Ex-drug users join greening program
COTABATO CITY—Former users and peddlers of illegal drugs are going green in Maguindanao province, helping the government meet its target of planting one million trees in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
What was once barren ground in the local government complex in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao are now dotted with many of the 1,000 seedlings of mahogany trees planted on Friday by some 200 people who have surrendered to authorities amid the relentless campaign of the Duterte administration to stop illegal drug abuse and trafficking.
Two of the planters—Teng and Omar (not their real names)—told reporters that they were dragged into the vice by friends and out of curiosity, but added they were happy being part of the change promised by President Duterte.
They were among those who had earlier committed to perform community service, including tree planting, in their sworn deeds of undertaking for rehabilitation to the local government, peace and order council, and the police, said Insp. Armando Liwan, police chief of Shariff Aguak.
The mahogany seedlings came from the nursery being maintained by the regional Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Maguindanao. A total of one million seedlings are being propagated in the facility, said Domingo Dagadas, head of the provincial environment and natural resources office.
Local officials led by Mayor Marop Ampatuan and policemen initiated the tree planting activity at the five-hectare open field of the municipal hall complex. The event was part of the Philippines’ commitment to the United Nations under the Kyoto Protocol to help minimize the adverse effects of carbon emissions, according to regional Environment Secretary Kahal Kedtag.
Kedtag cited studies showing that the fast-growing mahogany trees “effectively sequester atmospheric contents of carbon dioxide” at 7.7 tons per hectare (T/ha), out of the 17 T/ha carbon dioxide density generated by smoke spewed by vehicles and big industries.
He said ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman had set a similar target of one million trees to be planted in the region’s component provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-tawi, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.
Ampatuan said the tree planting was the first step toward greening that empty space previously used for huge rallies and gatherings of supporters of the Ampatuan political clan in past elections.