By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
It is summer. And it is at its height. Even in Baguio City, known for its cool weather, is at its hottest. As it is holy week and with a long vacation, adventurers and climbers are exploring to visit Mount Pulag, Mount Kalawitan, Mount Amuyao, Mount Ugo, other mountains in the region.
With the scorching weather, it is good to know the condition of the forests cover in the country. And the easiest way is through the internet. The present total forest cover in the country is 7,162,000 hectares or 24 percent of the total national land area of 115,830 square miles (300,000 sq. Kms.). Reports show that the forest loss since the 1990s is 3,412,000 hectares.
But the forest loss did not only start in 1990 but earlier. Reportedly, forest loss was on its height just after World War II where timber was saleable overseas.
In the Cordillera, the climate was very cold. I remember our younger days, we felt the coldest temperatures when we travel via the Halsema Highway where we needed thick jackets to warm ourselves. That area was once covered with very thick forests. But with the advent of large scale logging – yes legal logging through the state issued Timber License Agreement, the thick forests in that area was substantially reduced, particularly after World War II. The timber from the Cordillera were exported to Japan for its rebuilding. The logging company, and the state, gained much from the profits from the sale of the forest resources there. But not the people, who are now burdened to suffer the effects of logging in that area. I never heard of the company’s social responsibility to plant trees as a consequence of their logging in that area.
Of course, the vegetable garden expansions, kaingin and small logging had contributed to deforestation in that area. But the effects – environmental or else – was not as substantial compared to the large scale logging.
Back to the issue on forest cover, experts proved that deforestation is actually traced from the conduit state and corporate interests exploitation of the natural resources, particularly large scale logging and mining. The state-blessed large scale resource utilization turned our forest cover way below the ideal 40 percent cover in order to have a balanced ecology. In fact our forest is among the most endangered and critical condition worldwide, pointed out environmental experts. They added that with the present condition of our forests, the Philippines’ forest cover should be 54 percent of the land area in order to be ecologically sound and to sustain its ecosystems. And in order to help in addressing the problem on climate change, we need to adopt measures to salvage our remaining forests. We must push the government to adopt a moratorium on large scale logging and mining.
Indigenous and environmental organizations nationwide launched systematic campaigns for environmental conservation. They should be lauded for being in the forefront of this inter-generational issue of environmental conservation. They had been raising the effects of large scale mining on environmental degradation. The Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said that 84 percent or 880,653 hectares of land from the MGB recorded mining interests of 1,046,349 hectares are found in the indigenous peoples’ ancestral domains. Such mine interests threaten these areas where forests have been maintained through their (indigenous peoples) resource use management system – scientifically proven to be sustainable.
In the Cordillera, villages in the mining communities have witnessed the culprit on environmental destruction that is large scale mining. They are at the forefront of the anti-mining campaigns to share their experiences as new mining applications covers 60 percent or 1,111,995.4351 hectares of the region’s total land area of 1,829,370 hectares. IPs proved that mining companies raked profits from their resources and left their communities destroyed. Such experiences heightened their opposition to large scale mining. And as we also witnessed the effect of deteriorating forests cover and mining such as floods, the siltation in major rivers and dams, reduced rainfall, depleted water sources, pollutions, and extinction of species, we need to learn from the indigenous peoples – the real stewards of Mother Earth. # nordis.net