Few people outside of Philippines have heard of Baguio, the city of over 300,000 people on North Luzon Island that I call my home. Even fewer are aware of the environmental problems we face, which in many ways are a microcosm of issues facing the rest of the world—in particular swiftly growing cities in developing nations.
Baguio City started out as an American hill station, built on indigenous peoples’ ancestral territory, with the intention of serving a population of 25,000. More than 200 years later, our city is stretched to breaking point. We face poor air quality, traffic congestion and a major garbage problem. However, the biggest issue is the way the expanding city is recklessly eroding our beautiful green surroundings.
This deforestation led me to establish the GreEnitiative campaign under the student government at the University of Baguio. The project pooled students’ creativity to promote reforestation efforts and heighten consciousness on forest protection in our municipality. We used rich multimedia content, cartoons, games and photos to pass the message through our community. We have since managed to plant over 1,300 seedlings together with partners and volunteers. We monitor these budding trees regularly to ensure high survival rates.
Through these efforts, we have created a heighted sense of environmental awareness and promoted livelihoods in agriculture—a major source of income around Baguio. We also managed to improve waste management in Baguio by encouraging residents and local authorities to tackle the mounds of garbage piling up.
Our achievements highlight the importance of Information Technology, a subject I am very passionate about. I am now working for Philippine Business for the Environment as an Information Systems Project Officer, and have been developing local IT projects for environmental protection, including a web-based industrial waste management programme.
IT can be accessed anywhere in the world and, when used correctly, can bring a massive positive impact on society. In my city, more can be done to increase access and thus knowledge about the environmental problems we face. Many young people are passive when it comes to such issues, even though they must work together to bring about change. I would also like to see leaders set an inspiring example for young people.
I see education in areas such as IT as a crucial step in creating a sustainable future for humanity. Without skills, knowledge and capability, calls to live sustainable lives risk going unheard.
Reymart Manuel, 24, is a passionate environmentalist and artist from Baguio. In 2011, he was hailed as one of the top four UNEP young Environmental envoys from Philippines for the innovativeness and social impact of his GreEnitiative project.