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One billion trees for Cebu to avoid an “Ondoy” flood catastrophe.

That was the challenge posed by environmental groups who said the floods caused by the tropical storm should spur Cebuanos to intensify tree-planting efforts in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.

Cebu City officials said urban and coastal barangays are unprepared to deal with floods of the same magnitude that struck Manila and the National Capital Region (NCR) as a result of tropical storm “Ondoy.”

The Cebu City's Coastline Management Board and River Management Commission came out with this assessment amid reports that a second tropical storm entered the country at 4 p.m yesterday.

The Mactan office of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said tropical storm “Pepeng” will arrive in Eastern Visayas by Friday with speed of 22 kilometers per hour and strong winds of 120 to 140 kilometers per hour.

Scattered rainshowers are expected as Pagasa warned residents living near rivers on the possible rise in water level. Small boats are also advised not to sail due to rough waters.

Various environmental groups like Permaculture initiatives and Global Legal Action on Climate or GLACC, said tree planting could help prevent the floods that swept Manila and the National Capital Region (NCR).

Dave Deppner of the nongovernment organization Trees For the Future said Cebu needs one billion trees to prevent soil erosion.

He said a five-year-old tree can hold up to five gallons of water.

Deppner said climate change should not be seen as a problem that cannot be resolved but an opportunity to reduce carbon gas emissions and help restore the world's forest covers.

Organized in 1989, Trees for the Future helps communities around the world plant trees through seed distribution, agroforestry training, and empower rural groups to restore tree cover.

Malou Largo of Philippine Business for Social Progress' environment committee said her group is implementing environment management and protection projects.

The PBSP, a corporate-led, non-profit social development foundation, mobilizes member-companies and stakeholders to participate in tree planting activities with a tree survival rate between 85 percent to 90 percent.

“Last year, we were able to plant 2,000 trees,” said Largo who suggested planting indigenous or native species and involve members of the immediate community at the tree planting site.

Protecting watersheds will also ensure a sustainable water supply for Cebu province, she said.

“We have enough water according to a study but by 2030 we will run out of water,” she said.

Environmental lawyer and GLACC member Gloria Estenzo-Ramos said barangay councils should mobilize residents to encourage and promote tree-planting.