[Statement] Saving forests, saving generations: Enact the Forest Resources Bill!

July 25, 2014

Saving forests, saving generations:
Enact the Forest Resources Bill!

“What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.” ― Mahatma Gandhi


For decades, Philippine laws on forests focused on the forest as a resource for utilization and exploitation. The Philippine Forests used to cover 80% of the country’s total land area. Now its down to 24% according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) estimate of forest cover and about 3% primary forest cover. The loss of forest cover did not translate into long term sustainable development. Thus, such an outdated concept of forests as resource for utilization and exploitation needs serious revamping in the light of global climate change.

The country is hardly recovering from superstorm Yolanda, eight (8) typhoons hit the country leaving in its wake damage to crops, property, loss of lives and livelihoods. Worse, the El Nino phenomenon is threatening to add to the growing problems of climate change impacts, food and water security and worsening poverty. The rains that came with the storms were not able to stabilize the water levels in the existing dams in Luzon.

There is overwhelming evidence that healthy natural forests maintain environmental systems that are essential for life and sustainable development. Forests provide ecological services such as regulation of the hydrological cycle, stabilize climate by storing large amounts of carbon, provide clean water, air and fertilize the soil. We need at least 54% to maintain ecological services (Sajise, 1996) in the country or 40% for water related functions alone (Cruz, 2001). Several case studies have proven that mangrove forests, lowland forests and other healthy forests have mitigated the devastating impact of superstorm Yolanda and have saved lives and properties in the process.

The Philippine government under the leadership of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III initated efforts to mitigate natural disasters among other things by issuing Executive Order No. 23 -Declaring a Moratorium on Cutting and Harvesting of Timber in Natural and Residual Forests and Creating an Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force. It needs to be strengthened and reinforced by relevant laws given that exemptions were issued by the same executive department to government agencies and other so-called development projects.

We, the Forest Resources Bill Network, call on the president to include the Forest Resources Bill (FRB) as a priority legislation. We call on the Senate and the House of Representatives to fast track the consolidation and enactment of the said Green Bills such as the Forest Resources Bill and its allied bills: the Alternative Minerals Management Bill and the National Land Use Bill.

We are racing against time. Inaction could lead to lost opportunities in mitigating global climate change and preventing the loss of cultural heritage of the indigenous cultural communities and the biodiversity resources unique to Philippine forests – and worse, loss of lives. Any delay may prove disastrous, and irreversible.

We reiterate the following calls:

Pass the Forest Resources Law should be passed now along with its allied Green Bills: the National Land Use and the Alternative Minerals Management;
Declare all natural and residual/secondary forests as protection forests.
Create a mechanism for valuation and payment for ecological services provided by forests;
Complete ban on commercial logging and mining in protection forests;
Allocate forestlands for restoration purposes from remaining open and denuded forests.
Use indigenous species for reforestation;
Adopt a co-management scheme in forestland management among the DENR, DILG, LGUs and other concerned stakeholders;
Increased role and powers of the local government units (LGUs) in forest management.
Strengthen law enforcement mechanisms in forest protection

The Forest Resources Bill Network is a coalition of environment and natural resources advocates and organizations campaigning for forest and biodiversity conservation through local and national legislations.

c/o Haribon Foundation
2/F Santos & Sons Bldg.,
973 Aurora Blvd., Cubao,
Quezon City 1102 Philippines

Contact: Lodel D. Magbanua
Tel. Nos.: + 63 2 434 46 42
Mobile: + 63 922 815 19 38

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