Solon: Create body to protect Sierra Madre, prevent floods
MANILA, Philippines — After the severe flooding that submerged parts of Luzon due to recent typhoons, Rizal 2nd District Rep. Fidel Nograles has reiterated his call to create a government body that will oversee, manage, and care for the 500-kilometer-long Sierra Madre Mountain Range to help protect the biodiverse area’s forest cover and prevent flooding in areas in Luzon.
In a statement, Nograles said flooding in Metro Manila all the way to towns in Cagayan Valley “emphasize the importance of taking concrete steps to care for the Sierra Madre Mountain Region.”
“Malaki talaga ang impact nito (This has a huge impact). The increased frequency and severity of flooding in areas close to the Marikina River, as well as in towns in the Cagayan Valley are attributed to the loss of Sierra Madre’s forest cover––and we can no longer ignore this,” he said.
“There is clearly a need to provide this vital mountain range with further safeguards and protection while finding ways to responsibly develop part of the range not under its Protected Areas,” he added.
House Bill No. 5634, filed by Nograles last year, calls for the creation of a Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA).
He said that aside from protecting the mountain range, the bill also calls for the adoption of a “holistic approach to enhance the development of indigenous resources of the Sierra Madre region to its fullest potential for economic development in order to raise the standard of living of those residing in the area.”
The following are the proposed functions of the SMDA under the bill:
• conduct a comprehensive survey of the physical and natural resources of the Sierra Madre region and draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize the said resources in order to promote the region’s social and economic development
• provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region
• provide recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects
• assess and approve all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range
• plan, program, finance and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, wastewater and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing, and related work
• undertake studies on the conservation, improvement, exploration, development, and maintenance of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range
According to Nograles, the SMDA will be led by a Board of Directors (BOD) with nine members: the Executive Secretary; the National Economic and Development Authority Director-General; the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Energy; the Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; a provincial governor representing the provinces comprising the Sierra Madre Region; a city or municipal mayor representing the cities and municipalities comprising the Sierra Madre Region; and the General Manager of the SMDA.
Under the measure, the SMDA General Manager will be appointed by the President and will be tasked to manage the operations of the agency, which will execute the policies that will be passed by the BOD.
The bill also states that the Executive Secretary chairs the BOD, while the NEDA Director-General will act as vice-chairperson.
Nograles noted that the wide-area covered by the Sierra Madre mountain range and the importance of the region “require coordination that cuts across various LGU jurisdictions and numerous departmental concerns.”
“The SMDA will ensure coordination and cooperation among all these, resulting in a coherent and comprehensive strategy that will protect the Sierra Madre’s forest cover while allowing for sustainable development,” he also said.
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