Lawmakers file bill to protect Sierra Madre

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star
Lawmakers file bill to protect Sierra Madre
The Sierra Madre was photographed from Ortigas business district two days after typhoon #KardingPH battered many parts of the country and submerged areas in Central Luzon.
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — With Sierra Madre shielding Northern Luzon from the devastation of Super Typhoon Karding, a lawmaker from Rizal province once again called for the protection of the longest mountain range in the country.

Rizal 4th District Rep. Fidel Nograles recently filed House Bill 1972, which seeks to establish the Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA) to preserve the mountain range, one of the country’s 68 protected areas.

“Amid the threat of Karding, Sierra Madre has once again shown just how crucial it is in protecting us against extreme weather events. The SMDA will help us preserve this shield in the face of a worsening climate crisis,” Nograles said in a statement.

Karding made landfall in the Philippines on Sept. 26, which happened to be observed as Save Sierra Madre Day by virtue of Proclamation 413, a reminder of the dangers of the continuous degradation of the mountain range, which is known as the “backbone” of Luzon.

Under the bill, the SMDA will lead the government’s anti-illegal logging and reforestation campaigns in Sierra Madre.

It will prevent the construction of unwarranted and illegal infrastructure, enhance and develop indigenous resources in the areas that can be utilized for development and educate people on the importance of the mountain range.

The body will also be tasked to conduct a comprehensive survey of the Sierra Madre region’s physical and natural resources.

It will draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize them to promote the region’s social and economic development, among other functions.

The measure showed that Sierra Madre plays a key role in Metro Manila’s major water demands, along with the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan.

Sierra Madre is located on the eastern side of Luzon on the Pacific coast, spanning about 500 kilometers from the province of Cagayan in the north to Quezon in the south.

In a related development, a key official of the House of Representatives yesterday spearheaded an inquiry into reports of alleged degradation of Sierra Madre.

Dasmarinas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who chairs the House committee on environment and natural resources, authored House Resolution 430 and reiterated the “urgent need” to investigate the degradation of the mountain range and “how it shall be protected.”

Meanwhile, the government should invest more in technologies that can help prevent and mitigate disasters, according to Sen. Sonny Angara.

Angara cited the use of tools, like Project NOAH in previous administrations, that provide open data, including hazard maps, to government agencies and the general public that help reduce casualties.

“If we have the right data, the right equipment, I think we should be investing in technology, using science to predict a lot of disasters … all these things that help us react better. Sustainability should be at the core of everything we do,” Angara said in an interview with “The Chiefs” aired on Cignal TV’s One News the other night.


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