Tree planting at Mt. Arayat

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By Rox Peña

E-ssue

Thursday, September 4, 2014


LAST Saturday, I joined hundreds of volunteers who planted trees at the foot of Mount Arayat in Barangay San Juan Baño. The event was "Broadcastreeing", an annual tree-planting project of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP). Joining KBP members are delegates from the Bureau of Fire Protection, Army, Air Force, PNP, DILG, DENR, Rotarians, SM Mall employees, Jollibee and Chowking staff and of course, Arayat Mayor Bon Alejandrino and other town officials and employees.

The tree-planting activity gave me the opportunity to visit Mt. Arayat once more and see for the first time the site of the mudslide that happened in Mt. Arayat in 2009. The avalanche of boulders and mud which killed a dozen people and crushed some 100 houses happened at the height of typhoon Ondoy.

Water seeks the path of least resistance. Typhoon Ondoy’s rainfall followed the trail of an old creek whose name according to DENR-CENRO Rommel Santiago is Sapang Maeyagas. Meyagas in Kapampangan means carried away by flowing water. The now dry river bed is filled with boulders and rocks of different sizes.

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CENRO Rommel pointed to us a huge boulder whose roll downward was stopped by a tree. I surmise that if Mt. Arayat was heavily forested, the mudslide would not have happened at all or that lives may have been saved and damage to properties minimal. The broadcastreeing project is timely and relevant in restoring Mt. Arayat’s forest.

At the tree planting site were stumps of Gmelina trees, which have grown new branches. They have been harvested by charcoal makers and firewood gatherers. CENRO Rommel said that these fast growing trees were planted so that barrio folks who derive their livelihood from the mountain can have a source of income. Part of the strategy to protect Mt. Arayat is to address the people's traditional source of livelihood.

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The common question I usually get from people is if there are still wild animals in Mt. Arayat. My radio partner Cecille Yumul told me that when they climbed Mt. Arayat’s North peak in 1993, they still saw wild pigs and monkeys. I have no information if such wild animals still exist today.

Mt. Arayat used to be a thickly forested area. In fact, it was declared a forest reserve back in 1921. The trees common in the area, according to the DENR, are Teak, Narra, Alibangbang, Fire Trees, Ipil-ipil, Mahogany, Guava, Yemane ( Gmelina ), Molave and Kamagong.

Mt. Arayat is classified as a protected area. In June of 1993, it was declared a national park with an area of around 3,700 hectares. Of these, 10 hectares in San Juan Baño was set aside as a park resort. With only a handful of forest rangers and field personnel, the DENR cannot guard the whole of Mt. Arayat. Thus all of us should take part in preserving the beauty of this Pampanga treasure.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on September 05, 2014.

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