Endemic native trees, which dominated YGC’s reforestation efforts, are now providing significant contribution in watershed protection and in safeguarding biodiversity.
“Beyond reforestation is the healthy biodiversity now present in Mt. Bangkaan. Because of biodiversity, the mountain today is full of life. Ka Lito Aran, the president of the People’s Organization announced that birds like luklaks and malkohas and mammals like jungle chickens, sand lizards and musangs – are now regular life creatures in the mountain. Further, eco-tourism has greatly improved as going up and down the mountain is much more convenient because of the cover provided by the grown-up trees and the mountain trails developed through the project,” Antonio further said.
Restoring Nature, Changing Lives
Now that YGC has completed 58 hectares with fully grown-up trees, the next big step for the project is to cover the remaining 42 hectares under Phase 4.
Liwayway Gener, Executive Vice President of YGC Corporate Services Inc. said that Phase 4 of the project is significant with the implementation of the Agro Forestry Model, which addresses both environmental and socio-economic objectives.
YGC will implement an expanded program that blends sustainable life for the IPs with reforestation initiatives and watershed protection. The beneficiaries for Phase 4 will be 21 IP families, 11 of which have been working with YGC for more than 10 years.
Last September 12, planting activity under Phase 4 got underway involving mostly fruit trees and crops. A total of 6,000 high grade saplings, including Guimaras mango, RCF avocado, Haitian star apple, Bangkok santol, and R5 rambutan, have been hauled and are now ready for planting.
The life cycle of Phase 4 will be between three to five years, the timeframe required for trees to start to bear fruits. And it is at this stage of bearing fruits where IPs socio economic objectives are expected to be attained and YGC’s Sustainable Life Program for the IPs are likewise to be met.
From here on, IPs will have sustainable cash income streams coming from the various fruit harvests of the 264 trees that were planted and grown by each IP under the Program.
“Through our initiatives, like the YGC Earth Care Project, we underlined the weight of our decisions and showed others how we must be responsible and accountable stewards of the environment,” Dee said.
“What we take, we must give back – ensuring balance, peace, stability, and sustainability. Remember, the actions we take today have a direct consequence on our tomorrow. And this impact is not limited to our own personal sphere, it affects us all,” she further said.
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