MANILA, Sept. 16, 2011—A network of environmentalists and civil society groups renewed its call for the protection of the biodiversity of Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
The call was made during the official launch of the network’s Save Sierra Madre Day celebrations on Sept. 9.
Fr. Pete Montallana, chair of the Save Sierra Madre Network (SSMN), in an earlier statement, expressed alarm on the fast disappearing biodiversity of the mountain ranges due to rampant logging and other human activities harmful to the preservation of the mountain rainforests.
SSMN represents Dumagat tribes and other indigenous peoples, local communities, environmentalists, faith-based organizations, and other forest protection advocates.
“What is disturbing is that Sierra Madre’s biodiversity-rich rainforest, which enables the mountain range to shield much of Luzon from raging Pacific storms, is fast diminishing due to rampant logging, quarrying and other developmental aggressions, such as dam, landfill and garbage dump projects,” Montallana has previously stated.
The priest, who was a recipient of Fr. Neri Satur Awards for Environmental Heroism, stressed the importance of weeding out corruption within the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), citing the “unholy alliance” between corrupt DENR officials and illegal loggers.
President Benigno Aquino III has declared September 26 as Save Sierra Madre Day through Proclamation No. 233 signed on August 10, 2011.
The September 26 celebration of Save Sierra Madre Day coincides with the anniversary of Typhoon Ondoy that claimed numerous lives and destroyed properties due to heavy flooding.
Last February 1, the president also issued a logging moratorium in natural and residual forests through Executive Order No. 23.
SSMN members in Metro Manila area are planning to have a Mass and other activities on September 26 in Marikina City, one of the most affected areas by Ondoy.
Members based in Quezon, Bulacan, Rizal, Aurora, and Nueva Ecija will be holding tree-planting activities, thanksgiving masses, and a mountain-climbing trip in their own provinces.
Rich in biodiversity, the Sierra Madre is the largest remaining tract of rainforest in the country with about 1.4 million hectares, 400,000 of which are primary or old-growth forests.
The forests contain more than 3,500 plant species, more than half of which are endemic or unique to the Philippines, and at least a hundred of which are endangered.
It is also home to about 70 threatened animal species which include the Philippine eagle, golden-crowned flying fox, and pygmy forest frog. (CBCPNews)