Like many other local government units, Negros Occidental is faced with two problems: the lack of affordable burial sites due to the growing population and the need to involve the community in the fight against environmental degradation. San Carlos City’s old gravesite was already heavily congested and easily flooded. Likewise, constructing a new graveyard within the poblacion was not a wise move due to the prohibitive land costs and polluted surroundings.
To address these problems, the city government came up with a novel solution – Punongkahoy sa Bawat Pumanaw. This program will build a memorial park, which would serve as a permanent graveyard as well as aid reforestation. The LGU initially purchased a 5,000 sq. km. lot beside the old cemetery and equipped it with burial niches, a ceremonial court, a praying area, restrooms, a water system, and sufficient lighting. Next, it installed a tree park 12 km. from the poblacion. The park was marked for tree planting and the City Agricultural Office initially planted around 1,500 trees. Site development now covers five of the 30-hectare lot, and features footpaths and ample parking space.
To avail of the new facilities, beneficiaries first have to present a death certificate from the City Health Office. They are then allowed to bury their dead in the niches for a fee of only P100 for indigents and P1,000 for non-indigents. Next, they are required to plant a tree at the Memorial Tree Park with seedlings provided by the City Agriculturist. After five years, the family should exhume the bones and transfer them to the foot of the tree they originally planted in the park. This tree bears the nameplate of the deceased.
In 1999, 393 families benefited from the Memorial Tree Park program. Given the five-year cycle of interment and transfer, the burial site has enough room for 3,000 more niches. Financially, the LGU realized a net income of P159,785 from operations in 1999. This is a major improvement compared to their total expenditure of P95,000 in 1997 for the upkeep of the old cemetery. Furthermore, the program has at the same time provided a mechanism for the reforestation of the denuded mountainsides of Negros Occidental.