President Noynoy Aquino’s ceremonial tree planting at San Antonio, Ocampo, Camarines Sur last February 23 was a welcome boost to both the National Greening Program (NGP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and to the Camarines Sur Provincial Government which had launched the “El Verde Movement.” For the DENR, the NGP issues from and coheres with the President’s recent Executive Order No. 23 which was aimed at “protect[ing] the remaining forest cover areas of the country not only to prevent flash floods and hazardous flooding but also to preserve biodiversity, protect threatened habitats and sanctuaries of endangered and rare species, and allow natural regeneration of residual forests and development of plantation forests.”
Meanwhile, the primary aim of the “El Verde Movement”—basing at least from the official press releases of the Provincial Government—seems to confuse many as to whether it is to make it to the Guinness Book of World Records (by beating India’s record of planting 50,033 trees in one hour by planting 64, 096 trees) or to encourage people to fight the ill-effects of climate change. While the two are certainly not mutually exclusive and in fact are complementary with each other, the manner in which “El Verde” has been trumpeted to the public is that it has been gunning mainly for Guinness recognition. Sidelined if not lost in that effort is the truly commendable aim of promoting environment protection as an end in itself, and not as a ploy to sneak into the records book.
Moreover, we ask: must such an otherwise laudable project bear a name that advertises not so subtly the name of the Governor, and thus smack of as yet another endeavor of “political advertisement” on his part? For that matter, must his cartoon figure be the emblem of the Provincial Government’s supposed crusade against the adverse effects of climate change?
Bombarding local television with his images posturing as a “tinseltown” celebrity, the Governor had already been criticized in the past for engendering a personality-based politics as opposed to one based on principles. With “El Verde,” the self-aggrandizement continues, albeit with the bonuses of making it to the Guinness Book of World Records; and yes, before we all forget, helping save the environment.