Speak It Out

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Location: Manila, Philippines

The name Ardythe:good war (Anglo-saxon); flowering field (Hebrew); spiritual prosperity (Swedish); Norwegian goddess.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Another Calamity

Almost everyone knows that floods are caused by deforestation. Yet it is very obvious that people are more attracted to instant money than protecting the habitat. We are a selfless generation. But not all are. Others are selfish. Sure they think of their family, but not their fellowmen as a whole. They think of today rather than tomorrow. For what will be the sense of having tomorrow if today they will die of hunger? These people can be described in two words: selfish and inconsiderate. No, I'm not saying this because I have anything I need (read: need, not want). We speak if sustainable development, yet we fail to apply this. Sustainable development means the ability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.

Why do landslides occur? This happens when the soil becomes too heavy, especially when it rains. It absorbds too much water and due to the heaviness, it falls. Common knowledge. How can we prevent landslides? By having trees. Tress prevent soil erosion. The Philippine forests contain a lot of tress, yet over the years it has declined rapidly. (I tried searching for the statistics from the DENR site but there was none, or I failed to locate it. Well they had 2002 data!) The government has imposed of total log ban. Of course, when money it spoken, it becomes the magic word. As a result, landslides occur and mortality increases. Water becomes contaminated. More species are driven away from their natural habitats.

The Philippine forests are one of the most diverse in the world. This also houses an uncountable number if inhabitants, some remain undiscovered. If this trend continues, then we all die in an unintelligible manner.

Dan Mariano of Today says:

Not unexpectedly, illegal logging is again being blamed for the landslides and flash floods that have taken scores of lives and displaced thousands of families in several towns in the provinces of Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Aurora. Logs washed down by cascading floodwaters from the mountains were presented as proof that rampant deforestation continues to cause so much human misery in this country.

As in the past, the immediate response of many quarters has been to agitate for the imposition of a comprehensive ban on logging. Yet, if Secretary Michael Defensor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is to be believed, the municipalities hardest hit by Typhoon Winnie are among the areas where his department has actually imposed a total logging ban.

If what Defensor said was true, then we can immediately conclude that a Òtotal log banÓ does not work.

The remaining timberland of the Philippines covers just a little more than 15 million hectares. While portions of these forests have been awarded to private logging firms on the strength of so-called integrated forest management agreements (IFMAs), the rest remains vulnerable to the encroachments of what the DENR refers to as Òcarabao loggers.Ó

The government is somehow able to monitor and regulate the operations of IFMA holders. However, it does not have the means to keep tabs on - much less, apprehend - illegal loggers. Since they have been licensed to harvest what has become a valuable resource, IFMA operators tend to take good care of the timberlands awarded to them. And if they want to sustain their highly lucrative business, IFMA holders are naturally predisposed to replant trees to those areas they have logged over.

Defensor pointed out that in areas where IFMA holders operate, landslides and flashfloods - as well as the consequent loss of lives and displacement of residents - have been minimized, if not eliminated altogether.

In contrast, carabao loggers have no incentive to carefully manage this renewable resource. For the most part, they resort to illegal logging as a means to survive from day to day. The population pressure in our country has reached such magnitudes that there are now tens of thousands of ÒsquattersÓ in what for centuries were pristine forests and jungles.

The cash-strapped government, meanwhile, does not have the means to stem the squatter invasion of our forests. Defensor estimated that in order to prevent carabao loggers from overrunning our remaining forest cover, DENR would have to hire 70,000 forest rangersÑeach of whom would be assigned to patrol 100 hectares of timberland.

Aggravating the problem of protecting our remaining timberlands is the presence in those areas of communist insurgents who, understandably, are too keen about the ÒencroachmentÓ of government personnel into their Òterritory.Ó

Needless to say, itÕs a mission impossible.

ItÕs not hard to detect what Defensor was trying to say between the lines. For years, logging companies have been portrayed as indiscriminate ravagers of the environment. And that may have been true in certain cases.

However, current experience - notably the flash floods and landslides that have been occurring with increasing regularity even in those areas where a total log ban is supposed to be in place - tells us that we need to review this image.

It now turns out that licensed - and responsible - logging companies are our last best hope for preserving our remaining forest cover.


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