At least four environmental groups have called on for the approval of National Land Use Act, Forest Resources Bill, Alternative Minerals Management Bill and the Protected Areas Act – collectively known as green bills.
The groups say the country is bracing for more extreme climate change events like droughts from another El Nino, and stronger typhoons.
In a statement signed by Forest Resources Bill Network, Green Convergence, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Ecological Society of the Philippines, the groups urged legislators and political leaders to fast tract the passage of said bills.
“As the world celebrates the International Day of Forests, the Philippine forest cover drops 22.8% or 6.84 million hectares according to the latest data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 2012 Forest Facts and Figures,” according to Lodel D. Magbanua, convenor of Forest Resources Bill Network.
“The United Nations Forest and Agriculture Organization reported that the country lose forest at an average rate of about 54,750 hectares per year between 1990 and 2010. While Conservation International issued a report in 2011 saying, only seven percent of Philippine forests remain intact,” Forest Resources Bill Network added.
Citing various studies, Forest Resources Bill Network recommended “forest restoration to increase forest cover in municipalities, private and public lands included, by at least 40% (Cruz, 2011) to 54 %(Sajise et al, 1996) to sustain basic ecological processes.”
“All remaining natural forests, including primary, secondary and residual forests should be protected. This requires a stable set of policies that curb forest loss, promote biodiversity and incorporate climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies,” it said.
Although saying that “logging, legal or illegal as well as charcoal making may be the top drivers of deforestation and forest degradation respectively”, the environmental groups maintained that government also should look into the “runners up” which include mining and forest conversion to non-forest use like for road construction, settlement, conversion into built-up areas based on the study by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
“Mongabay.com article on drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia showed plantations and dams at 8% topped logging at 2-5%. While government struggle over enforcement and corruption issues in curbing logging and timber poaching, it seems to favor mining industries, industrialization and dam constructions as significant drivers of deforestation and forest degradation,” said Forest Resources Bill Network said.
“While the same government penned Executive Order No. 23, banning logging in natural forests and institutionalizing the National Greening Program, the same approved large-scale government projects that contribute to forest loss,” it added.
In 1997, the country experienced severe drought resulting in loss of lives and livelihoods due to El Niño phenomenon, recalled Forest Resources Bill Network.
“The great Sierra Madre is the only area that did not suffer rain deficit because of its topography with the existence of large tracts of intact rainforest in the mountain range (Tan, 2000).
“There’s no easy access to get to Sierra Madre, and this isolation helped preserve forest and the coral reef systems downstream. Rainforests provide clean water. Once a rainforest goes, so does the water,” the statement said.