Press Release
May 22, 2024

Opening Statement of Senator Cynthia A. Villar
Public Hearing on Tree Planting Bills


Joint with Committee On Higher, Technical And Vocational Education,
Committee On Local Government, And Committee On Finance

May 22, 2024 (Wednesday), 10:00 a.m.
Sen. Lorenzo M. Tañada Room, 2/F Right Wing, Senate

In today's hearing, we will discuss the bills aimed at enhancing environmental sustainability and mitigating the climate change impact through various tree planting initiatives.

These bills are as follows:

1) Senate Bills No. 1538, 2228, and House Bill No. 9588: Filed by Senator Revilla, myself and Congressman Mark Go, respectively, these refer to the Graduating Legacy for Reforestation Bill. In sum, these bills require graduating high school and college students to plant trees as a requirement for graduation and as part of their civic duties.

2) House Bill No. 9587 (Family Tree Planting Bill): Filed by Representatives Primicias-Agabas, Mark Go, et al., this bill requires parents to plant two trees for every child born to them.

3) Senate Bill No. 1444 (by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada) and House Bill No. 8569 (by Representative Primicias-Agabas): These bills require the submission of a tree planting plan as part of the requirements for obtaining building permits.

The severity of the heat wave index we have experienced lately as part of the El Niño phenomenon, reaching as high as 53 degrees Celsius, has prompted us to seriously consider these tree planting bills.

Why plant trees? Let us count the ways:

  •  The Environmental Benefits:

1) Carbon Sequestration Trees play a crucial role in mitigating climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Through the process of photosynthesis, trees convert CO2 into oxygen and carbon, storing the carbon in their biomass (trunks, branches, leaves, and roots) and soil. This process reduces the overall concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, helping to combat the greenhouse effect and global warming. Mature forests are significant carbon sinks, sequestering large amounts of carbon annually.

2) Air Quality Improvement: Trees act as natural air filters. They absorb pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, ammonia, and nitrogen oxides, as well as particulate matter from the air, thus improving overall air quality. Cleaner air contributes to better health outcomes for humans and wildlife alike.

3) Temperature Regulation: Trees provide shade and release water vapor through transpiration, which cools the air. This is particularly important in urban areas where concrete and asphalt retain heat, creating the urban heat island effect. By lowering temperatures, trees reduce the need for air conditioning, thereby saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

4) Biodiversity: Forests and tree-rich areas are habitats for a wide variety of plant and animal species. Trees support complex ecosystems, promoting biodiversity and maintaining ecological balance. Healthy ecosystems are more resilient to climate change impacts and help sustain life on Earth.

5) Water Management Trees play a vital role in the water cycle. They capture rainwater, reduce runoff, and facilitate groundwater recharge. Their root systems stabilize soil, preventing erosion and reducing the risk of landslides and floods. By improving water quality and availability, trees help sustain agriculture and human communities, especially in areas prone to drought.

6) Soil Conservation: Tree roots bind soil and prevent erosion. They also enhance soil fertility by adding organic matter through leaf litter and root decay. Healthy soils are better at storing carbon and supporting plant growth, which is essential for food security and biodiversity.

  •  The Community and Economic Benefits:

1) Health Benefits: Green spaces with trees promote physical and mental well-being by providing areas for exercise and relaxation.

2) Economic Value: Trees increase property values, attract tourism, and create jobs in various sectors.

3) Educational Value: Tree planting programs educate students and communities about environmental stewardship and the importance of sustainable practices. By involving young people in tree planting initiatives, we instill a sense of responsibility and connection to the natural world, fostering the next generation of environmental advocates. In light of recent intense heat waves and the escalating impacts of climate change, it is important that we consider these bills. Scientists are now referring to our situation not as 'global warming' anymore, but 'global boiling' already, which shows the severity and frequency of extreme weather events.

With that, we look forward to a productive discussion on our agenda today with our resource persons. Our goal is to refine these proposals to ensure they are practical and ultimately, will benefit our environment and communities.

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