Operation Baklas 2013: ‘Sagip puno tanggal pako’ pre-empts tree injuries in Ilocos Norte

The following article on the Operation Baklas was the pronouncement made by Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Juan P. de los Reyes, Jr. during the culmination of the baklas operations here, joined in by some 500 individuals coming from different government agencies and non-government organizations of the province.

According to De los Reyes, the intensified information dissemination for public awareness and full cooperation of the implementing agencies has led to the success of the activity.

As a strategy, PENRO De los Reyes led a composite team of state agencies and non- government organizations (NGOs) in launching the “Operation Baklas 2013,” which is designed to implement R.A. 3571 and PD 953, the laws prohibiting the cutting, injuring, and destruction of planted and growing trees and plants along public roads, plazas, parks, school premises and public grounds.

De los Reyes said that the launching of operation baklas just before the election campaign period was a strategy to pre-empt nailing or tucking campaign materials on trees especially along the major thoroughfares of Ilocos Norte.

Operation Baklas 2013 was launched in February 12, 2013 just in time for the kick off of the campaign period where different government agencies and non government organizations expressed their support by signing a covenant declaring their pledge to protect and save the trees

During the launching, Gov. Imee R. Marcos conveyed her strong support to the Operation Baklas by sending her message thru Provincial Administrator Atty. Windell Chua where the governor stated among others that “trees should be spared during the campaign saying ‘huwag saktan ang mga punong nananahimik, kayo kaya ang ma- pako, tiyak aaray din kayo (spare the innocent trees, think of being injured by a nail, I am sure it hurts).

“Because of our early preparations, trees in Ilocos Norte are virtually campaign materials- free during the 2013 election season. The two truckloads of campaign materials which the implementers have collected were generally removed from non-common poster areas.

Evidently, we only removed about less than one half of a kilo of nails used to tuck or install election paraphernalia on trees as compared in 2007 and 2010 elections where voluminous kilograms of nails were removed,” de los Reyes said.

The Sagip Puno Tanggal Pako coupled with tree surgery activity of PENRO Ilocos Norte was initially launched in 2007 national and local elections, where around 40 kilos of nails and at least two Forward truckloads of campaign materials were removed from trees. In 2010 however, the number of nails and campaign materials removed from trees was significantly reduced to only around 20 kilograms and only one four- wheeled truckload of election paraphernalia due to intensified operations against nailing of campaign materials on trees.

“The idea is to minimize garbage and to inflict as little damage on the environment especially the trees, toward the end of the elections and we hope that by 2016 and elections beyond, all trees in Ilocos Norte are totally spared from campaign materials,” de los Reyes said.

Accordingly, some local and international tourists have noted that trees situated along the major thoroughfares of Ilocos Norte are ‘virtually election paraphernalia- free’.

“The significant decrease of nails removed from trees is an indication that we fairly did our job in safeguarding our trees. On the other hand, politicians have learned their lessons from the past and heeded to our warnings that PENRO Ilocos Norte and its partner agencies are serious in implementing the Operation Baklas,” de los Reyes added.

Earlier, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje has called on political candidates to spare all classes of trees from nailing and to put waste avoidance and reduction at the heart of their strategy to win, and to stick to earth-friendly campaign practices to ensure a waste-free election.

“Let us change the face of Philippine politics with clean elections defined not only by an intelligent electorate, but a trash-free one as well. Well-meaning candidates and their supporters, even as they run on environmental platforms, should be mindful of the environment and resort to using recyclable and biodegradable campaign materials,” Paje said in a statement.

The Operation Baklas 2013 was led by PENRO Ilocos Norte and implemented in partnership with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine National Police, Pollution Control Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PCAPI), Mariano Marcos State University- College of Industrial Technology Ecological Society (MMSU- CITES), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), and various media outlets.