Philippines: One Billion Bamboo for Climate Change

By Benigno B. Beltran, SVD

In response to Pope Francis’ call on Care for our Common Home and aligning with Sustainable Development Goals, the SVD congregation in the Philippines Central Province is committing to plan 100,000 seedlings of Bamboo by 2022. We are looking forward to setting an ambitious goal for planting 1 billion bamboos by 2030, collaborating with the local churches of parishes and dioceses in the Philippines.

Why Bamboo? 

The first reason is climate change. Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than an ordinary tree. A hectare of Bamboo absorbs 12 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Second, bamboo trees prevent erosion and flooding. A clump of Bamboo absorbs 30,000 liters of water annually, one hectare of Bamboo.  And then the third, Bamboo, is helpful for livelihood. If we process the bamboo shoots, we turn the bamboo poles into furniture and construction material.

The government estimates that if we plant a billion bamboo, this will result in 15 billion dollars annual income. We believe that it’s even a conservative estimate. We think it will reach up to 25 billion dollars annually if we put the right factories in the right place and have massive bamboo planting.

The United Nations Development Program country representative, Silver Ramachandran, recently visited Secretary Roy Simatu of the Environment and Natural Resources Department. Secretary Simatu asked for help to set up bamboo setups, small bamboo farms, and bamboo seedling nurseries in each of the municipalities in the Philippines. And so we have hope that we can do this; that we can plant a billion bamboo, absorb gigatons of carbon dioxide from the air, give jobs to a lot of people, and prevent erosion and flooding, which caused a lot of property damage and even life. So we would like to call on everyone to join us in the whole Philippines, even in the entire world. We are now partnering with the Global Climate Action Project, and they are building for us an App with a geotagging feature to monitor the number of bamboos planted. After joining our baseline data, you can see it in Google Maps afterward. So, I would like to thank the United Nations Development Program for your help in our bamboo advocacy. We want to call on everyone on this planet to do something about climate change.

We greet their representatives and delegates of COP26 in Glasgow and hope to make a difference because otherwise, climate change will become irreversible. We have no other choice. This is the only planet that we have. Let us take Care of it for ourselves and future generations.

The year 2030 is the deadline that the scientists are saying. We must keep warming at 1.5°C by 2030; otherwise, climate change will become irreversible. So, Bamboo helps mitigate climate change, preventing erosion and flooding, and increasing people’s economic profit and well-being, especially for the poor.

Planting One billion Bamboo by 2030

Planting one billion bamboos is not an idle dream. In the Philippines, we are responsible only for 2% of the greenhouse gas, but we will be the first ones to be hit by super typhoons. So I think, first of all, the consciousness is there. Second, the government wants every village to have a seedling nursery. And there is s a law called The Philippine Bamboo Industrial Development Act. The government will fund the seedling nurseries, supporting the putting up of factories to produce engineered Bamboo. Logging is already outlawed in the Philippines. It’s forbidden to cut a tree without permission from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

So, we have moved. My Province, the SVD Central Province, has pledged during the Provincial Chapter 100,000 bamboo seedlings planted by 2022. And the Provincial from the South was here. He said he would also help us plant. And then, there’s a law, another law. Elementary, high school, and college graduates cannot graduate, and they are not given their diplomas if they will not plant ten trees each. So that’s it. That would be a lot because we have 28 million elementary school students. How many will graduate? Then we have college graduates also. So we believe that it is doable. We might not be able to do it, but it’s possible. It’s not an impossible dream to plant 1 billion bamboos in the Philippines.

Absorb gigatons of greenhouse gases, prevent erosion and flooding, loss of lives and property, and then give jobs to thousands of people if we can do this because the government is already mobilizing. They only need some help from the developed countries responsible for most greenhouse gases plaguing us now, especially in the Philippines. Then, the churches are mobilizing. I give it up to seminarians in Mindanao, Cagayan De Oro, Saint John Vianney, Seminary, and they are mobilizing the bishops, and there is a possibility. Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma, SJ, said he would talk to all the bishops so that the whole diocese, all the dioceses in Mindanao, would help in the bamboo advocacy.

I just received a message that the Global Climate Action Project gives us an app. The kids will download the app on their cell phones, point it at the seedlings before they plant, and then point it again when they plant it. Then, they can monitor the seedlings whether they survived and thrived even one year after.

So some the Global Climate Action Project is asking people from all over the world to sponsor one seedling for five dollars. We’ll take Care of planting it. And then we can assure you that we will plant it. And then if you check one year afterward, you could see whether the seedling survives and if not, we will commit ourselves to plant another one, still in your name. So, we have high hopes that with the Church, the government, the corporate world, the academe, you know, the universities and colleges, they have their bamboo seedling nurseries now. And then, we have a lot of land – idle land. It’s mainly in the mountains, but that’s where the bamboos like to grow. We have two or three million hectares of ancestral domain. We have a law that all indigenous peoples, every tribe, will be given a particular plot of land. And I’m talking to the Dumagats, for example, they have nineteen thousand hectares hardly planted to anything. And then there’s another group, in Montalban, near Manila, 30,000 ha. Suppose we could plant all those with Bamboo.

This goal is ambitious enough but will not be an idle dream, especially if everyone in VIVAT will support us in this effort.