Forests protect

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So let’s protect our forests
About 15 tropical cyclones enter the Philippines every year, some of which leave thousands of Filipinos in dire conditions due to the havoc wreaked by super typhoons.

These disastrous effects can be mitigated with the help of our forests. Despite the glaring effects of deforestation and climate change, the Philippine government has yet to pass definitive and comprehensive measures to address current environmental problems.

A forest is more than a mere collection of trees. It is an intricate ecological system that provides home to a myriad of plant and animal species, and sustains balance in the biosphere. Its degradation engenders the extinction of our country’s endemic species, erratic shifts in the weather, extreme temperatures, flash floods, landslides, and other calamitous manifestations of climate change, which are becoming common sights in this day and age. Decades of thoughtless extraction of timber and non-timber products have significantly reduced our total forest cover from an estimated original forest cover of 68 percent in early 1900s down to less than 24 percent (DENR, 2010). As a result, the economic, medicinal, and cultural benefits we used to enjoy from the ecosystem deteriorated with the decrease in the number of our forests.

To address and alleviate the gravity of the problem being faced by our forests, Haribon Foundation along with other civil society groups, seek to protect and rehabilitate our natural forests to ensure that future generations will also be able to enjoy its immeasurable benefits through the enactment of the Forest Resources Bill (FRB).

FRB is a comprehensive solution that promotes forest management. It allows maximum use of forests for the ecological services they provide, which are necessary for survival. It promotes rainforestation, an ecologically sound reforestation technology. The bill proposes a framework that banks on the proactive participation of both the people and the government, thus the bill seeks to involve different sectors including national and local governments, academic institutions, private entities, local and indigenous communities in order to ensure sustainable management of forests.

Unfortunately, after more than two decades, the bill is still pending with the committee level in both houses since 2013, and now that the 2016 presidential election is already within sight, many fear that the passage of the bill will be deferred yet again until the 17th Congress which also means that it will have to go back to square one.

With the 16th Congress bound to adjourn in 2016, communities and groups working on keeping the integrity of our natural ecosystems have less than a year to strengthen their call for the passage of the FRB and the two other “green” bills, which are the Alternative Minerals Management Bill and the National Land Use Bill.

On July 25, two days before President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s State of The Nation Address, Haribon, Task Force Detainees of The Philippines, Alyansa Tigil Mina, and Campaign for Land Use Now will be holding a Green March at the Quezon Memorial Circle. The Green March aims to raise people’s awareness and mobilize support for the green bills, and calls on the President’s recognition of the said bills. Among the activities on the day of the march is a CausePlay wherein participants will get to dress as their favorite “green” hero, a forest food fair, and mural painting.

To learn more about the Forest Resources Bill (FRB), visit haribon.org.ph.

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