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NGOs call for ban on Sierra Madre logging, mining

MASUNGI GEORESERVE FOUNDATION, HANDOUT

NON-GOVERNMENT organizations (NGOs) called for a blanket ban on logging, quarrying, and mining in Eastern Luzon’s Sierra Madre range, saying the mountains need to be kept intact to serve as a barrier to natural calamities.

“The Sierra Madre is a source of livelihood. It keeps us safe. The Sierra Madre keeps our indigenous people safe. It balances our ecology so we have the right climate. It secures our future,” Southern Tagalog for Environmental Development and Protection (STEP-Sierra Madre) Chairman Mark Almazan said at a forum on Monday.

The Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines.

“The Sierra Madre (helps protect against) wind and rain breaker,” Simeon T. Sioson, chairman of Federation of Central Luzon Farmers’ Cooperatives, said.

Mr. Sioson added that Typhoon Karding (international name: Noru) affected not just farmers and fisherfolks, but the livelihood and homes of many Filipinos.

According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), crop damage inflicted by Typhoon Karding hit P3.12 billion, affecting 170,762 hectares of farm land and 108,594 farmers and fisherfolk. The volume of lost production was estimated at 158,117 metric tons.

“We need nature for our livelihood. Aquaculture depends on clean water to survive and thrive. It is in our best interest to preserve the environment so we can keep on producing fish,” Norberto O. Chingcuanco, vice-president for corporate planning of Feedmix Specialist, Inc., said.

“The impact of Karding on everyone in the agricultural community might have been worse had it not been for the Sierra Madre. The mountains both protect us from danger and ensure that we are able to produce food,” former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) National Director and Tugon Kabuhayan Convenor Asis G. Perez added.

BFAR Regional Director Wilfredo M. Cruz said the mountain range minimized damage to fisheries by saving 17 million individual fish used for brood stock in Central Luzon.

“About 17 million in brood stock fish would have been lost if not for the Sierra Madre. Luzon is number one in aquaculture production, and Central Luzon or Region III produces 16% by value,” he said.

Mr. Almazan also called for a halt to the construction of the dam on the Kaliwa river in Rizal and Quezon provinces.

“Our government is pushing for this dam… it destroys the ecological balance of the Sierra Madre and displaces our indigenous people and puts us at risk,” Mr. Almazan said.

He added that alternative water sources should be harnessed, such as Laguna de Bay. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson

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