CITY of BALANGA, Bataan – Last June 25, 2016, Bataan became the new Guinness World Records title holder for the most number of trees planted in an hour by a team of unlimited size in a single location. But more than just breaking a world record, such event is Bataan’s way of sending a strong message to the world that as we strive to become the preferred location for eco-industrial investments, we are also protecting our environment, hence the title, Green Legacy for Bataan aims to be the first carbon neutral province in the country.
“This early, we are already reaping the low lying fruits of our endeavors,” as what Governor Albert S. Garcia is wont to say whenever he feels the need to rally the provincial government employees, in their efforts to achieve the province’s vision that by the year 2020, Bataan will have the lowest poverty incidence resulting from quality growth, attaining top level human development index in the country. Quality growth is sustainable, inclusive, rapid, efficient and resilient.
Based on latest PSA report, Bataan ranks first in terms of poverty incidence at 2.0%, not far from Malaysia’s 0.6%, lower than Vietnam’s 7.0%, Thailand’s 10.5% and Indonesia’s 10.9%.
The conversion of BEPZ in Mariveles into FAB, the emerging economic dragon of the Philippines, not to mention the 5 economic zones in the towns of Hermosa, Limay, Bagac, and Morong all play a major role in Bataan’s landing on the first spot on the country’s official poverty statistics.
Akin to this fast economic growth is the need to develop better infrastructure, better educational institutions, better health facilities, better transportation system and better governance, to name a few. Since the transport system is a major challenge in the mobility of goods, people and services there is a pressing need to widen the existing roads now before it becomes a real problem, which is in line with the national government’s Build Build Build program.
Bataan is definitely performing well, which the national government can very well see, and it is even forecasted that this development will even be faster. Hence the DPWH and the DENR, with the full cooperation of the local government units starting from the provincial government down to the municipalities collaborated to accommodate this development by releasing the funds necessary for the widening of the Roman Expressway.
Here in Bataan, we don’t just cut trees. We earth ball them, we transplant them, take care of them to ensure that they grow and we even replace those trees that have to be cut by planting new trees for the coming generation.
Yes, while it is true that many trees, some of which are decades old, will have to be cut to give way to economic progress, but contrary to what some people claim, the provincial government is not totally sacrificing these trees. For one, the DPWH secured the necessary permit for special tree cutting, and even employing the earth balling method and transferring of trees.
Using the “earth balling” method, trees that are about 15-30cm in diameter, are uprooted and transplanted to another location. Based on recent report from the PG-ENRO, current status of the earth balled trees have 90% survival rate. Furthermore, for every tree that is cut, the DPWH is planting 100 seedlings as replacement.
According to Engr. Vic Ubaldo of the Provincial Government – Environment and Natural Resources Office (PG-ENRO), based on scientific studies, the carbon sequestration capacity of older trees is slow after earthballing. “Yun pong carbon sequestration capacity ay yung ability ng puno na mag absorb ng carbon dioxide na syang source ng pollution sa hangin. Mas matanda ang puno mas mabagal mag absorb ng maruming hangin kapag nailipat na.”
This goes without saying that younger trees can do this job more efficiently. Hence it is more efficient and economically feasible to earth ball younger trees and plant new trees.
The Provincial Government of Bataan maintains an open line of communication. It listens very intently and responds to the concerns of the people. While the government shares the sentiment of some people regarding the value they attach to these trees not to mention their environmental concerns, this issue on the cutting of trees to give way to the widening of roads is crucial and necessary for inclusive growth. As someone put it, “something’s gotta give”.
As Governor Abet S. Garcia put it, as we value these old trees, we value more the lives of the people. In widening roads, first and foremost concern is the safety of commuters, motorists and pedestrians alike; comfort and economic gains are secondary.
Based on MBDA data analysis, the occurrence of road accidents along the Roman Expressway can be minimized or hopefully totally avoided with better, wider and brighter roads.
In a meeting held at the Governor’s office this morning, attended by MBDA General Manager Charlie Pizarro, PIO head, Geoffrey Loyola, PG-ENRO head Engr. Vic Ubaldo, DPWH 1st District Engr. Rolando Flores part of the master plan of the national government for the Roman Expressway is to put medians for the streetlights (at the center) and roundabouts (rotunda) and later on flyovers in major intersections for the safety of all motorists, commuters and even pedestrians.
In underscoring safety, Gov. Abet even mentioned that his late father, former Congressman Tet Garcia met an accident along the Roman Expressway while inspecting the damages brought by a typhoon in the province. “Nabagsakan ng puno ang sasakyan niya.” What is even worse was said accident caused the life of his driver.
Last week, a Memorandum of Understanding was forged between the Provincial Government of Bataan-City of Balanga and the BYD Auto Industry Company Ltd for a multi-layered electrified transportation solution. In fact, before December 31 of this year, ten (10) electric buses will be deployed in Balanga City. This again shows the government’s commitment to protect human lives, above all else, by aiming to become the first carbon neutral province in the country.
All these show the unwavering commitment of the provincial government to achieve its vision and fulfill its mission, that is excellent public service towards a better quality of life for all – making Bataan the best place to live, study, work and raise a family.