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Group says protection of forests must be core of disaster response

/ 04:56 AM November 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Restoration and conservation of the Philippines’ existing forests, from rainforests to mangrove forests, should be at the core of the country’s disaster risk reduction plans, according to the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

These “nature-based solutions” are also “no-regrets” adaptation measures that will bring benefits to communities across the country, with or without the occurrence of disasters, said the center based in Los Baños, Laguna province.

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“Aside from cushioning us from the impacts of climate change, the protection of these ecosystems provide advantages that are key to our survival: providing clean water, ensuring food security and regulating a host of diseases,” ACB executive director Theresa Mundita Lim said on Monday.

Conservationists have called for greater protection for forest areas and watersheds that serve as protection against floods and other adverse climate impacts following the onslaught of consecutive typhoons in the past few weeks, most recently Typhoon “Ulysses” (international name: Vamco),

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Data from the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment report of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization showed that the Philippines has a total forest cover of 7,014,156 hectares, or 23.4 percent of the country’s total area of 30 million ha, based on the land cover data in 2015.

State of Sierra Madre

Amid the widespread flooding in Luzon, attention was also directed at the state of the Sierra Madre mountain range, which stretches from Cagayan province in the north to the Quezon province in the south, that protects a large part of Luzon by serving as a buffer against strong storms that develop in the Pacific Ocean.

Sierra Madre’s diverse ecosystem, ranging from wetlands to pygmy forests and large dipterocarp forest areas, will not only break strong winds but will also absorb large amounts of rainfall—but only if they remain intact, Lim said.

The Sierra Madre represents 40 percent of the country’s forest cover, but it remains heavily under threat of illegal logging, mining activities, and road construction and development, according to Forest Foundation Philippines.

Threat to watersheds

Watersheds, such as the Upper Marikina River Basin, are also under threat of land conversation, illegal logging and quarrying, despite its protected status.

Confronted with the challenges posed by climate change and biodiversity loss, Lim said the business-as-usual framework by governments and the private sector is no longer acceptable.

“In as much as there is recognition of climate change as a driver of biodiversity loss, it must also be realized that conserving and sustainably managing biodiversity is right at the core of climate action,” said the former head of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Biodiversity Management Bureau.

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While residents in the Philippines and other typhoon-weary countries in Southeast Asia continue to show resilience in the face of crises, more concrete action should be done to forward long-term solutions in the climate crisis, Lim said.

“[This resilience] must be matched with science-based policies and programs that embed biodiversity and nature-based solutions to short- and long-term climate action at all levels,” she added.

Trees for franchise

Noting that deforestation caused massive flooding in Cagayan Valley due to Ulysses, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Sunday said planting trees would soon be mandatory for public transport cooperatives and individuals seeking franchises or licenses.

In a meeting with President Duterte and other Cabinet officials, Tugade said a regional director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) had suggested that members of cooperatives must plant 500 trees before being granted a franchise.

He said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was closely coordinating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and local government units in identifying areas for reforestation. —WITH A REPORT FROM MEG ADONIS INQ

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TAGS: ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, Disaster response, forest protection, Theresa Mundita Lim, typhoons
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