Angel B. Dukha III

Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL) aims to strengthen its commitment to the environment through a tree planting activity as it recently sealed a new partnership with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and a people’s organization. 

Through the partnership, CSJL will plant trees in a 5-hectare hillside land near a watershed in Sitio Pamusuan, Barangay San Mateo, Norzagaray, Bulacan.

Asst. Prof. Leo Bernadas, director of the Center for Community Development (CCD) of Letran, said the government’s enhanced National Greening Program (NGP) became the perfect opportunity to show their commitment.

(Left to right) Asst. Prof. Leo Bernadas with representatives ofrom Letran quadricentennial committee, DENR-PENRO, and BAPI.

Even before Bernadas took the post, he explained that Letran has always been involved in environmental activities, not only tree planting; but with his personal passion for the environment, he wants to enhance CSJL’s involvement.

“I want the Letran community to have the opportunity to contribute concretely in addressing the environmental issues and because of this, I learned about NGP so I became more excited,” Bernadas said.

DENR’s Provincial Environment and Natural Resources office of Bulacan (PENRO) will be the one to coordinate with Letran and Briquettor Association of the Philippines, Inc. (BAPI) throughout the 3-year span of their partnership. They also chose the seedlings suitable for the soil and assigned the area for planting. Their representatives also gave proper training to the volunteers on how to plant the seeds.

BAPI, an organization composed of people living in Sitio Pamusuan, prepared the land for the activity and is responsible for maintaining the planted trees. 

CSJL shouldered the financial requirements and had alumni, employees, faculty members, administrators, students, and parents as volunteers. Bernadas was happy to see the willingness of the Letran community to participate in a tree planting activity.

Letran hopes to see the progress of the trees not just in planting but also in nurturing of the seedlings within three years and turn it over to the people of Pamusuan to be a source of food or livelihood. 

“I am very excited. Even when I was still studying, I had involvement in tree planting, but I never knew if the trees I planted survived or not. So when I took this office, I said ‘Let’s make it concrete’,” he said.

The main goal was to plant 2,019 fruit-bearing and hardwood seedlings, with the 2,020th seedling to be planted in their campus for CSJL’s quadricentennial celebration at the same time, to show support to the NGP.

A volunteer poses for the camera.

In November, he will bring another set of volunteers to the barangay for replanting and fertilization follow-up activities to inspire the Letran community, even in just small steps, to be more involved in helping the environment. The organizations will continue to work together for the entirety of the agreement.

“As a member of the society, the consequences of environmental responsibilities are affecting today’s generation. I have a connection with the environment so NGP (became) a platform wherein we can have a more concrete participation in addressing environmental disputes then I was given the opportunity to lead this office,” he said

CSJL will also plant 2,020 Dungon hardwood seedlings inside their campus still for their quadricentennial celebration.

Bernadas personally practices his green thumb by cultivating a backyard garden of fruit bearing trees. He admits to spend more time in his garden with his family than inside the house. He even teaches his grade five son on how to plant.

The tree planting was done in the midst of the outcries of environmental advocates for the government to address the worsening climate change. 

NGP is the biggest reforestation project of the government aimed at introducing sustainable natural resource management while providing livelihood to vulnerable lowland and upland communities. It also promotes self-sufficiency of the nation in wood and wood products, poverty alleviation, food and economic security as well as environmental sustainability.

In 2015, Malacañang extended the implementation period of the NGP until 2028 to cover the remaining approximate 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forest land remaining in the state.