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My sister on the environment

Ben
Contreras

AFTER spending one month in her home city, my sister Lydia Tiu Velasco would soon be back to Canada, not knowing when she would be back again or if would she be back sooner to do what she said she would do given the opportunity.

In her younger days, she worked for two Chinese newspapers in Manila in various fields of work. Her rich experience brought her to places, not exempting Malacañang during the time of Cory Aquino. She knows big people in the local political arena and a few officials in the Chinese government (PROC). It was the failure of the Cory administration that finally compelled her to migrate to Canada.

At 77, she feels the need to do something not just for our city or the province or even the whole Region 10 but also for the entire country. For this reason alone, she wrote four articles of various interest and asked me not to write about them until after they saw print in the Chinese newspaper in Manila.

“Although it’s Chinese blood that runs in my body and it certainly would make me happy to see China becoming a great and powerful nation, but my love for our country (the Philippines) is intact because this is where I was born, grew up, educated, worked and started a family,” she said.

There was one thing that she raised in our many conversations and that is, “We never had a Sendong-like tragedy before. Why did it happen?”

I partially knew why but I chose not to explain. Instead, I introduced her to former DENR regional director Dr. Raoul Geollegue. Raoul was very kind to oblige an interview and from that interview, my sister got to learn about Project Noah.

The next person that I brought her to was (Bro.) Greg Marten Lao who was very active in the preparation of various assistance to the Sendong victims, notably, the 300 shelters.

I remember telling her that if it rains very hard in the mountains of Kitanglad and Kalatungan, chances are, the Cagayan River will overflow and flood the vicinities similar to Sendong.  And if it rains very hard in the city proper, the highway, particularly the Limketkai areas get flooded. These have become the reality of our lives, normal occurrences that we all must learn to live with.

And she mused, ‘”What can we do? How can we help?”

One thing she encouraged Greg to do is invite all stakeholders to a dialogue and raise the issue on how we can plant trees or to reforest Mt. Kitanglad and Mt. Kalatungan in order to prevent rain water from funneling down to our river and the city.

Dr. Geollegue already explained to her about the concept of Payment for Ecological Service (PES). In fact, some companies have been adapting it by paying a certain amount of money to support the effort. So far, there has been no tangible report of any result.

She pointed out that if organizations, local or foreign, are willing to donate  huge sums for the victims of floodings, why not spend the same amount of money for tree-planting if it really can help mitigate flooding? But money should not be given to any government agency but should be managed by the organizations themselves. How many civic clubs and fraternal clubs do we have? We have the Rotary, Jaycees, Lions, Kiwanis, Masons, Eagles, not to mention the civil society groups.

If we have the right connection, we could even tap the Chinese government for this endeavor. She believes there are people who can help in bringing this to the attention of the Chinese government.

I will write more about her thoughts in my next column.

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