Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles has batted for the immediate passage of a bill creating an agency tasked with the conservation and management of the 540-kilometer Sierra Madre mountain range.
“Amid the threat of (typhoon) Karding, Sierra Madre has once again shown just how crucial it is in protecting us against extreme weather events. The Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA) will help us preserve this shield in the face of a worsening climate crisis,” Nograles said.
Nograles authored House Bill 1972, which proposes to establish the SMDA to protect the mountain range, which includes majority of the country’s sixty-eight Protected Areas.
The SMDA would also lead the government’s anti-illegal logging and reforestation campaigns, prevent construction of unwarranted and illegal infrastructure, enhance and develop indigenous resources in the areas that can be utilized for development, and educate people on the importance of the mountain range.
The proposed agency is also mandated to conduct a comprehensive survey of the Sierra Madre region’s physical and natural resources, and draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize them to promote the region’s social and economic development.
The SMDA is also tasked to 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; and 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.
Sierra Madre plays a key role in Metro Manila’s major water supply demands, along with the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan.
Save Sierra Madre Day is observed annually on September 26 by virtue of Proclamation No. 413 as a reminder of the dangers of the continuous degradation of the mountain range, which is known as the “backbone” of Luzon. It commemorates the day typhoon Ondoy caused massive flooding in 2009.
“We must act, and we must act now,” Nograles said. “We have to be more aggressive, strategic, and comprehensive in our efforts to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. The SMDA will be a massive help in unifying our efforts,” the Harvard-trained lawyer added.