Protecting the Sierra Madre

Protecting the Sierra Madre

Deputy Majority Leader and Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles filed last year House Bill 5634 which creates the Sierra Madre Development Authority or SMDA.

This is tasked, aside from protecting the mountain range, with adopting “a holistic approach to enhance development of indigenous resources of the Sierra Madre region to its fullest potential for economic development…to raise the standard of living of those residing in the area.”

After massive flooding in the towns in his legislative district this month, Nograles reiterated his call for the creation of a government body tasked to oversee the rehabilitation of the Sierra Madre range that protects Metro Manila from winds and the accompanying floods brought by typhoons.

The bill tasks the SMDA to:

• conduct a comprehensive survey of the physical and natural resources of the Sierra Madre region and the draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize the said resources in order to promote the region’s social and economic development;

• provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region;

• provide recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects;

• assess and approve all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range;

• plan, program, finance and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, waste water and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing and related work;

• undertake studies on the conservation, improvement, exploration, development, and maintenance of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

Nograles pointed out that the wide area covered by the Sierra Madre mountain range and the importance of the region “requires coordination that cuts across various LGU jurisdictions and numerous departmental concerns.”

“The SMDA will ensure coordination and cooperation among all these, resulting in a coherent and comprehensive strategy that will protect the Sierra Madre’s forest cover while allowing for sustainable development.”

Nograles’ reiteration coincided with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for the creation of a task force for the government’s response on the devastation of Typhoon Ulysses and Super Typhoon Rolly.

In a televised address heard nationwide, Duterte said “I directed them (the task force) to streamline, to hasten the rehabilitation efforts [for those] affected by the typhoon. Second, the task force is made up of different agencies and all are involved in this.”

The President said the task force would be given a time line to lay out plans ensuring that response and relief operations would not be delayed “and cut the red tape to facilitate delivery of aid for the affected residents.”

The presidential directive for a time line suggests the task force must make steps to ensure there will not be any delay in the distribution of aid to the affected provinces.

The three typhoons, which literally chased each other towards the end of October down to the first week of November left 150,000 affected farmers and 275,000 hectares of agricultural land damaged.

The damage to agriculture from recent typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses has reached P10 billion, according to Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who said the P10-billion estimate “does not include the damage from the Cagayan floods.

On November 13, the Department of Agriculture estimated Ulysses’ damage at almost P1 billion. Earlier reports said Quinta wiped out P2.7 billion worth of agricultural goods, while Rolly’s damage reached P5 billion.

The DA said high-value commodities were affected, like abaca in Catanduanes. Damage to high value crops was estimated at P3.7 billion. Meanwhile, palay damage was pegged at P3 billion.

However, Dar said P32 billion worth of crops were saved due to the agency’s early warning system. Since rice production this year had high yields, Filipinos don’t have to worry about rice shortages.

We join others, keen observers and analysts of the local scene, how things will morph after all the efforts we hope will not fade out when the last whip of the typhoons has faded out once more.

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