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Retired CJ Puno accepts adviser role for Butuan City greening project

By Ben Serrano

BUTUAN CITY, April 10 — Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno on Saturday accepted the invitation of the Butuan City government, through Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr., to be the city government’s adviser/consultant in the city’s greening project.

The project, which was launched recently, is the first of its kind among cities in the country.

The retired Chief Magistrate was in Butuan City Saturday together with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Ernesto Adobo as special guests and speakers in the launching of Butuan City’s Balanghayan Grow a Million Tree Project.

The project aims to plant at least three million trees, with at least one million tree planted per year, between 2011 and 2013, in 86 urban and rural barangays of this city.

At a press conference during the project launching at the covered court of Barangay Bit-os, Butuan City, Mayor Amante announced he would recruit the former Chief Justice as legal consultant and adviser to the city government’s greening project, including anti-illegal logging and environmental protection drive.

Puno readily accepted the challenge to become adviser and consultant of the Butuan City government pro-bono.

However, Puno advised the city government to sustain the Grow a Million Tree project, saying he wants the project to succeed where he can see the trees planted grow.

Puno, who admitted his latest advocacy now is planting trees after retiring from the High Court, said he is hoping that people will not only be active in planting trees but also continuously take care of the tree seedlings from the time they are planted up to the time they can already stand on their own to grow.

“The secret there is to make the community and people owned the tree planting project so that they take care of it until it will be fully grown,” Puno said.

For his role as legal consultant in the Butuan City government’s anti-illegal logging and environmental protection program, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice admitted it will be a tough job.

“The key for successful prosecution of environmental violators to pay for the crimes they commit is total people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multisector involvement in the campaign,” Puno said.

Puno said planting trees is one of the mitigating measures to combat the disastrous effects of climate change. He noted that the country’s forest cover has deteriorated over the years to only 24 percent,

“The ideal forest cover of the country must be 54 percent, so nakikita ninyo na napaka-delikado na ang nangyayari sa ating bansa, tayo’y nagiging biktima na sa climate change,” he said

“Dahil din sa kawalan natin ng forest cover, yung ating mga plants at hayop ay unti-unting nawawala o namamatay. Dito po sa Butuan at Surigao, madalas din po na nababaha, kaunting ulan lang, baha na” Puno said.

Puno said he and DENR Undersecretary Adobo came to Butuan City precisely to see to it how the One Million-Tree a Year project will work.

Puno said one thing he got attracted to the project is that everybody in the community owns it, “and in that case this project will not fail because this project is owned by the people.”

The DENR undersecretary, for his part, said that the launching was timely in time of President Benigno S. Aquino III’s signing of an executive order requiring all government agencies to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of land staring this year up to 2016.

Adobo said that the assurance of the Department of Education to help in the tree planting project, whereby one pupil is required to produce 10 tree seedlings, can help boost President Aquino’s tree planting program.

"Apart from we see trees being planted, the impact of awareness for environmental awareness and protection through this project is great because we are slowly educating Filipinos, slowly but surely,” Adobo said. (PNA)

scs/Ben Serrano/jsd/rsm

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