Infanta, Quezon –Four years after the implementation of Presidential Proclamation 413 by then President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, declaring September 26 of every year as Save Sierra Madre Day, the Sierra Mountain Range still faces threats due to various development aggression projects, says Southern Tagalog for Environmental Development and Protection (STEP-Sierra Madre) – an environmental youth organization in Quezon, Rizal and Laguna; as they hold an Environmental Youth Summit on September 25 entitled SIERRA MADRE: NAGMAHAL, NASAKTAN, NAGPAPASAGIP SA MAMAMAYANG MAKAKALIKASAN.
While the group welcomes the move of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to order a moratorium to some mining industry operations, “it is imperative to do the same to other destructive business ventures like forest-land conversion that paved way to making Sierra Madre as a spot to Eco-Tourism projects. Permits are still given to few big logging concessionaires those rampantly cutting trees even at the heart of the forested area, while Greening programs prioritize plants like rattan, jathropa, kamoteng-kahoy, yellow corn for bio-diesel, and used as raw materials in lined with industries’ demands instead of planting native variety of trees,” Mark Almazan – chairperson of STEP-SM lamented.
A month ago, Sierra Madre as a seat for planned construction of big dams made it to the hot spot when four died and two other workers still missing when trapped inside the tunnel of the on-going building of Sumag River Diversion Project in General Nakar, Quezon on the onslaught of South Easterly Wind or Hanging Habagat.
Sumag Dam is designed to optimize the water supply for the Umiray-Angat Transbasin Project, while four more big dams are set to be built in the Kaliwa Transbasin namely: New Centennial Water Source- Kaliwa Dam, Agos Dam, Kanan Dam and Laiban Dam that are expected to enclose major river system in Rizal and Northern Quezon that are feared to endanger many lives to many residents and deprive free access to water and irrigation to agricultural lands in the area.
“Sierra Madre, like all other natural environment has its’ carrying capacity. And at this point, it already reached its limit,” says Almazan. “Thus, rehabilitation effort must be given priority instead of allowing more commercial ventures, even erroneous government projects like the exclusion of more than 10, 000 hectares of lands under Presidential Proclamation 196 from being a Protected Area – that led the way to the distribution of lands to more than 4, 000 CLOA holders that are supposedly small farmers and rebel returnees in Real, Quezon.”
“Unfortunately this became an effective route to concentrate the land to few big businessmen as the farmers have no capacity in the first place to cultivate the lands because it does not fall to agricultural land category as it is 18 slopes above sea level, added by Almazan.
“All these projects, made us think that our dreams preserving our shelter, our culture and securing our Ancestral Domain gets farther and farther, says Jhonny Azcarraga of Dunong at Dangal ng Makabagong Dumagat (DUMAGAT).
“Like the popular hugot memes Nagmahal, Nasaktan…, Sierra Madre loved us, without hesitation shared its bounty to the people that are dependent to her. But now, people are hurting her by extracting all the possible wealth that can get from her for profit at the expense of its’ destruction. Only us can patch things up, by exposing all these destructive activities and be part of a collective efforts toward achieving a sustainable and nature-friendly society”, ended by Almazan.###