Environmentalists: Protect Sierra Madre | Inquirer News

Environmentalists: Protect Sierra Madre

/ 04:20 AM September 23, 2011

With just a few days left before the anniversary of the “Ondoy” tragedy, environmentalists have renewed their call to protect the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, the largest remaining tract of rainforest in the country.

The Save Sierra Madre Network (SSMN) said it was planning to hold activities such as tree-planting, mountain-climbing, and thanksgiving masses on September 26 in Marikina City—one of the areas severely hit by Tropical Storm “Ondoy”—and other areas in Quezon, Bulacan, Rizal, Aurora, and Nueva Ecija.

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SSMN represents Dumagat tribes and other indigenous peoples, local communities, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, and other forest protection advocates.

Last August, President Benigno Aquino III declared September 26, the anniversary of “Ondoy,” as Save Sierra Madre Day through Proclamation No. 233.

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He also issued a logging moratorium in natural and residual forests through Executive Order No. 23 last February.

“What is disturbing is that Sierra Madre’s biodiversity-rich rainforest, which enables the mountain range to shield much of Luzon from raging Pacific storms, is fast diminishing due to rampant logging, quarrying and other developmental aggressions, such as dam, landfill and garbage dump projects,” Fr. Pete Montallana, chair of the network said in a statement.

Montallana, a recipient of this year’s Fr. Neri Satur Awards for Environmental Heroism, said that to protect Sierra Madre, the government must also address corruption within the Department of Natural Resources (DENR).

He claimed there was an “unholy alliance” between corrupt DENR officials and illegal loggers.

Described as a “bastion of biodiversity,” the 1.4-million-hectare Sierra Madre still has an intact primary or old-growth forests of about 400,000 ha.

Its forests contain more than 3,500 plant species, more than half of which are endemic or unique to the Philippines. At least a hundred of these are endangered.

It is also home to about 70 threatened animal species which include the Philippine eagle, golden-crowned flying fox, and pygmy forest frog.

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Anabelle Plantilla, Haribon’s chief operating officer, said water supply in Metro Manila comes from the Angat and Umiray watersheds which are located in Southern Sierra Madre.

“The forests of Sierra Madre not only provide for our water needs, they also have a role in minimizing the impacts of typhoons, floods, and other disasters,” Plantilla said

“We have to protect both the primary and secondary forests of Sierra Madre and the rest of the country if we want to prevent another water crisis and another Ondoy,” she added.

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TAGS: Conservation, DENR, environment, floods, Ondoy, Save Sierra Madre Network, Sierra Madre, SSMN, typhoons
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