Inspired by “community pantries” that are sprouting across the Philippines, a theological seminary in the southern Philippines launched an initiative to encourage the planting of trees in communities.
Dubbed as “Community Pan-TREE,” the activity adopts the concept of “community pantries” but instead of offering food, free seedlings and saplings are given away.
The St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City started the campaign as a “long-term and integral response” to the pandemic.
Fasther Reynaldo Raluto, the seminary’s academic dean, said the “Pan-TREE” started by disposing kamagong (velvet apple) saplings.
Due to people’s support, more species, including molave, cinnamon, pacific walnut, and eucalyptus, were distributed.
“Our response to this pandemic should not just be short term like providing food or following health protocols but also long term, which is more ecological and sustainable,” said the priest.
“We have to respond to the problems of our ecosystem,” he said, adding that the “declining forest ecosystem is really a serious problem that we have to face.”
Various mutual aid efforts have sprouted across the country in recent weeks to help those struggling with COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
The food pantries carry the slogan “Give what you can, take what you need.”
The “pan-TREE” reminds the public that “people do not live by food alone, but also by the ecological services of trees.”
Father Raluto called on people, especially owners of tree nurseries, to share share tree seedlings and saplings.
“If we can only see these two aspects, social and ecological, as one, the response of planting more trees is like hitting two birds with one stone,” he said.
Father Raluto, who is also moderator of the seminary’s Committee on Integral Ecological Concerns, said that planting trees has long been an advocacy of the seminary.
“Whether there is pan-TREE or none, we’ve been doing this for years,” he said.