Were it not for the hardy trunk of a native tree, memorably marked as number 3 in his notebook, Roniño Gibe’s first week at Energy Development Corporation (EDC) could’ve also been his last.
The watershed management officer says he had aspired to join EDC after learning about the company in the late 2000s. He was then a forester with Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC)-Alternative Fuels Corporation, a sister company of the former PNOC-EDC.
“I looked forward to becoming a part of EDC’s notable corporate social responsibility (CSR) program and likewise to being a contributor to its green legacy. On top of that, being a forester is valued highly at EDC and plays a vital role in harmonizing its goal of providing clean and renewable energy without compromising the environment,” he states.
In November 2010, Gibe became a forester and project officer with EDC’s CSR department.
“My first assignment was to identify and document existing threatened mother trees within the company’s geothermal operations,” he recalls. “We were instructed to document the locations of tree species that are already endangered in order to achieve the main objective of the BINHI program, which is to conserve and protect them.”
On his first day of fieldwork in Kananga, Leyte, the new recruit was caught in the middle of a “misencounter” that claimed the lives of his three companions: EDC botanist consultant Dr. Leonard Co, forest ranger Sofronio Cortez and local assistant Julius Borromeo.
Gibe survived thanks to the buttresses of a Tanguile (Philippine mahogany) that he had just listed in his notebook. The incident made him determined to do his part to rescue the native trees that saved his life.
Gibe has learned that being part of a greening program such as BINHI is “not a piece of cake.” The undertaking is hampered by the fact that species identities and their local names vary in different localities; this, coupled with Filipinos’ general lack of familiarity with flora, means it is harder to track down native trees.
The rampant use of exotic species and the growing demand for spaces to accommodate other land use also make it difficult for native trees to proliferate and survive.
These challenges only reinforce Gibe’s view that BINHI is a cause worth pursuing, and he does so guided by the Lopez Values of nationalism and integrity.
He says: “Saving invaluable native trees is our legacy. The BINHI program is our national pride; thus, we should be proud when planting our very own native tree species. Integrity is more on the personal side—to be responsible and do the things I must do.
I (keep) my word with every partner, guide them throughout the program, and remain transparent at all times.”
Having managed BINHI for most of its 12 years, Gibe feels that he is a man fulfilled.
“I am happy and content with my life at the moment. I enjoy every moment I have with my wife and my kid. Moving forward, it would be appropriate to say that my goal would be to protect, nurture and provide for my precious family. In order to do this, I should be at my best in everything I do, especially at work. I believe that working with EDC enables me to serve the community while at the same time allowing me to be a good provider for my family. I am grateful that I am one of the lucky few who are able to pursue their passion without compromising financial matters. I am and will always be grateful to EDC for this,” Gibe says.