Home Opinion Columns Advocate’s Overview: Adopt the indigenous forest management

Advocate’s Overview: Adopt the indigenous forest management



Baguio and Benguet had just experienced several earthquakes on Thursday and in the early morning of Friday. The strongest so far recorded by the Phivolcs was the magnitude 5 earthquake in the early morning of Friday. The latest incidents did not only remind the people of the 1990 earthquake, which was recorded at 7.3 in the richter scale.

I don’t like to scare the residents of the region, particularly those residing in Baguio City. I just would like us to understand the nature of our region which would help the people, through the government, come up with proposals and finally adopt measures that would mitigate natural disasters, a reality and possibility given that our region is not only an earthquake prone area, but also a landslide prone area.

In its geo-hazards mapping and assessment program, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources identified the provinces that are prone to landslide. The provinces of the Cordillera, including Baguio City, are among those identified by this MGB program as landslide prone areas. The 10 landslide prone provinces are: 1. Benguet (which is 90.3 % landslide susceptible), 2. Mountain Province (87.1 %), 3. Nueva Vizcaya (86.7 %), 4. Kalinga and Apayao (84.7 %), 5. Southern Leyte (82.6 %), 6. Abra (82.1 %), 7. Marinduque 78.6 %), 8. Cebu (77.6 %), 9. Catanduanes (77.4 %), and 10. Ifugao (77.3 %). The reasons that can be traced for the region’s being a land slide prone are: about 90 percent of the region is said to be steep to very steep slopes; and, the region lies on many faultlines.

The Cordillera Regional Development Council said that the steeper the slope, the more liable it is to be unstable and more prone to ground mass movements. I believe then that if we have stronger earthquakes, there is the bigger possibility that there would be ground movements too.

That actually explains why the provinces of the region are unreachable due to massive landslides that destroyed and covered the main roads during the 1990 earthquake.

It is true that humans cannot stop the occurrence of these natural disasters. But natural disasters are a reality which should push our government to adopt concrete measures to lessen or mitigate the effects of these natural disasters. And we need to learn from the systems that had been practiced, and continously being practiced, by the people – their indigenous forest resource use and management.

In my past visits to our place in Mountain Province, I was reminded again of the indigenous practices of the people on forest management. They were able to maintain their communal forests through their since time immemorial’ norms. They have laws adopted and which are implemented by the dap-ay, an indigenous socio-political system. Among these laws are the utilization of the forests with the consequential obligation to protect and conserve these forests. A violation of these age-old laws would entail sanctions that would be imposed on any violator after the elders have discussed it appropriately in the dap-ay. Even batangan, a clan owned forests, entails sanctions upon any member of the clan who violates the utilization rule. Whether communal or clan owned, the forests conservation are aimed for the harmonious symbiotic relationship of the people with their environment.

Patronizing these indigenous forests management is a concrete move that would lessen or mitigate land slide caused by natural disasters.

While the remaining forests in the region are located in the communities where they have strong indigenous forests management practices, the fast reductions of our forests are traceable to corporate related interests. The massive cutting of trees are traceable from logging permits issued by the state to logging corporations and timber rights granted to mining corporations, wherein the latter is presently institutionalized under RA 7942 or the Mining Act of 1995. It is therefore challenging that since the RDC of the Cordillera recognized that indigenous communities have instilled values and discipline on resource conservation practicing forest management systems, then they, together with the local officialdom, should come up with a definite stand against large-scale mining and legal logging. In such case, they can be a model for environmental conservation, aside from the fact that they adopted a concrete measure to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. # nordis.net

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