Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Planting the Right Seeds: EDC Gathers Youth Leaders for New Perspectives on Environmental Issues

Fifty-eight college students from all over the country have learned their important greening mission in EDC’s first Binhi Youth Conference 

Zephanie Marie Danieles, a 19-year-old business administration student of St. Paul University of Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, was already active in environmental causes. Hailing from Siaton, she said Dumaguete and the province in general, hailed by many tourists as a favorable rustic destination, has many environmental problems such as improper waste disposal. When it floods in the city, trash is everywhere. Air pollution is also a problem, which is why they encourage walking and biking in this city said to have the most motorbikes in the country. Outside Dumaguete, there is a lot of mining, she said. Wanting to disprove the belief that they are the apathetic generation, she called on people to “act now.” “Time is not our ally,” she said.
Danieles was one of the 58 student leaders from universities and colleges all over the Philippines who participated in the first Binhi Youth Conference (BYC), organized by Energy Development Corporation (EDC), a company in the Lopez ground involved in developing geothermal and other renewable energy sources. It was held from November 15 to 17, 2012, at the Eugenio Lopez Center in Antipolo City, Rizal.
With the Binhi conference, Danieles was able to connect with fellow students who share her passion, and gain more knowledge and new perspective on environmental issues. She and other students resolved to do more for the environment.
“Initially, I will educate the people around me on the importance of biodiversity. Being a biology student of UPVTC, I would like to serve my purpose and also let my purpose serve me” stated Carlito Cabo Jr. from the University of the Philippines in Tacloban City, Leyte.
On the other hand, Kristina Vade Santos of Ateneo de Davao said, “As a student, it’s the simplest way I can influence others to protect the environment. I will be a good leader and role model first in my classroom, then in my division, to the whole school, and to the community. This may be simple but I believe that simple things can have great impact on a wider scale if we start doing it now.”
Rolan Ben Lorono from Negros Oriental State University in Dumaguete City said he will lead fellow students in reforestation, while Jonathan Bayaton, also from Dumaguete City, said he has already started collecting and planting endemic and indigenous tree species.
“I will promote waste segregation and impart to my schoolmates the value of restoring premium native species in preserving biodiversity, to encourage all of us to be united in protecting Mother Earth,” said Rhoel Marcelo from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. 
Jonathan King Janer of Sorsogon State College pledged to implement Binhi in their organization, the Philippine Society Mechanical Engineers.
“Now, that I have found my career path, I will make a positive change by helping to fulfill the conference’s mission of nurturing a wealthy and healthy environment not only for my own generation but even for our children’s children,” said Mary Chris Nierves, an environmental management student of the Visayas State University.
The conference was also a venue where EDC, the leading geothermal energy company in the Philippines with five sites around the country, was able to make known one of its primary corporate responsibilities (CSR), which is environmental conservation. According to botanist Agnes de Jesus of EDC, EDC, formerly the Philippine National Oil Company, began its CSR in 1987 with community relations in their sites. In 2005, the CSR expanded to include health, education, livelihood and eventually environment programs. Environment remains to be a flagship cause for EDC. Launched in 2008, Binhi is a nationwide 10-year reforestation and biodiversity restoration project of the Lopez group, pledging 1,000 hectares of forests every year. It specifically aims to “restore the Philippine forest diversity and gene pool of the premium tree species; enhance the country’s ecological diversity; and support livelihood of the host communities.” The conference is part of the “Binhi movement” which aims to encourage the youth to initiate and sustain environmental awareness and protection projects within their own schools and communities. It gathered the best students from schools around and near their sites. 
The first day of the conference was dedicated to lectures with Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary Annaliza Teh explaining the National Greening Program, which aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares of degraded and denuded forestlands in six years; and Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño talking about climate change issues and trends. 
An important lecture was given by Dr. Perry Ong, a professor from the University of the PhilippinesInstitute of Biology. He revealed that the deforestation and exploitation of resources were rapid in the past century, after the country gained independence. The amount of deforestation and exploitation are much higher than during the Spanish and American periods combined. He also deplored the fact that the youth are ignorant about the country’s native and endemic flora and fauna.
Ong also emphasized knowledge in environmental efforts. “Hindi porket green, maganda na,” he said. 
The popular activity of tree-planting can be harmful to the environment if one doesn’t have knowledge of trees. It is imperative to plant native and endemic trees rather than foreign species that can wreck havoc on native ecology.
Aside from the lectures, participants went through a workshop on leadership and public speaking, conducted by management consultant Rodolfo de los Reyes. They also participated in tree-planting and team-building activities. EDC’s resident foresters gave them instructions and tips on proper tree planting methods. Seedlings, which were purely premium endangered Philippine species such as apitong, dao, ipil, kamagong, molave and yakal-saplungan, were planted by the delegates at the Eugenio Lopez Center. They also made project proposals, from which the best was picked, judged based on their compatibility with Binhi, viability, strategic content, and replicability. The best proposal was made by the team from the University of Southeastern Philippines, a regional state university in Davao City, receiving cash prizes and a project support grant from EDC in the form of budgetary provision and technical assistance from the CSR and watershed management departments for the implementation of its program. Their proposal is to design, produce and market T-shirts made from recycled materials. Each T-shirt will come with a packet of seeds of a Binhi tree that the buyer can plant. Proceeds from the shirt sales will be for the construction and maintenance of an on-campus greenhouse for students of their university to be able to study and culture rare and endangered native tree species.
Runners-up were St. Paul University of Dumaguete and University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City. The top three projects will see implementation this year and will be showcased at road shows that EDC will conduct for the 2013 Binhi Youth Conference.
The participants still keep touch with each other through the BYC Facebook page and by following EDC’s Twitter account (@edcenergy), where they discuss environmental issues, share their activities, and inspire families and friends to care for the environment.  

Leadership and public speaking workshop conducted by management consultant Rodolfo de los Reyes

 Carlito Cabo Jr. (middle) of UP Tacloban committed to help promote rainforestation to save native flora and fauna. His schoolmates Daniel Licayan and Norlyn Marmita also pledged to participate in various greening programs to promote Binhi


 This tire lift challenge was one of the most difficult stages in the Binhi Amazing Race as it required the participants’ team work and shrewdness to lift the tire without touching the pole

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