What better way to teach the importance of trees and love for the environment than by exposing the young to nature in their own school’s backyard?
Environmental group Luntiang Pilipinas Foundation (LPF), with the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Department of Agriculture, recognized efforts by the country’s public high schools to protect and preserve the environment through the Best School Forest Park awards program.
Cauayan City National High School (CCNHS) in Isabela was the grand winner, receiving a plaque and P1.2 million for a new school building. Principal John Mina accepted the prize.
CCNHS was one of five national finalists chosen from 16 schools cited for creating, preserving and protecting forest parks in their own grounds.
Each of the 16 regional winners received P400,000 to buy 20 computers for their computer laboratories.
Winners were chosen based on the sustainability of the forest park, creativity and aesthetics, number of trees or seedlings planted based on size of site and community involvement in planning and supervision of the forest park.
A total of 189 high school participants from all over the Philippines participated.
CCNHS had planted some 1,566 trees in its grounds, covering around 3 hectares of land.
Not just a school project
Mina said the school’s mini forest park was being maintained not just by students and teachers, but even people not directly connected to CCNHS, like local government officials and employees.
Mina said environmental protection was integrated into the school’s curriculum. He said each tree planted in the school’s forest park was registered to a student.
Students who have graduated pass on the responsibility of caring for their trees to other students.
Education Secretary Armin Luistro, FSC, said an ongoing DepEd program aimed to plant 3,600 native trees in 700 schools in the National Capital Region. “If a tree can be cut down, it can also be planted,” he stressed.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change and founder of LPF, said her foundation remained “relentless in its efforts to encourage tree-growing activities in all parts of the country and promote awareness of the importance of trees in making our environment lively and safe.”
“Trees are essential and crucial to our survival, especially during these times when inundation, flood, drought and pollution have alternately caused harm and danger to our communities. We must educate our children about the importance of trees, and in doing so inculcate in them the love for our environment.”
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said disasters would be mitigated “if we have an educated community,” as he expressed his pleasure for DepEd’s support in programs to preserve the country’s natural resources.
Paje stressed that “environmental protection should become part of the daily lives of our people.”
While it might not be possible to beat climate change, Paje said people could adapt to it. “We want our people to be educated … If our people are educated enough, they will respond appropriately [to disaster warnings issued by the government],” he explained.
First runner-up in the School Forest Park project was Tubungan National High School (Region 6, Western Visayas). Ilocos Norte National High School (Region 1, Ilocos region) was third; Barobo National High School (Region 13, Caraga), fourth; and Dacudao National High School (Region 11, Davao region), fifth.
Each finalist also received a trophy and cash, aside from the money for the computer units that each regional winner got.
Other regional winners were Maria Aurora National High School (Region 3, Central Luzon), Alabat National High School (Region 4-Calabarzon), Princess Urduja National High School (Region 4-Mimaropa), Don Servillano Platon Memorial High School (Region 5, Bicol), Sierra Bullones Technical Vocational High School (Region 7, Central Visayas), Tacloban National Agricultural High School (Region 8, Eastern Visayas), Siayan National High School (Region 9, Zamboanga Peninsula), Placida Mequiabas National High School (Region 10, Northern Mindanao), Tulunan National High School (Region 12, Soccsksargen), Commonwealth High School (National Capital Region) and Pilar Rural High School (Cordillera Autonomous Region).
Legarda thanked participants and the DepEd for “making our schools greener and healthier.” She also said every school that participated was a winner because it contributed to the fight for a better Philippines.
She expressed the hope that the country’s schools would continue to nurture their forest parks and that the program would so inspire private institutions to have their own forest parks.