by Jel Santos, Manila Bulletin
“A million trees can save millions of lives.”
This was emphasized by the Million Trees Foundation, Inc. (MTFI), a non-profit organization and advocacy group, as it bared plans to plant 10 million native trees such as narra in critical watersheds around the country by 2030.
The MFTI cited a report by the De La Salle University-Dasmariñas College of Pharmacy which revealed how the bark and branch the critically-endangered Philippine national tree have the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) in the country, and among the Top 10 in the world.
“Indeed, our native trees are precious and they have medicinal value waiting to be tapped. It is a matter of time that cure to various illnesses could be discovered and developed into life-saving drugs that can help save millions of lives,” said BGen. Reynaldo V. Velasco (Ret), chairman emeritus of MTFI.
ORAC is a method developed by scientists at the National Institute of Health and Aging to measure the antioxidant capacity of different foods. The ORAC Score, on the other hand, measures the antioxidants which are the body’s natural defense versus harmful compounds that are linked to multiple illnesses, including weakened immunity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The DSLU study revealed that the ORAC scores of all methods tested displayed similarly high levels of antioxidant potency on narra.
But since narra is already critically endangered, planting such native tree is now a necessity.
“These landmark findings about the medicinal value of the Narra tree give us more reasons to pursue our ambitious goal of planting 10 more million trees by 2030,” said MTFI President and Executive Director Melandrew Velasco.
Velasco, the former chairman and administrator of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, is the prime mover of the Annual Million Trees Challenge (AMTC) that saw the planting of 5.2 million trees from 2017 to 2021.
The MTFI, established to sustain the gains of the AMTC, said planting 10 million more trees by 2030 will protect and sustain critical watersheds in various parts of the country.
Over the years, native trees planted in Ipo-Angat watersheds through AMTC and MTFI stakeholders include Narra, Batino, Malaruhat, Rambutan, Cacao, and Guyabano, Bayog, Kawayan Tinik, Malaruhat, White Lauan, Mala-igot, Malapapapaya, Makaasim, Lipote, Ipil, Palosapis, Malaruhat, Lago Calumpit, and Palsoapis.
Various native tree species have also been planted by the group in La Mesa and areas around Laguna de Bay, Kaliwa-Umiray, and Upper Marikina watersheds.
Scientifically known as Pterocarpus indicus, narra can be found in southeastern Asia, northern Australasia, and the western Pacific Ocean islands, in Cambodia, southernmost China, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Ryukyu Islands, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Philippines, where it is protected by law. In the Philippines, it is strictly prohibited to cut down and harvest narra tree.
“We should really protect and conserve our native trees and reforest our watersheds to protect our water source and ensure a steady supply of important ingredients for life-saving drugs that could save millions of lives worldwide,” Velasco noted.