Columns Environment & Climate

THE OUTSIDER: Protecting Mother Earth, 3 years of Million Trees Foundation

Filipinos especially those in provinces greatly affected by El Nino welcome the El Nino Advisory issued by PAGASA-DOST this month.
The advisory noted that El Nino shows signs of weakening. It is expected to last until May during which it will transition to ENSO-neutral conditions from April until June. However, according to the advisory, there is a 55% chance for La Niña to develop from June-August.
El Nino refers to a large scale oceanographic/meteorological phenomenon that develops in the 
Pacific Ocean, and is associated with extreme climatic variability. In our country, indicators of the El Nino phenomenon include delayed onset and early termination of the rainy season, and fewer tropical cyclones entering the Philippine Area of Responsibility. The dry spell and drought being experienced by many provinces throughout the country are associated with the El Nino 
phenomenon. It was reported that El Nino has caused. P1.23 billion in agricultural damage with affected crop area reaching 26,731.4 hectares.
The government has formulated a National Action Plan to address challenges of the El Nino phenomenon and to increase the resilience of affected communities. On January 19, 2024, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. issued Executive Order No. 53 reactivating and reconstituting the Task Force El Nino. The Task Force, chaired by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro is tasked with the implementation of solutions “to ensure food, water and energy security, safeguard livelihoods, and improve the country’s disaster and climate resilience” delineated in the Strategic El Niño National Action Plan. It is also mandated to revise and update 
the action plan.
It will be recalled that in 2001, a Presidential Task Force was created for better coordination in the formulation and implementation of measures to mitigate the effects the El Nino phenomena. 
This Task Force was reconstituted in 2019 as the El Nino Task Force.
After El Nino comes La Nina which is characterized by above normal rainfall conditions across most areas of the country.
El Niño and La Niña are the warm and cool phases of a recurring climate pattern across the tropical Pacific—the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or “ENSO” for short according to the website El Niño & La Niña (El Niño-Southern Oscillation).

Past experiences remind us that heavy rains usually result in inundation that damages agricultural crops, affects energy supply, destroys infrastructure including residential structures, and even loss of lives.
Extreme heat, droughts and floods are unfavorable outcomes of climate change. One step to address these challenges, is reforestation. Many benefits are derived from trees: from preventing soil erosion, as habitat for wildlife, playing an important role in the water cycle, providing livelihood, to combatting climate change, among others.
Trees absorb carbon which is a major driver for global warming. The absorbed carbon is converted into nutrients needed by trees. Reforestation helps arrest the damage to our planet 
resulting from natural causes and human activities. 
It is our duty to leave behind a healthy and livable global home to future generations. As former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson stated, “If future generations are to remember us with 
gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through it.”
The Million Trees Foundation, Inc, while primarily established to support the Annual Million Tree Challenge (AMTC) of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, is committed to 
help address global warming and climate change with its tree-planting activities. So far, it has been successful in sustaining the gains of AMTC that has now planted and grown more than 7 million since 2017 in 
trees in the last seven years.
Last year, MTFI tree planting activities at the La Mesa were conducted in collaboration with Alpha Commerce Corporation, ATOS Information Technology, Inc., Balitang A2Z,  BDO-TBG CMS, Bulacan Bulk Water, Century City Estates Association, Inc.,  Christian Dior, ClockworX,  Dashcarr Pro, Flying Future Services, Inc., Fonterra Brand Philippines, Inc., Green Media Events Company, Grundfos, Hino Motors, Hitachi Solutions, Philippines, Howden Insurance & Reinsurance Brokers (Phils),  ICA Alumnae Association, ING Hubs Ph, Isuzu Inteco, Jardine Schindler 
Philippines, Kilos Ko Youth,Kiwanis International Philippine Luzon District Division 4A-2, MCVO, MEAD Johnson Nutrition Philippines, Inc., MNL City Run, Nestle Philippines, Inc., Netflix, New World Makati Hotel,  NFWC, Pambayang Dalubhasaan ng Marilao Teachers,  
Philippine College of Chest Physicians, Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine Veterans Bank, PICC,  RI District 3800, Rotaract Club of Manila Metro,Rotary Club Makati Gems, 
Rotary Club of Manila-Claro M. Recto,  Rotary Club of Metro Escolta, Rotary Club Metro East Taytay District 3800, Rotary Club Pasay,RTI International, Task Us Ph, The Raya School, and 
Union Bank of the Philippines.
I am also happy to share that nearing completion is the QBE Park, a project MTFI is undertaking with QBE Insurance Group. This is another step toward achieving the goal to bring people closer 
to nature, let them contemplate on its beauty, and inspire them to protect Mother Earth.  
Now on its third year, MTFI with its Million Trees Eco Learning Center has forged partnerships with different organizations and stakeholders not only for tree-planting and tree-growing 
activities but also to raise awareness on the importance of environment protection. 

In behalf of MTFI Chairman Emeritus Gen. Reynaldo V . Velasco and MWSS Administrator Leonor Cleofas, we thank San Miguel Corporation through SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang for its annual endowment of P5-million to the foundation and the two MWSS concessionaires – Maynilad and Manila Water – for their continuing institutional support. 

As a proverb goes, “we don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”