In Bataan, eco-advocates push protection of Mt. Natib
Environment advocates are pushing for the protection of Mt. Natib, a dormant volcano in the Bataan National Park, against illegal loggers and harmful tourist activities.
In an event organized by nongovernment and government organizations, companies and residents of Bataan and Zambales on Dec. 17, the indigenous tribes of these provinces found themselves at the forefront of forest conservation activities.
Sonny de la Cruz, 64, an Aeta leader from Pastolan village in Hermosa town, said the whole day of fun run, tribal games and tree planting, called “Barkadahan para sa Kalikasan,” was a venue “for letting the next generation, whether Aeta or not, know that they would have to be responsible for the protection of nature.”
He said members of six Aeta tribes participated in the games, which included archery, spear throwing and a 10-kilometer run that was joined in by Central Luzon residents.
De la Cruz said the main danger facing areas like Mt. Natib, which is rich in flora and fauna, is not caring for the environment.
“Trees are being cut down [at an alarming rate]. And now there are wide spaces where there used to be trees, which are now gone. We’ve brought our Aeta youth here to tell them that Mt. Natib is in danger, and we should do what we can to preserve it,” he said.
A 2009 paper by Dr. Kelvin Rodolfo, professor emeritus of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said geologists had documented prehistoric pyroclastic flow from Mt. Natib that entered Subic Bay between 11,000 and 18,000 years ago.
This can be assumed to have occurred during Mt. Natib’s latest eruption, Rodolfo said.
Brig. Gen. Edwin Manuel Remotigue, a Philippine Air Force commander in Pampanga, said the military joined the activity as a way of “filling the mountains with trees.” “We aspire to spread tree planting, not only here in Bataan, but in the whole region,” he said.
“If trees will be cut, then there should be tree planting. If you see small trees, then they should [be protected]. Fruit bearing trees are not just a food source, but these will also stop soil erosion,” he added.
Amado Villanueva, head of the provincial environment and natural resources office (Penro), said it was better if the youth knew what the conservation advocacy was about.
“Still young but can already understand. We hear so much from global warming caused by deforestation. There are many things that need to be done. Even now, we can fight global warming through activities like this. But we should not stop at tree planting, but we should also protect those trees that are still standing in our forests,” he said.
He said one problem of the Penro in protecting Mt. Natib is the lack of resources. “We only have a few forest guards, covering an area that is so big. But we coordinate with local governments and even the military to preserve what’s still there,” he said.
“We’re the only ones who will be [adversely] affected [if we do not take care of our environment]. There have been so many instances where [many lives were lost to] disasters that could have been prevented through reforestation,” he said.
Not just for fun
Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) Chair Felicito Payumo, a native of Bataan and a main proponent of the conservation of Mt. Natib, said the activity was not just for fun.
“We have a real purpose here, not just for us, but for future generations,” he said.
Payumo gave a presentation about the threat to Mt. Natib posed by illegal logging, which has resulted in damage to at least 3 hectares of forest land.
“When we ascended Mt. Natib, we headed straight to the caldera and there was already a visible denudation resulting from illegal logging and pressure from settlement,” he said.
Payumo showed satellite photographs of the Bataan National Park taken in 1989, 2002 and 2006. These showed the steady movement of the tree line and large tracts of land without trees.
“What shouldn’t happen is for the caldera to be destroyed because the function of the caldera is to absorb rainwater so that it doesn’t rush to the ground and cause floods and mudslide,” he said.
He said Mt. Natib’s caldera has been damaged by trekkers who climb its peak.
To help take care of Mt. Natib, Payumo said visitors should dispose of their wastes properly. “Leave only your footprints and bring only your memories,” he said.
Visitors, he said, should emulate the Aeta because they know how to live in harmony with nature. “For centuries they have been living there, and they know how to live with nature,” he said.
“We’re helping the Aeta take care of the remaining forests there. It should not be sacrificed in the development of the area. That’s what we are doing right now,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.