MANA Mo (3)
This is my third annual article on MANA Mo (Maritime and Archipelagic Nation Awareness Month), which we are supposed to celebrate every year in September, following a proclamation issued by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017.
It is now the end of September 2019. What have we done to celebrate MANA Mo this year—or even just to remind ourselves of what we are as a nation—a MAN?
Have public knowledge, attitude, and positive action on our being a MAN improved? I suggest DepEd or a research organization measure and monitor those parameters because public participation is needed for us to face the challenges and tap the opportunities associated with our “MAN-hood,” including dealing with the West Philippine Sea (WPS) issue, sustainably using our marine resources, etc. Creating public awareness of our being a MAN must start with our young population.
Last year, as member of the Board of Advisers of the Philippine Navy, I directed the development of the first Mobile Marine and Naval Centrum (MMNC), which the DOST and Secretary Fortunato dela Peña supported. That’s aimed mainly at our youth but even senior citizens enjoyed our interactive exhibits that presented marine and naval facts, including the challenges that we face as a MAN and what we are doing about them. Local organizations may now invite and host the MMNC’s visit to their communities by contacting the Citizens Support Your Navy Foundation, Inc.
This year, one event that I participated in was the general membership meeting on Sept. 20 of the Maritime League (ML), which was organized by our President, Commodore Chuck Agustin, AFP (Ret.). Experts and scholars, such as Jay Batongbacal, director of UP’s Institute of Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea, made us understand better the contemporary issues and developments on the South China Sea (SCS), the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone, and other MAN-related topics.
Col. Rommel Cordova of the Philippine Army discussed his research on China’s Strategy on the SCS and how we might define strategic approaches for the Philippines.
One common observation is that our WPS strategies seem to focus on the political and military aspects, with little attention to the economic aspect—a challenge to the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), which includes many business leaders.
Early this year, I proposed inclusion of marine and maritime issues in the priority concerns of the MAP National Issues Committee chaired by Eddie Yap. So far, MAP members’ attention to MAN-related matters is just slowly increasing because other issues, such as the traffic situation, seem more urgent. Soon, Sr. Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will discuss with us the WPS issue. Thereafter, we hope more MAP members will become actively involved in addressing it and other issues and concerns arising from our being a MAN.
At our ML meeting, we also discussed the management of our inland bodies of water, which include the Laguna Lake, the largest of them, with an estimated water holding capacity of more than two billion cubic meters. We could use it to strengthen our water security. Sadly, we cannot do so now due to its high level of siltation with soil erosion from deforested areas and pollution from domestic, agricultural, and industrial sources around the Lake. Cleaning and dredging the Lake have become emergency measures not only to address water shortage but also to avoid flooding in the Laguna Lake region that covers areas from Laguna to Batangas and Quezon.
In response to the recent water crisis, MAP’s Board created three new committees in July. I was asked to chair one of them, MAP Sustainable Development Committee, which would focus on the reforestation of the Laguna Lake Watershed (LLW), an area that was about 382,000 hectares.
Reforesting this big area poses many challenges that include the informal settlers’ issue. MAP alone, even with its more than 1000 top management leaders and practitioners, cannot easily address the challenges that need the participation and cooperation of all. Hence, I accepted this big responsibility on the condition that I could invite partners outside MAP to help run the program that we now refer to as MAP & Partners’ PRD-LLW (Program on Reforestation with Development for the Laguna Lake Watershed).
With the support of our governor-in-charge, Dick Du-Baladad, we invited partners from both the public and private sectors to work with us through 19 task forces on topics ranging from policymaking to recognition of best reforestation initiative.
We have two project models: Model 1 on reforestation with development on public, ancestral domain, and private lands and Model 2 on river stabilization. We now have several project proponents for sites within the LLW, as well as outside, such as Zambales and Palawan.
We have chosen to reforest mainly with bamboo plants, with added indigenous trees to ensure forest diversity. We chose bamboo, which has about 80 species in our country, because some species grow fast enough to allow harvesting of some poles less than a year after planting time. We need such speedy growth because we are dealing with fast-growing risks such as the water crisis and climate change.
Bamboo is also adaptable to various locations—from coastal to uplands—and it may be planted with other plants and trees. It can produce much biomass up to about 100 years. It has many uses but our priorities are for food, construction (structures, furniture, and fixtures), energy and transport including bridges, and textile.
Bamboo can also contribute to our climate change risk reduction efforts. It has high ability to sequester carbon and to withstand adverse weather conditions such as typhoons.
Some of us in the PRD-LLW working group have taken a study tour of the bamboo industry in China and have been involved in bamboo planting for many years. In addition, we count on the help of additional experts on bamboo and indigenous trees on various tasks—selection of species, procurement of seedlings, training of people, etc.
The phrase “with development” means that we shall not only reforest to avoid soil erosion; we shall also try to help in the sustainable development of local communities in our project sites. Hence, we have social scientists and development workers in our group for support services.
We welcome support in cash and in kind. The Development Bank of the Philippines is the first to offer grant and loan funds through the help of Board Director Rollie Metin, former DENR undersecretary who understands well the risks of deforestation. We hope to have more of them.
But the long-term success of our PRD-LLW depends not only on our MAP and Partners’ group and sources of support. It also depends much on our youth who will eventually continue our work.
To promote understanding of reforestation and its sustainable development context, we are developing a mobile centrum on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with emphasis on those dealing with water, climate action, life on land and reforestation, and inclusive development with no more poverty. We will translate the SDGs into interactive exhibits that will be educational and enjoyable for young ones, as well as young once.
Serge Ramos III, general manager of PCI Tech Center, and May Pagsinohin, executive director, Philippine Foundation for Science and Technology, have joined our task force on this project.
We welcome other environment-caring individuals with at least two of three Ws—wealth (theirs or their contacts’), wisdom, and willingness to work—to join our PRD-LLW that now has 170 viber group members. Our style is “work hard and play hard,” with lots of prayers in between. Our next meeting is on Oct. 12, when top experts on bamboo and indigenous trees will give educational presentations.
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