In Basilan, tree planting is symbol of peace, unity between government, MNLF
ZAMBOANGA CITY—A denuded portion of Masola village in Isabela City, Basilan province, has become a symbol of peace and unity as 300 policemen, soldiers and members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) gathered there this week to plant more than a thousand seedlings of hardwood trees.
Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the 101st Army Brigade, said the denudation of the mountainous part of Masola village prompted the groups to join hands in Monday’s reforestation activity where they planted narra (Pterocarpus indicus), lauan (Shorea negrosensis) and “yakal” (Shorea astylosa) to protect the watershed. The area, which is near a camp of the MNLF, is around 53 kilometers away from the city center.
“The watershed is generally okay but there’s a need for massive tree planting because there are areas which have been denuded due to logging activities. We observe that [what constitutes] the forest cover [of the area] are mostly rubber trees,” Luzon said.
He said MNLF members should take responsibility in protecting and preserving the forest as the area had been their home and site of the former rebel group’s Camp Saidina Ali Radiallahu Anhu. The village of Masola has a population of 1,861.
Both factions of the MNLF led by MNLF founder Nur Misuari and Muslimin Sema joined the tree planting activity.
Edwin Ignacio, park maintenance foreman of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Isabela City, said his office had planted a total of 10,000 hardwood trees this year alone as tree planting, participated in by different groups, had been a regular activity of his office.
“[Both the Misuari and Sema factions of the MNLF] have been our reliable partners in sustaining peace and fostering further development in Basilan. We count on them to continue protecting the forest and to ensure it will not serve as a haven of lawless elements,” Luzon said.
He also said the tree planting was a tribute to the 101st Brigade’s 23rd founding anniversary and meant to celebrate the MNLF and different groups as “reliable partners in sustaining the peace and fostering further development in Basilan.”
Luzon said the protection of the watershed should be an inclusive effort, as Isabela’s 130,379 people continued to depend on the forests to sustain their source of safe drinking water.