By SANDRA FERWELO
BAGUIO CITY — Forest destruction will remain unabated despite millions of trees being planted if extractive projects of powerful and rich corporations are allowed to continue, according to an environmental group in northern Luzon.
Amianan Salakniban in a statement said that for as long as the government through its laws and policies allow extractive and destructive projects such as large scale mining and logging, forest destruction is inevitable.
According to Center for Environment Concerns (CEC), “centuries of colonial rule, commercial logging, corruption and misguided policies issued by the government brought our forests to the brink of total destruction.”
Amianan Salakniban said that the logging industry that was institutionalized during the Marcos regime further worsened the forest crisis when Timber Licensing Agreements (TLA) were given to cronies. “Because of that, Philippines lost about 7 million hectares of forest cover in just two decades,” the statement read.
The environmental group said that even after TLAs were judged as unconstitutional after the dictatorship, five TLAs were reinstated including the TLA of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s logging company during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s time.
The group further said that even with “environment-friendly” laws such as Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMA), Community Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMA), and Socialized Integrated Forest Management Agreements (SIFMA), the logging industry is still extractive and export oriented.
The CEC research disclose that up until now, legal commercial logging is still the leading cause of deforestation as compared to illegal logging, kaingin and diseases. In 2010, over 1 million hectares of forests were under various logging concessions. The present Aquino Administration further posed dangers to our forests by encouraging more foreign mining companies to operate even within old growth forests through the Mining Act of 1995. Operating mines and Applications increased from 718 in 2011 to 999 in 2015.
Under the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, mining companies even those which are foreign owned are privileged with Timber Rights wherein they can legally cut hectares of forests and excavate whole mountains down.
This is the case of mining operations in Didipio, Nueva Vizcaya, Runruno, Quezon and Itogon-Mankayan, Benguet. Those with Free Technical Assistance Agreement (FTAA) such as Oceana Gold Philippines Inc. can also export 100% of their profit out of the Philippines, according to Amianan Salakniban.
“These are the realities we have to face every time we plant our own small trees. As much as we want to meet the 7.8 billion demand to save humanity from climate change, rich people in power and corporations will continue to cut millions of hectares of trees for their profit. And our present government is letting them do it,” the group reiterated.
It can be recalled that the international Earth Day network is calling for every people on the planet to plant 7.8 billion trees in the next five years on the Earth Day Celebration last April 22. # nordis.net