Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay Party-list has filed a measure seeking to give the country’s forest rangers better benefits and protection.
Under House Bill (HB) 4703 or the Magna Carta for Forest Rangers, forest rangers assume a critical role in the protection and preservation of the country’s forests.
“Our country has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, more than enough to provide for our needs, and even that of the world,” Atienza, a former secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said.
However, he added that “decades of neglect and abuse from unscrupulous groups have depleted most of these resources, foremost of which are our forests. On the frontlines of this fight to protect and preserve our environment and natural resources are our forest rangers.”
The lawmaker lamented that despite the critical role played by forest rangers, “they lack the necessary employment protection commensurate to their contribution to the protection and development of this very important natural resource.”
If passed into law, the measure will provide forest rangers long-overdue benefits and protection that they deserve.
These include an entry level position of salary grade 18, security of tenure, hazard allowance, transportation, longevity and subsistence allowance, among others.
HB 4703 also seeks to create a minimum number of forest ranger positions equivalent to the ratio of one forest ranger per five hundred hectares of lands classified as forest or timber lands.
“To date, there are only a few thousands of them watching and protecting hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests all around the country– with an estimated ratio of one forest ranger per 5,000 to 6,000 hectares of forest or timber lands. Through the years, they have endured long hours of work, insufficient pay, and many have given up their lives in the performance of their duties,” Atienza said.