The Green Carpet Treatment

Mt. Bangkaan, where the Yuchengco Group of Companies was given 100 hectares of land for their extensive CSR project dubbed “Earthcare?”.

25 The Green Carpet Treatment YGC’s Environmental CSR

Volunteers from the different member companies of the YGC such as the Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), Malayan Insurance, MAPUA, and EEI come together every quarter for a routine inspection and inventory of the progress they’ve made and the trees they’ve planted.

The Green Carpet Treatment: YGC’s Environmental CSR

Audiences never seem to tire of the age-old seed to tree metaphor. After all, what could be more inspiring than the story of something small overcoming all obstacles and eventually becoming something great? Sometimes the simplest of ideas are those that grow to pave the way for the future.

The very same metaphor and thought applies to Yuchengco Group of Companies’ (YGC) Earthcare Project.

During its Centennial Celebration, YGC announced the beginning of what would be its most extensive CSR project to date. Fondly dubbed “Earthcare”, the endeavor is a three-way partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as well as the local organization of indigenous peoples in Tanay called “Samahan ng mga Magsasaka ng San Andres, Inc.” (SAMASAI). All these in an effort to support the government’s National Greening Program.

Their activity of choice? Tree planting. Simple and straightforward enough.

With the DENR generously providing 100 hectares of land in Barangay San Andres, Tanay, Rizal, YGC had their work cut out for them.

With YGC Corporate Services Inc., (YGC-CSI) at the helm, various member companies under the conglomerate were organized in order to realize the ultimate goal of greening and preserving the area around Mt. Bangkaan.

In order to maximize their time and the space afforded to them, YGC structured the project into different Tree Planting Phases. In October of 2011, Phase 1 was set into motion, wherein 20 hectares of land were prepared and planted with saplings of various tree varieties. Acacia, Banaba, Kupang, Kalumpit, Molave, and Narra; no amount was spared in the pursuit of plant biodiversity. A total of ten thousand trees were planted in that year alone.

The following year, in September, Phase 2 was provided the same treatment. On a different side of Mt. Bangkaan, Phase 2 encompassed another impressive size of 20 hectares. Another ten thousand trees soon filled the area and slowly, YGC’s progress on the mountain began to grow more visible.

To ensure continued growth and development of the existing trees, a simple Maintenance Plan was set into motion in 2013. An Earth Care Board (ECB) was created with volunteer members from the different YGC companies. From there, they came upon the agreement to regularly conduct inventory and inspect the tree saplings once a month, ensuring they were in constant optimal health as they grew.

This not only ensured the protection of the trees but created a strong bond between the Earthcare volunteers and the natives living in the area since the community was given on-site requirements and the task of maintaining the trees as well. Every month, the conglomerate provided ample financial aid to the people of Barangay San Andres, Tanay, enough to serve as the maintenance fee for all their help in providing care for the steadily growing forest.

YGC’s involvement in the lives of the San Andres natives grew into a blossoming partnership over the years, founded on friendship and the common goal of protecting the mountain and its greenery. As it happens, Mt. Bangkaan is ideally situated within the mountain range of the Kaliban Watershed, where Laiban Dam is located. Laiban Dam is just one of the possible future water supplies for Metro Manila.

Then, tragedy struck. In April of 2014 a sudden bush fire razed a portion of Phase 1, damaging the saplings and hindering the progress already made. Resilient as ever, YGC did not dwell on the calamity, instead they chose to move forward. Hand-in-hand with the Barangay San Andres community, the area was given great care and attention, cutting down the charred bodies of saplings lost to the blaze and nurturing the roots that still survived underground.

It took time. Weeks for the soil to heal, all the while, the YGC volunteers persisted with their quarterly maintenance routine, slowly nurturing the plants back to good health and even replanting a few trees that couldn’t survive the flames. The feat was accomplished and the area thrived once again.

Once Phase 1 and Phase 2 trees were back on track, YGC-CSI moved forward with initiating Phase 3 in 2015. Eighteen hectares on the other side of the mountain were forested with 9,000 trees.

Slowly, the YGC delegates made great strides to reach their ultimate goal: Plant 50,000 trees by the year 2020.

Another fire in February of 2016 compromised a sizeable area of Phase 3. This time, YGC volunteers and the community of San Andres were ready. The area was once again nurtured back to optimal plant growth, charred branches and leaves stripped away to give the trees a chance to grow from its surviving roots.

At present, YGC has covered 58 hectares of their initial 100, with some of the first Phase 1 trees already standing at impressive heights of eight to ten feet tall. The forest around Mt. Bangkaan is verdant and thriving, the foliage growing with each passing quarter.

In the past years, it feels as if the other regions of Central Luzon are rushing to catch up to the standards of modernization and industrialization set by Metro Manila. The slow rural pace of areas like Antipolo and Taytay are slowly changing to match the gritty, fast-paced lifestyle of the 21st century. Groves of trees and entire mountainsides bulldozed and stripped away to allow the construction of housing projects, supermarkets, and malls; the inflation of construction almost doubling within the last year alone.

In such times, one forgets that these areas were meant to serve as the last rainforests of Luzon; the balancing force against the heavy cloud of pollution produced by the National Capital Region every second. As doomsday fanatics and scientists alike warn against the horrible consequences of Global Warming, you’d think these areas would stop to ponder the effects of their industrialization.

Which is why, in such times as well, it is comforting to know that the seed of an idea started by the Yuchengco Group of Companies almost six years ago is standing the test of time, growing into not just a tree, but an entire forest that may just bring back the glory and wonder of what still can be Region IV-A’s magnificent rainforests. That the project is called “Earthcare” may just be a happy coincidence that ties the whole message together.