THE president of Ateneo de Davao University, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, has demanded for an official explanation and a public apology from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office in Region 11 following complaints about the disorganized conduct of TreeVolution Mindanao in Davao City.
The school sent a total of 435 students, faculty, and staff to Barangay Magsaysay in Marilog District to join around 8,000 planters from other schools, government agencies, nongovernment organizations, among others.
In the letter dated October 1, Tabora called the attention of DERN 11 director Joselin Marcus Fragada and demanded that “in the name of those who gone through the ordeal of physical and psychological exhaustion, disappointments, and dismay, that an official explanation be made and a public apology be sought.”
Tabora noted how planters had to walk 12 km to the planting site — only to be “disallowed from planting simply because they did not reach the site on-time.”
Tabora reminded Fragada of the assurance made by the DENR of three important things: Transportation to ferry the planters from the national highway to the planting site; that the activity was primarily intended to promote environmental protection and breaking Guinness World Record is simply incidental; and that health stations will be set up for emergency operations.
Fragada, according to the Ateneo de Davao University president, even personally visited Ateneo on September 22 — or 4 days before the event — to give an orientation to Ateneo volunteers. During the orientation, Tabora pointed that Fragada assured them of the ground preparations already in place.
“To our dismay, none of these assurances were faithfully observed during the TreeVolution Day last September 26…” Tabora said, adding that “What aggravated the situation was the absence of DENR personnel in the area who can troubleshoot the situation or at least provide the planters official clarification on the transport services.”
He said that the Ateneo de Davao University team even “tried calling a DENR point person over the phone, but no one was answering.”
Treevolution Mindanao secretariat has already issued a public apology on Tuesday.
“Although the response was truly overwhelming, we regret that there were those who had to endure the physical challenges in carrying out such a noble task. In some planting sites, it turned out that reaching the area by several kilometer walk rather than by trucks was the safest mode given the circumstances. It was a decision made on that instance to principally avoid possible catastrophic pitfalls from slippery terrain,” an open letter from TreeVolution Mindanao said.
“We offer our sincerest apologies to those who went through such physical challenges. While incidents such as exhaustion and injury could be expected in a massive onsite activity such as this one, it was evident that safety and emergency medical response mechanisms by the Philippine National Police, Central 911 (in Davao area), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Local Emergency Response Teams, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils, and the Traffic Management Group were on hand to provide quick action,” it added.
The event, which was simultaneously done in six regions in Mindanao, gathered over 200,000 Mindanawons who planted 4 million trees.