Sunday, April 26, 2015

Iloilo: Want Church blessing? Plant trees first

Catholics in Iloilo will soon be required to plant trees before they can avail themselves of church rites, such as baptism, wedding, and burial.

The Archdiocese of Jaro in Iloilo has found a way to leave residents with no choice but help in the government's reforestation campaign more than a year after parts of the province were placed under water by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The province aims to replace the thousands of trees, some of them century-old, that were uprooted by Yolanda, the strongest typhoon globally in recent history.

On Thursday, April 23, the archdiocese, the provincial government, and the local office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed an agreement to require the faithful to plant trees before they can avail themselves of Catholic rites, such as baptism, wedding, and burial.

“Prior to the signing of this agreement, some of our priests were already requiring marrying couples to plant trees before their wedding,” said Monsignor Higinio Velarde, who represented Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

Still, the practice has to be institutionalized throughout the province. “He may not be here with us today but this is very important for the Archbishop,” Velarde was quoted in a statement sent to media by the Iloilo provincial government.

Governor Governor Arthur Defensor Sr and DENR Regional Director Jim Sampulna also signed the memorandum of agreement.

Defensor said they will come up with implementing rules that will prescribe the number of trees to be planted and other steps to be taken by the church members before they are given certifications that they will present to the church.

“This MOA is still subject for review and ratification by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Before we finalize everything, we have to make sure that everything is provided by the law,” the governor said.

Defensor said a provincial ordinance might be needed to ensure the implementation and sustainability of the project.

The faithful who will participate in the project will be given designated areas in each municipality, where they will grow the “Tree Park of Life.”

“You know how important tree is. Mankind has invented a lot of things but none has created a tree. Only God can. If will abuse and disregard our environment, nothing will be left for the future,” said Defensor.

DENR's Sampulna said the project is consistent with the National Greening Program, a government program that seeks to ensure food security, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation.

The governor's office also has a program that aims to plant 1.5 million endemic trees and half a million mangroves.

“I am really thankful that the province and the church are supporting us in our mission to increase the forest cover of the region. I also hope that everybody will cooperate so we can achieve great things for all,” Sampulna said.


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