By Rex Arcadio R. San Diego II
The need to act immediately to preserve and save Philippine forests is urgent, and the quick approval of the Forest Resources Bill will play a critical role in achieving such vision.
Participants to the 339th Kamayan para sa Kalikasan Forum held Friday at the Kamayan Edsa were unanimous on this conclusion after a discussion on the proposed bill at the House of Representatives.
In front of a group composed of environmental organizations, academicians and students, Haribon Foundation’s Chester Lobramonte called for support for the measure that seeks to put more teeth to the drive to protect Philippine forests from further exploitation.
Citing data from the University of the Philippines 2012 study, Lobramonte identified Mimaropa, Cagayan Valley, Caraga, and Calabarzon as among the regions that have lost the most forest cover.
“Our country is known to be the best in terms of crafting laws on the environment yet we are among the worst in terms of implementing these types of laws,” noted Lobramonte. “Once passed, the FRB will have the muscle to employ action for the protection of the environment.”
Spearheaded by Rep. Jesulito Manalo of Ankla Party-list, the FRB seeks to create a Forest Management Development Agency and engage the police in forest protection.
Lobramonte explained that by creating the Forest Park Rangers Command under the Philippine National Police, government can assign special police units, whose presence can be an effective deterrent against illegal loggers.
“These PNP units will be deployed to work hand-in-hand with local community members in forest protection activities,” noted Lobramonte.
The proposed of the Forest Management Development Agency will have public education and engagement in advocacy and actions to protect forests have as its primary purposes. The FMDA will be under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Stakeholders, community members will take a direct role in policy making and monitoring duties,” said Lobramonte who also expressed optimism with the presence of “companion bills” which provide support to the FRB.
Among these proposed measures are the Environmental Law Bill and the Forest Management Authority Bill.
Lobramonte pointed out that personnel who will be engaged in forest protection activities will be provided formal training before they are deployed, allaying fears that those tapped for the job might be unprepared or easily corrupted.
“If we could get the immediate support of Malacanang on this measure, the better. Hopefully, the President issues an Executive Order in support of this bill so the process will be faster,” said Lobramonte.
“Forests are a primary resource; we depend on them in so many ways. It is just proper—and urgent—that they are protected for future generations to enjoy,” stated Dr. Angelina P. Galang, Green Convergence Convenor.
“Everybody benefits from a healthy forest. How we protect our own bodies is how we should protect our trees and forests,” noted Marietta Marciano.