MERALCO’S ONE FOR TREES: Building a greener future through sustainable reforestation

Climate change has recently been in everyone’s radar and has known to affect even the arctic, causing ice caps to melt and sea levels to rise. With the Philippines being one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, it is imperative that bold steps are undertaken to mitigate its effects.

With increased emission of carbon dioxide or CO2 in the atmosphere identified as one of the causes of global warming, reforestation plays an important role in helping address the problem since these trees release oxygen that can offset CO2 emissions.

In fact, the country’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been implementing an ambitious reforestation project called the National Greening Program which so far covered some 2 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2021.

Meralco employees participated in Maynilad’s Plant for Life Kickoff last July in order to rehabilitate and reforest the La Mesa Watershed as a main source of water for many households in Metro Manila.

One with the nation in helping address climate change, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has been advocating sustainability to help build a better and greener future for the future generations. In 2019, the country’s largest electric distribution utility, embarked on a new journey and placed sustainability at the top of its corporate agenda and at the core of its strategy and operations, and established its own sustainability agenda aptly called Powering the Good Life, which is deeply rooted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

Late last year, One for Trees expanded its program in the Mount Kalatungan mountain range in Pangantucan, Bukidnon where some 50,000 seedlings of native tree species including coffee trees were planted. Aside from the income earned for growing, planting, monitoring, and nurturing the seeds, the farmers will potentially earn more once the fruit bearing trees are ready for harvest, and the coffee beans are processed and sold.

Meralco as leader in sustainability

Environmental stewardship is part and parcel of Meralco’s Sustainability Agenda through its social development arm, One Meralco Foundation (OMF), which has been actively implementing key initiatives centered on helping build a greener future.

One of OMF’s key projects is One for Trees, an environmental program that aims to contribute to the preservation and protection of Philippine forests through reforestation and agroforestry.

OMF President, Jeff Tarayao (fourth from right) joined Meralco’s Legal and Corporate Governance Office led by Meralco Chief Legal Counsel Atty. Bill Pamintuan (sixth from right) and Head of Legal and Corporate Secretary of OMF, Atty. Zarah Villanueva Castro (extreme left) treated One for Trees farmers when it organized a movie-block screening fundraiser for the planting of new trees in San Miguel, Bulacan, and Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

Under this program, OMF plans to nurture and protect at least 5 million trees by 2025, while providing sustainable livelihood to communities around conservation sites. Launched in 2019, One for Trees engages local communities in the mission to plant trees, nurture them and ensure a high survival rate.

The program was piloted in San Miguel, Bulacan through OMF’s partnership with Green Earth Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization advocating agroforestry.

“The program highlights the importance of community engagement as a crucial element in making tree nurturing programs truly sustainable. While caring for the environment is important, attending to the social and economic needs of communities in and around forests is also equally essential,” Vice Chairman of OMF and President and CEO of Meralco Atty. Ray Espinosa said.

One for Trees — 2022 and Beyond

As of July 2022, more than 1.6 million trees have been nurtured in reforestation sites in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

These include trees planted by Global Business Power, a subsidiary of Meralco PowerGen (MGen) together with its community partners in Panay and in Cebu.

For this year, OMF will add 300,000 new trees. In preparation for the program implementation, it has already accomplished site and partner capability evaluations.

These trees will be planted in Siniloan, Laguna, Anda, Pilar, Ubay, Candijay, Mabini, and Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol, Kalibo, Aklan and Taguibo in Agusan del Norte together with non-government organization and community partners.

Besides conducting its own tree nurturing activities, OMF also participates in government-led planting activities. To celebrate Philippine Arbor Day, One for Trees joined the tree-planting activity in Magallanes, Cavite organized by its local government unit (LGU) last June.

In celebration of World Earth Day last June, OMF launched the “Earth Day, Everyday” campaign among Meralco employees. The campaign raised funds for the planting and maintenance of 300 new trees in One for Tree sites in San Miguel, Bulacan, and Pangantucan, Bukidnon.

To provide aid to One for Trees farmers, Meralco Legal and Corporate Governance and Compliance Office initiated a movie-block screening fundraiser last June 2022. The proceeds, which included a donation of MPower, Meralco’s Local Retail Energy Supplier, will also be used to fund the planting of new trees.

During this year’s Philippine Arbor Day, employees from Meralco Tagaytay Business Center joined the local government of Magallanes, Cavite in a tree planting activity in the municipality.

“If we look at a tree planting program only from an environmental perspective, there is a good chance it will remain a philanthropy. We must look at its social and economic benefits, too, to be able to sustain it,” said Jeffrey O. Tarayao, President of OMF and Meralco Chief Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Officer.

“In the long run, these trees will certainly help mitigate the effects of climate change. I believe that through One for Trees, we are able to significantly contribute to our shared responsibility of providing a livable, more sustainable world for our children,” Tarayao added.

The One for Trees program is more than just a tree planting initiative as it also provides livelihood to farmers by tasking them to nurture the trees. The employment of these farmers helps bring food to their table, especially during the non-harvest season.

One for Trees is Meralco’s way of taking environment stewardship to a whole new level — changing the misconception that a tree planting activity ends after the saplings have been planted. In fact, that is just the start. For the initiative to serve its purpose of addressing global warming, the activity must be followed through. Planting trees is, both literally and figuratively, an aspiration for a greener and brighter future for the next generation.

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