Uniting for the Common Good

The GREEN ARMY Supports the DENR “Green Philippine Highways” Project.

The Filipino Bayanihan Spirit is alive and well! Rather than squander precious energy on matters that divide and exclude, people from all over the archipelago came together on the morning of August 25, 2006 to plant native trees along the sides of the 3,439.5 kilometer Pan Philippine Highway which stretches from Ilocos province in Luzon to the cities of General Santos and Zambaonga in Mindanao.

The Green Philippine Highways project was initiated by the DENR and actively supported by the Green Army, a foundation comprised of representatives from the business, NGO / civil society, the religious and government sectors dedicated to caring for the Philippine environment.

Through the generous support of Green Army’s partner — Mirant Foundation, the Green Army conducted a massive information education and awareness campaign to engage and mobilize public support for this multi-sectoral endeavor.

The Green Philippine Highways project was implemented by Undersecretary Francisco Bravo of the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) under the auspices of Secretary Angelo Reyes. It was in response to a recent study that showed that the Philippines has the second most polluted air among eight Southeast Asian countries polled, with vehicle emissions accounting for 70 percent of the pollution. The research also revealed that it takes about 10 trees to sequester the poisonous carbon dioxide emitted by a single car.

This long chain of humanity brought together the passion of the NGOs, the efficiency, resources and discipline of the business sector, the moral grounding and support of spiritual groups, and the duly constituted authority of government. Through this concerted action, some 620,000 seedlings were distributed to government and civic groups and nearly a million participants signed up, including members of 4,414 organizations. Also, schools from over the Philippines had a reading of the story "Kayo Po Ba Ang Hari ng Kagubatan?" by this author, and watched its video as well.

DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Ms. Armie Jane Roa-Borje, who was assigned to handled the tree planting in Mindanao, recounted that days before the actual activity, she traveled by land all throughout Mindanao to inspect all the places where the trees would be planted. She was moved by the uncommon sight of military people carrying shovels and planting instruments instead of rifles and guns as they prepared the holes for the trees.

Usec. Borje was assigned at the junction boundary of Misamis and Bukidnon. On the morning of August 25, the army's six-by-six trucks ferried a total of 54,313 participants to their designated positions.

As a sign of solidarity, the participants had agreed to conduct a noise barrage starting at 9:55 am to prepare the way for a 10 second countdown to signal the start of the planting activity.

Euphoria filled the air! All throughout their area, for 4 minutes and 50 seconds, church bells tolled, fire and police sirens blared, and people cheered! The Radyo ng Bayan led the countdown and the participants all joined in unison.

Usec. Borje intimately shared: "It was very heartwarming to note that one of those who led the activities in the second district of Bukidnon was an opposition congressman. When I saw the people from both sides of the highway all counting together and planting with us, I was moved to tears! I realized na pwede pala mag-unite ang Filipinos for a good cause..."

Indeed, for one morning, the rich and poor joined forces, and people of various ages, faiths, and political affiliations all came together on the tacit understanding that we can respect our differences and work on concerns that unite us.

For the Green Army and other NGO's involved, optimism is high because of the shared vision of restoring the Earth. Because of this successful event, it could be said that by respecting beliefs and not imposing them on others, we can work for the benefit of all.

Each groups' involvement constitutes but one part of the whole. On their own, they can accomplish only so much, but as a whole, the effect is cumulative. By synchronizing and uniting each individual effort, we can all work together for the betterment of the Philippine environment.

Yes, the Filipino Bayanihan Spirit is alive and well ... by completing rather than competing, transcending rather than stagnating, including rather than marginalizing, and protecting rather than destroying, we have all shown the world that Filipinos can unite for the common good.

Two and a half year-old Unice Sue Raagas of Cagayan de Oro City could well be the youngest planter to have joined the Green Philippine Highways Tree Planting project. Unice was accompanied by her mother Susan Daisy, an employee of the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and officer of a non-government organization, Asia Pacific Society for Sustainable Development. Since she was unable to write yet, Unice's thumb mark was instead entered on the GPH registration form to document her participation.