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Honda, Haribon cap decade of partnership with 50,000th tree planted

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer November 20,2019

Military personnel help secure planting site for 150 volunteers.

Photos by Tessa R. Salazar

Not even the threat of incoming typhoon “Ramon” could stop the 50,000th tree from being planted.

Fortunately, this typhoon slowed down and changed course, enough to provide some dedicated volunteers the good weather to complete their good deed. Honda Foundation Inc, the corporate social responsibility arm of the Japanese auto firm, and nature conservation group Haribon capped their 10th year of partnership last Nov. 16 in a tree-planting activity on a mountainside in Real, Quezon Province.

The 5,000 saplings planted on this day, brought to 50,000 the total number of trees planted by the Honda-Haribon partnership that has been running since 2010, across 36 hectares of damaged forests in the provinces of Laguna, Quezon and Rizal. Haribon Foundation revealed to Inquirer Motoring that Honda has been the longest corporate partner of its Forest for Life Movement.

A total of 150 employees of Honda Cars Philippines Inc (HCPI), Honda Philippines Inc., Honda Parts Manufacturing Corp., and Honda Trading Philippines Ecozone Corp. volunteered to plant the 5,000 seedlings on a 4-hectare mountainside in Barangay Tanauan in Real. The area was known to have been previously denuded and prone to landslides.

“For 10 years now, we have been doing tree planting with Haribon, and our commitment to leave blue skies for our children, goes stronger,” Hirotake Shimosaka, HFI adviser, mentioned during his opening remarks.

With the shared objective of restoring Philippine rainforests, Honda Foundation Inc. and Haribon had set about planting native tree species such as Narra, Apitong, and Lauan on areas the latter considered “protected areas,” or what Haribon forester Thaddeus C. Martinez, special programs head of Haribon Foundation’s Natural Resources Management Division, considers “declared protected areas through Presidential Proclamation 1636: Game refuge and wildlife sanctuaries.”

For the volunteers, planting trees also means planting a sustainable future for coming generations.

Martinez hopes that the Honda-Haribon partnership continues. “The Philippines only has about 6.8 million hectares of forest remaining, but we need a minimum 12 million hectares of forest for us to continuously benefit from the ecology.” Restoring the country’s forest cover not only restores the fragile biodiversity, but also results in clean air and water, resilience to climate change and natural hazards, as well as provide more options for sustainable livelihood to nearby communities, explains Martinez.

Martinez also pointed to a patch of young trees near the newly planted saplings. “This is the area where the Honda group and other partner corporations first visited this site in 2012 and planted saplings. As you can see, the forest cover here is now quite thick.”

Martinez stressed that “the best long-term solution to forest denudation would still be to plant trees, because the roots of these trees will serve as soil anchors that will prevent soil erosion and landslides.

“We have planted native trees, particularly tibig, hawili, narra, and catmon sourced from the mother trees in this forest. This ensures that the seedlings are well-adapted to the particular area, and would have a stronger hold on the soil.”

Despite these native trees growing relatively slower, “the fast-growing trees, particularly some exotic species, also consume water fast, and the quality of wood they produce is not as good as the native, slow-growing ones,” Martinez observes.

Motoring media with HCPI’s Che Cabotaje (right).

Martinez said the trees planted in 2012 were supervised by his group until 2017. By then, the responsibility of looking after the trees were handed over to the local government of Real.

“We will see these 5,000 seedlings fully grown in an estimated 10 more years.”

According to a biophysical survey conducted by Haribon to check the health of the reforested areas, about 28 species of birds were found in the various restored habitats, 18 of these endemic to the Philippines. Some of these birds are the Philippine Magpie-robin (Copsychus mindanensis), the Blue Headed Fantail (Rhipidura cyaniceps), the Lowland White-eye (Zosterops meyeni), and the Sulphur-billed Nuthatch (Sitta oenochlamys). The presence of these birds highlights the progress of reforestation, as efforts continue to make a better ecosystem for local communities and wildlife conservation.

Aside from recovering biodiversity, clean air and water, resilience to climate change and natural hazards, the project also provides options for sustainable livelihood to nearby communities. In line with Honda’s 2030 vision of providing a sustainable society for the next generation, the reforestation activities also provides livelihood support to community partners who become caretakers of these reforested areas to ensure the survival of the newly planted trees and reforested communities for future generations.

Martinez only hopes that more individuals would be inspired by the efforts of corporations like Honda, and be motivated to join tree-planting activities. “We are thankful for corporations like Honda Foundation. Their collective acts not only have given communities the chance to benefit from a restored forest ecologically, but in terms of livelihood as well. In a span of three years, these communities here will have continuous livelihood incentives for maintaining these seedlings.

“We are all responsible to take care of the environment, particularly by planting trees.”

Honda Foundation Inc is the CSR arm of the Japanese company. According to the Honda Philippines website, Honda believes that as a “member of society, we must be sensitive to the environment, and the needs of the communities in which we do business.” With this in mind, the Honda Foundation was created. To strengthen Honda’s CSR, the purpose for which the Foundation was created was amended to include projects in any of the following fields: Environment protection and safety, youth development and education, job creation and poverty alleviation (philanthropy).

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