Election means tree cutting frenzy in Sierra Madre – tribe leader
LUCENA CITY, Philippines – An Agta tribe leader in Sierra Madre in northern Quezon has expressed fear that the with the coming election season, more trees will be cut to finance the candidacies of illegal loggers supported politicians.
Tribe leader Ramcy Astoveza, also the director of Tribal Development Center based in Infanta, Quezon, said illegal logging activities in Sierra Madre never stop despite the government log ban.
“And with the coming election, more trees will be cut and smuggled out of the mountain to finance the candidacy of corrupt politicians,” he said over the phone.
Astoveza observed that during election season there are two faces of politicians on the issue of mountain protection – pseudo environmentalist who professes to champion the cause of Sierra Madre protection and rehabilitation and candidates fronting for financier and protector of illegal loggers.
“This is the cycle every election, be it local and national,” he said
Fr. Pete Montallana, head of Save Sierra Madre Alliance, called on the Filipinos to be more discerning of candidates that they will vote into office.
“Vote for candidates with true and genuine environmental protection advocacy to save the remaining fragile environment,” the priest appealed to voters.
He observed that government elected officials and their political parties are now focused on winning the election than address the issues of continuous environmental destructions in their respective territorial jurisdiction.
To help protect Sierra Madre from further destruction, the “governor” of the Agta tribe registered Friday as an independent candidate for councilor of General Nakar, Quezon.
Nap Buendicho said his candidacy was decided by the council of tribe leaders to represent the indigenous people in the local government decision making particularly on matters affecting the tribal people.
“The tribe wants to have our own voice in the local government to protect Sierra Madre from further destruction. This is a matter of survival for the whole tribe and our homeland,” Buendicho said in a phone interview.
He claimed that more than 2,000 tribesmen were registered voters in General Nakar, a town that lies at the foot of Sierra Madre in northern Quezon with 17,000 registered voters.
He said local and provincial officials, multi-sectoral leaders and religious have promised to support his candidacy.
Buendicho said his candidacy was the second time that a tribe member participated in the local election. He said Conchita Calzado, current commissioner of the National Commission on Indigenous People was once an elected councilor of General Nakar.
“She was elected under a political party. We have decided to go independent this time so as not to compromise our main platform – to protect Sierra Madre,” Buendicho said.
Reelectionist General Nakar Mayor Leovigildo Rozul welcomed the participation of the tribe leader.
“He can help the local council in the formulation of laws, projects and programs for the protection of Sierra Madre,” Rozul said.