‘Where is the DENR secretary?’: Gretchen Ho says on its ‘Hug A Tree’ campaign

February 23, 2023 - 5:48 PM
Gretchen Ho-Instagram-June 2022
Gretchen Ho in this photo from her Instagram account on June 23, 2022 (gretchenho/Instagram)

News anchor and television host Gretchen Ho on Tuesday raised a question about a government agency’s annual tree-hugging initiative.

The “Woman In Action” host quote tweeted a post from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources about officials and personnel of the DENR Central Office joining the nationwide launch of the “Hug A Tree” campaign last February 14.

“Not sure what good ‘tree hugging’ brings to the environment,” Gretchen wrote on February 21.

“But I would love to know DENR’s actions and voice on the Masungi Georeserve, Philippines being tagged as the #1 ocean plastic polluter, mining in Sibuyan island, etc++,” she added.

“Where is the DENR secretary?” Gretchen continued with a thinking face emoji.

On that day, the DENR’s Twitter account shared a picture of DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones, DENR Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems and Climate Change Analiza Rebuelta-Teh and DENR Climate Change Service Director Elenida Basug hugging a tree.

In its description, the DENR said that the tree is a “century-old rain tree,” known for being a wide canopied tree with a large symmetrical umbrella-shaped crown. In the picture, it has no leaves.

The agency said that the annual “Hug A Tree” campaign is a three-day event organized by its Forest Management Bureau “to inspire more Filipinos to take part in the country’s regreening efforts and to raise awareness on the benefits of trees to communities and the environment.”

In a different Facebook post, the DENR said that the campaign promotes “the importance of conserving trees by hugging centennial and indigenous tree species and conducting tree-growing activities” in the country.

It also said that tree-hugging has “social or health benefits” which can be derived from nurturing trees.

According to DENR, the initiative can increase one’s overall well-being and a person’s level of oxytocin or the hormone responsible for feeling calm, among others.

The DENR previously released infographics talking about the activity’s benefits.

The DENR also said the activity aims to “raise awareness of the importance of the tree-hugging movement.”

Other environmental concerns 

Meanwhile, Gretchen’s post in response to the initiative was “liked” by 10,600 Twitter users. It has also earned over 2,370 retweets so far.

“I mean, she has a point,” a Twitter user commented.

Another Filipino claimed that what SB19 member Justin de Dios did had “more sense” than the DENR’s tree-hugging activity.

“Mas may sense ang ginawa ng batang ‘to, nagpakahirap mag-hiking sa Masungi para makapag-tree planting. Iba [diyan] hug2x [hug hug] lang tapos picture2x [picture picture],” the Twitter user said in response to the post.

Last February 21, Justin shared that he participated in a tree-planting activity at the Masungi Georeserve in Rizal.

“I hope this video helps bring awareness that we should conserve and protect our natural resources dahil ito ang sasalba sa atin sa panahon ng sakuna,” he said on his YouTube vlog.

The “Save Masungi Movement” also agreed with Gretchen’s post and told the DENR to “protect Masungi” instead of hugging trees.

“#handsoffmasungi,” it said in a Facebook post.

The movement also shared a link to its petition appealing DENR Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to stop the planned transfer of the Bureau of Corrections headquarters to its site.

The proposal drew concerns about potential damage to the Upper Marikina watershed, which plays a critical role in the climate crisis fight by being a buffer against storms and regulating water flow toward Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, other points that Gretchen raised in her tweet is the country’s reputation as the largest contributor of ocean plastic waste in a 2021 research article.

According to Lourens J.J. Meijer and team, the Philippines was estimated to emit 31% of the ocean’s plastic.

Their research said that countries with smaller geographical area, longer coastlines, high rainfall, and poor waste management systems are more likely to wash plastics into the sea.

Gretchen in her tweet also mentioned the mining exploration activities in Sibuyan Island by the Altai Philippines Mining Corporation, which aimed to extract nickel ore.

Residents successfully stopped the initiative which they said would disrupt the island’s intact ecosystems and local livelihoods.

Sibuyan Island has been called the “Galápagos of Asia” because it is isolated from the Philippine archipelago.

The volcanic islands of Galápagos, which lie 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, are famous for a wealth of unique plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.