Mario Flores Canilao thought his world was about to end when Typhoon Glenda (International: Rammasun) struck his village in the province of Pampanga in July 2014 and ravaged a fishing pond where he derived his main source of livelihood.
“Yun ang pinakamalupit. Akala ko nga natapos na ang mundo sa akin noon (I thought life was too harsh. I thought that was the end of my world),” Mr. Canilao, a fisherman by trade, recalled.
Despite the blow he was dealt, he mustered the will and determination to move forward. Soon, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources enlisted his help to plant Bakawan or mangrove trees.
As the president of the Samahang Makakalikasan ng Pampanga, Inc. (SAMAPA), Mr. Canilao has been working tirelessly with the government and the private sector in the last decade to help build a coastal forest for the natural protection of their community in the municipality of Macabebe, to avoid pitfalls in the wake of another storm like Typhoon Glenda.
This year, he is delighted to know that SM Foundation, the social good arm of SM and Fast Retailing Foundation, a general incorporated foundation in Japan, are providing extensive support by planting Bakawan trees in his coastal community under their joint ‘Grow Trees Community’ project. This reforestation initiative is set to introduce at least 100,000 mangrove trees of the Bakawan babae and lalaki species in Barangay Consuelo in the municipality of Macabebe, the second site after the project formally launched in Batangas last September 27.
“Malaking tulong itong mangroves para sa akin, para sa pamilya ko at sa aking mga kababaryo na magkaroon din po ng hanapbuhay. Sa darating na mga henerasyon, makakatulong ang mga bakawan sa dipensa sa malalakas na alon at hangin (Mangroves are a huge help not just to my family but to my fellow villagers, also in supporting livelihood. The bakawan will help the next generation gain protection against strong winds and waves),” Mr. Canilao said.
Aside from providing a natural coastal defense against storm surges, the Bakawan has been widely personified in Filipino fiction and many children’s books for its role in nurturing biodiversity in the environment.
“As visitors, we often see the beauty of the mangrove thickets, but for communities, this is nature’s shield that protects them from natural calamities and serves as breeding grounds for fishes and shellfishes,” Cristie S. Angeles, SM Foundation Assistant Vice President for Livelihood and Outreach Programs said.
“A well-preserved mangrove forest can provide an ecosystem of interconnected benefits promoting biodiversity in marine life and a reserve of valuable resources. Beyond this, the collective efforts of the community are vital to the preservation of the environment. As SM enables the growth of so many communities, we are also enabling these communities to lead the preservation of the environment in their areas,” Ms. Angeles added.
“We are particularly drawn to this project which is a first in terms of our partnerships here in the country. Mangrove trees have an enormous capacity not only to absorb greenhouse gases making them ideal in bringing about climate benefits but they also enrich the biodiversity as well. After we can confirm the success of this Pampanga project, we are looking forward to pursue more of these types of projects in the near future in collaboration with our partner, SM Foundation,” Mr. Yoshio Ishida, Secretary-General of FR Foundation said.
As part of their community engagement strategy and to sustain the project, the proponents are tapping the expertise of the community and partner agencies in monitoring the propagules to ensure their growth as mature trees.
“What’s good about this project is it goes beyond enriching the environment. We have an opportunity here to boost livelihood in the community while at the same time, helping improve the disaster risk reduction capabilities of the locality,” Ms. Angeles said.
The full impact of the project will all go to the community as they look after the trees moving forward.
“Maraming benepisyo gaya ng sa air pollution na humihigop at nagbubuga yan ng mga magagandang hangin. Malaking bagay po ang bakawan sa pamumuhay ng mga taga barangay (Mangroves have many benefits like producing cleaner air while reducing air pollution. The bakawan is a big help to the livelihood of community),” Mr. Canilao said.
Apart from the two foundations, the Grow Trees Community initiative harnesses partnerships with SM Supermalls, various government agencies, as well as volunteers from the chosen provinces. These include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture, DA-BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology, Philippine National Police, the local government of Macabebe and Peoples’ Organizations (POs) such as SAMAPA.
The Grow Trees Community is in support of the SM Green Movement that aims to improve the quality of life of communities through sustainable solutions to promote a green planet, green living and a green culture.
FR Foundation focuses on promoting research designed to help make the world a better place, spurring technological development, nurturing human resources, and supporting socially vulnerable individuals or groups.
It is part of Fast Retailing Co. Ltd., the leading Japanese retail company that owns well-loved casual wear brand, Uniqlo.