GIANT CHRISTMAS TREE. The municipal government of Tampakan in South Cotabato province unveils Tuesday evening (Oct. 8, 2019) its 100-foot Christmas tree made of recyclable waste materials. The “giant” Christmas tree is considered as the tallest in South Cotabato province and in Region 12. (PNA photo by Allen V. Estabillo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — The town center of Tampakan in South Cotabato practically glittered on Tuesday evening as the local government unveiled its 100-foot Christmas tree made of recyclable waste materials.

Mayor Leonardo Escobillo Jr. led the ceremonial lighting past 6 p.m. of the “giant” Christmas tree as Christmas carols played in the background and joined by thousands of residents and visitors that gathered at the municipal plaza.

Prior to the launching of the Christmas tree, which is considered as the tallest in South Cotabato province and in Region 12 or Soccsksargen, Escobillo delivered his first 100 days address at the nearby municipal gymnasium.

Escobillo said he came up with the idea to put up the Christmas tree to highlight the municipality’s campaign on proper waste segregation, especially at the household level.

He acknowledged that the town has a huge problem with garbage disposal due to the lack of a sanitary landfill and the segregation of wastes from the households.

He said the problem on solid waste management was among the topics discussed during an engagement with Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu when he attended President Rodrigo Duterte’s state-of-the-nation address in July.

The mayor said local officials were warned by Cimatu to take the handling their garbage seriously, lest they face administrative cases.

“I thought that since Christmas is coming up and everybody is excited, why not build a Christmas tree and convert waste materials into decors?” he told reporters.

Escobillo said he initially gathered the unused surplus steel from their previous projects and segregated plastic bottles out of the garbage collected by the municipal government. These were later augmented by donated plastic bottles from local schools, which came in “dump trucks-full.”

He said they tapped two of their employees and a local consultant to come up with a design and eventually settled on shredded plastic or Polyethylene Terephthalate bottles as the main material.

Through the “bayanihan” of local government employees and other local volunteers, Escobillo said they fabricated the Christmas tree that eventually reached 100 feet, using an estimated 100,000 plastic bottles.

He said the Double “R” Construction based in Polomolok town offered its services for free to help put up the Christmas tree in just one day.

“We were overwhelmed with this project as it only cost us a minimal amount,” he said.

Escobillo said he considers the project as a huge success as it mainly raised awareness among their residents about proper waste management.

He said the Christmas village, which will be set up at the town plaza, will be opened along with the scheduled grand unveiling of the “giant” Christmas tree on Nov. 8. (PNA)