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Thursday, October 23, 2008

10th Anniversary Celebration of Luntiang Pilipinas

10th Anniversary Celebration of Luntiang Pilipinas
October 14, 2008
Kweba, Rizal Park

Isang Luntiang umaga sa inyong lahat! Ako po ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyong pagdalo ngayong umagang ito sa ating pagdiriwang ng ika-sampung anibersaryo ng Luntiang Pilipinas, the greening movement which I organized in 1998 in the hope of raising the level of consciousness and awareness of our people about the value of trees. I must admit that when Luntiang Pilipinas was first conceptualized, the greening project was taken very lightly by those around us. But over the years, over the past decade, with the valuable assistance of our institutional partners and corporate sponsors, the greening movement has been steadfast in achieving its goal of establishing forest parks, or pockets of trees, in numerous towns and cities, schools and universities as well as along major highways and thoroughfares nationwide. Since then, we have planted over two million trees nationwide.

In the past, caring for the environment and protecting our natural resources has had to be put aside to give priority to the demands of the development efforts of the government. Only recently has this been given importance and priority – only after we have realized that the threat of global warming is more real than we can ever imagine and that we shall continue to suffer from the devastating effects of climate change, if we do not take the necessary steps to address this impending threat to our lives and security. While we welcome the fact that the government has in fact included environmental protection among its priorities under the proposed 2009 budget, we are all aware that no one, not one sector in our society holds the key towards addressing this problem.

As an ecological warrior and environmental advocate, this has become my personal mission – to impart with our fellow citizens not only the importance of being aware and understanding what is going on around us but, more importantly, spur them into action and participate, even in small and simple ways, in this huge undertaking.

A few months ago, I took the opportunity to deliver a privilege speech in the halls of the Philippine Senate entitled "A Call to Build Capacities to Combat Global Warming". In my speech, I highlighted the fact that climate change should be declared as the greatest scourge of our generation – its destructive power so enormous and great that the whole world has experienced droughts, massive flooding, snow-less winters, summers of baking heat, all within a few months time. The effects of erratic climate shifts have recognized no boundaries nor spared any race or territory.

That is why, too, we in Luntiang Pilipinas, along with other environmental organizations and movements, have not only sought to raise the level of awareness of the importance of trees, but more particularly, of how these plants shall become the much-needed agents of nature that will help strengthen our country's capacity for carbon sequestration through natural processes.

Today, I am grateful to each and every one of you for supporting Luntian's newest project called "10 @ 10". In celebration of its 10th anniversary, we are undertaking this 10 million trees online campaign to complement the already ongoing tree-planting activities of the organization as well as other government efforts in minimizing the risks caused by this global phenomenon. Similar to the United Nations Environment Programme enjoining the planting of 7 billion trees by the end of 2009, this nationwide campaign encourages the valuable contribution of individuals, private corporations and businesses as well as national and local government agencies in planting as many trees as they can in areas of their choice by 2011 to help strengthen the country's capacity for carbon sequestration through which carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is absorbed by trees, plants and crops through natural processes.

Interested parties may enter their pledges to plant as many trees as they can online and once their pledges are registered into the database, Luntiang Pilipinas will acknowledge their participation in the form of a pledge of commitment card to be issued in their name. Such pledge cards may also serve as discount cards in selected establishments, courtesy of Luntiang Pilipinas' merchant partners. Pledgers shall also be responsible for the actual tree-planting and shall be encouraged to send in photos or videos to document their activities and to monitor the progress and growth of the trees to be planted. Luntiang Pilipinas has entered into memoranda of agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Plant and Industries-Department of Agriculture which shall serve as the monitoring networks in implementing this campaign. Logistical support will be provided by Intel Philippines while the World AgroForestry Foundation will provide technical assistance for this campaign. The mechanics, ongoing tally of pledges and documentations submitted shall be posted in our official website,

Incidentally, today, I shall also be launching my new official website, and I am making this known to the public. In this age of information technology, the internet has become a prime source of information for almost everyone of us, regardless of our profession, craft, or expertise. In fact, the internet has become a vital tool for easily accessing millions, if not hundreds of millions, of sources of information on almost everything – the arts, business, the sciences, entertainment, etc. Yet again, while the internet provides us easy access to information, many have cautioned us of the veracity of such pieces of information that we source or download from the internet. Because, in reality, the internet has also become a venue for some members of our community, whether local or international, to engage in dubious or fraudulent activities.

A few months ago, in fact, I delivered a privilege speech in the Senate citing my personal experience of what may be considered a case of identity theft. If you search my name in the internet, several websites would appear, supposedly containing information about me, my advocacies or even my personal life. What alarmed me was that many of the information uploaded in the net, in these fake websites, were half-truths, if not outright malicious lies. And this is what I want to address. But officially, publicly-launching my website, I would like the public to know that, should there be a need for them to look up any information about me or my advocacies, they can always access my website for accurate and truthful information.

In any case, let me express once again my sincerest appreciation for your presence here today. Luntiang Pilipinas has once again embarked on a very timely and very important endeavor. While we do not claim this to be an overnight, instant solution to the environmental problem that our community and our country face, we all agree that this is the right step to take towards our aim to continually conquer the challenge of reviving and revitalizing our environment for the benefit of the Filipino people and the future generations. With your continued support and cooperation, along with the responsible participation of the stakeholders in this campaign, I am confident that we shall soon again enjoy the Earth's bounty.

Maraming salamat po at isang Luntiang Umaga sa inyong lahat!

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