It is an honor and a privilege for me to witness the opening of SM City Tacloban, which has long been anticipated not only by the people of Tacloban City, but by the whole of region 8.

I share in the joy of the Eastern Visayans in welcoming the SM Food Retail Group, particularly SM City Tacloban, as it opens not only in time for the holiday season, but more importantly as the region strives to fully recover from what is now considered as the devastation of the century.

Products which used to be available only in Manila or Cebu will now be accessible to the people of region 8. This also opens up the much needed opportunity for displaced workers who lost their jobs due to last year's catastrophe. It is therefore not an understatement to say that the opening of SM City Tacloban is a turning point for the region to fulfill the people's immediate needs without having to spend huge amounts of money and travel for such purpose.

But to me, what makes the entry of SM City Tacloban in the region more commendable is its commitment towards promoting a green economy and green living. Coinciding with today's mall opening is the re-launch of Grow A Million Trees - an initiative of the SM Food Retail Group.

On behalf of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the people of region 8, I would like to personally convey my appreciation to the SM group of companies for its support to the environment and its initial pledge to plant 10,000 trees in Barangay Barayong, Palo, Leyte.

Of course, we all know that among others, the call of the time is massive reforestation. This is one way to counter the devastating effects of today's by-word - Climate Change - brought about by global warming. Your commitment to Grow A Million Trees complements current government efforts to plant one billion trees by 2016 through the National Greening Program. As the famous Mahatma Gandhi once said: What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another."

Again, let me commend the SM Food Retail Group for their efforts to Grow A Million Trees and for bringing this initiative to region 8. Hopefully, in the coming years, the reflection we will see in the mirror would be a more healthier and balanced environment for the people of Eastern Visayas.

And so along this note, let me encourage the buying public to be one with SM City Tacloban in its efforts towards promoting a better environment. The oft-repeated mantra of re-use, reduce anwd recycle will never be outmoded. More than just knowing the 3 Rs, it is about time that we start practicing them, together with a fourth R - replant or reforest.

An environmentalist, Ed Asner, puts it more aptly with the following words: "We all moan and groan about the loss of quality of life through the destruction of our ecology, and yet everyone of us, in our own little comfortable ways, contribute daily to that desruction. It's time now to awaken in each one of us the respect and attention our beloved Mother Earth deserves."

Thank you and a pleasant morning to all.