From D-max to ‘D-Makiling’

Isuzu’s tree nurturing program tranforms into a model of forest restoration

Green thumbs up from the IPC team.

Green thumbs up from the IPC team.

When automakers say they’re “paving the way” for more motorized vehicles to roll in, they most likely mean it literally.

More cars coming in require more roads to be built. More roads to be built require more lands to be occupied. More lands to occupy would most likely require more forested areas to be cleared and converted to roadways.

Thus, the environmental impact of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines fueled by fossil sources comes from two ends: one end impacts the environment by these vehicles’ production processes, operations, and emissions; and the other end impacts the environment by these vehicles’ need for “running space.”

While some automakers are attempting to mitigate their environmental effects on one end (e.g., by creating vehicles powered by alternative, renewable sources such as electricity or fuel cells), others try to lessen their carbon footprint by addressing the other end—taking care of the environment itself.

Isuzu Philippines Corp. is one such example of an auto manufacturer doing the latter.

In 2010, it started a forest restoration project in the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Los Baños, Laguna.

More than 5 hectares have already been planted by IPC.

More than 5 hectares have already been planted by IPC.

Adopting 13 of the 300 hectares of the reserve, IPC planted more than 300 trees comprising 13 endemic species, and constructed a 1.3-kilometer walkway for better access to the area for future tree-planting endeavors.

Last Feb. 4, IPC invited members of the Philippine motoring media for a walk in its adopted forest, reminding visitors that it hasn’t just been into building and selling metal beasts during its 20 years of operations in the country; it has also been quite busy trying to convert the greenhouse gases produced by its vehicles’ emissions into life-giving oxygen.

That morning trip also gave an opportunity for the people running the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve and the Makiling Botanic Gardens to showcase the forest conservation and restoration work that has been done so far, particularly at the Dipterocarp Arboretum, which has become a preferred venue for educational trips, scientific fieldwork, and leisure activities.

Roberto Cereno, director of the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystem Sustainability (TREES), described the dire situation of dipterocarps in the country:

“Dipterocarps are known for their strength, and have been used to produce almost anything—from electric posts, to paper and even resin.

“Seventy-five percent of the total land area of the Philippines used to be covered by dipterocarp trees. Now, they’re just down to 0.8 percent.”

This alarming reduction of the dipterocarp cover mirrors the deterioration of the country’s forest cover, in general.

An Inquirer news report published on April 23, 2013 quoted then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officer-in-charge and Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, who stated, “Our forests have dwindled in the past 100 years (from 30 million hectares) to only 7.2 million, or 24 percent of our land area,” resulting in the country having the second lowest forest cover in Southeast Asia.

Seeing the big picture, then, makes IPC’s 13 adopted hectares seem like a minute green dot in a vast swathe of desolate grays and browns.

The significance and hope that every planted tree brings, however, must not be lost for the desperation of the dying forests.

Time to nourish the nurturers.

Time to nourish the nurturers.

Cereno explained that, unlike other automakers or other corporate entities who conduct tree-planting activities just for photo-ops’ sake, IPC has adopted the forest for the “long run,” so to speak.

IPC, he said, has made good its commitment to nurture every sapling it has planted for the past seven years by visiting the site every three to six months to make sure each plant is alive and growing.

And if a sapling dies for one reason or another, visiting IPC staff re-plant another to take its place.

“We call this effort tree nurturing, not just tree planting,” Cereno said. And it’s a slow, deliberate process. “Out of the 13 hectares, we’ve just covered only five hectares.”

Cereno added that his group also uses only organic fertilizer, composed of dried leaves and soil. “We don’t use chemical and synthetic fertilizers.”

During IPC’s 20th anniversary kick-off activity at the site, IPC president Hajime Koso led company associates, officers of the Makiling Botanic Gardens, members of the motoring media, and other guests in planting a fresh batch of seedlings.

“IPC would not have thrived in the automotive industry for 20 years if it were not for the dedication, competence and hard work of its officers and associates. But a bigger part of IPC’s success comes from people who have patronized Isuzu products and services for two decades. It is only fitting that, as we celebrate this momentous occasion, we return the favor to society and continue pursuing our commitment to sustainability and environmental protection. This should be beneficial not only to residents of the communities we operate in but to all stakeholders as well,” Koso said.

IPC AVP for administration David Yandoc Jr. also confirmed IPC’s support for the CSR project with a “commitment for the environment” pledge.

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