Save Sierra Madre

“Climate change” is not just a hashtag we can throw around to sound smart and in tune with the times.

The reality is here to wash away our indifference and neglect, in ruined farmlands worth about P141 million, and floods that rise way above the arrogant belief that we are in control of nature.

Typhoon “Karding” would have been even more destructive had it not been for natural barriers like the Sierra Madre mountains in Aurora province. The country’s longest mountain range was a “natural shield” that weakened the cyclone’s impact as it moved inland on Sunday evening.

As people in Luzon braced for the arrival of the super typhoon, many prayed that its path would hit the age-old Sierra Madre so that it would protect them from the full blast of “Karding.”

Along with these prayers were calls for its protection, with the hashtag #SaveSierraMadre reportedly among the trending topics on Twitter the next day, 26 September — indeed in time for “Save Sierra Madre Day,” as declared in Presidential Proclamation 413 issued in 2012.

PP 413 invokes the people’s “awareness and participation in the rehabilitation, reforestation, protection, and conservation of the Sierra Madre.”

There is much hope among environment advocates that the Marcos administration will be more receptive to such calls against the pressures of a flailing economy caused by calamitous factors affecting the world.

After all, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is recognized for his strong environmental stance.

In November 2021, a report in an online news source says the tandem of BBM and Sara Duterte said our environment must be protected to safeguard “the most vulnerable members of Philippine society from the onslaught of natural calamities.”

We saw exactly how such vulnerable sectors suffered during the last super typhoon, just as we have seen the incremental damages that kept setting the country back in past calamities.

Calls of environment warriors should resound loudest now, as even global organizations are insisting on immediate decisive action from world leaders to act in favor of the planet’s protection and sustainability.

Our leaders should not turn a deaf ear to advocates calling for an end to developments like dam projects that raze our forests, mining, land misuse, and weak and arbitrary law enforcement.

A prime example is the Masungi Georeserve Conservation, the group that has long tried to protect one of the last remaining natural forests of the Philippines. Its president Ben Dumaliang said, in a report, that “they are protecting the 3,000-hectare land to bring it back to the government.” Recently, he added, the area has been “occupied and claimed by individuals, persons, and businessmen for themselves.”

Meanwhile, it might be a timely move to consider a bill filed in the House of Representatives that “seeks to establish the Sierra Madre Development Authority to protect and conserve the mountain range.”

House Bill 1972 was filed by Rizal Rep. Juan Fidel Felipe Nograles on 14 July to create an agency that would “also be required to conduct an extensive inventory of the physical and natural resources in the Sierra Madre region and to establish a detailed strategy to protect and utilize them to promote the region’s social and economic development.”

These are tasks that concerned government agencies had undoubtedly been remiss in accomplishing for decades now.

Otherwise, organizations taking up the cudgels for nature would not raise a hue and cry over human activities like “mining, logging (illegal and legal), land conversion, and construction of roads and dams,” as Araceli Mercado, chair of the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance, said in a news article recently.

The life-giving and life-saving Sierra Madre is nature’s gift we must do our best to preserve. Only a strong political will can ensure such gifts endure.

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