DENR Stakeholders Push For Increased Monitoring Efforts In Sierra Madre

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and various stakeholders of the country's longest mountain range have agreed on the need to increase monitoring efforts to prevent deforestation and further degradation of its natural forests.

During the Sierra Madre stakeholders' summit held in Quezon City from July 26 to 27, the participants came up with a number of recommendations on how to protect the mountain range, which has long been threatened by human activities, such as illegal logging.

The Sierra Madre forests are home to a variety of wildlife species, many of which are unique to the country, including the majestic Philippine eagle and golden crowned flying fox. The northern portion of the mountain range is home to some of the only remaining old growth forests in the country.

The mountain range is also one of the many drivers of Philippine economy, as its watersheds provide services that support major infrastructure, including dams that irrigate farmlands in Central Luzon and the Cagayan Valley region, as well as water utilities and power plants that supply Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The two-day summit has brought together civil society organizations, indigenous peoples and representatives from local communities and local government units. It was organized by the DENR's regional offices in Metro Manila and Regions 2, 3 and 4-A.

Among the recommendations agreed upon during the summit are the creation of a multipartite monitoring team even on the lower levels to serve as community watchdogs, proper networking of concerned agencies, and securing sufficient funds to hire more forest protection officers.

Aside from illegal logging, other problems hounding Sierra Madre are illegal wildlife trade, mining, kaingin or charcoal-making.

Speaking on behalf of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Undersecretary for Field Operations Juan Miguel Cuna expressed hope the summit would result in the crafting of a strategic plan that would bolster efforts in wiping out illegal wildlife trade and strengthen reforestation initiatives.

"This discussion is important so we can talk about the direction of our administration to be pro-environment and pro-people, in which we push for an open communication between the DENR and civil society organizations for programs aimed to protect Sierra Madre," Cuna said.

To ensure the protection of Sierra Madre, a presidential proclamation was issued in 2012 declaring every September 26 as Save Sierra Madre Day, coinciding with the anniversary of the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy.

Proclamation No. 143 states that Save Sierra Madre Day was declared "to remind people of the risk and dangers which a lack of concern and action for the Sierra Madre may bring about." (DENR)

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