Save the mountains, save the forests

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Monday, June 23, 2014


LAST week, I received several emails and private messages (PM) over Facebook on the conservation of our Negrense mountain forests.

Former MKNP Park Supervisor Errol A. Gatumbato sent me a petition via a PM “To Save the Negros Forest” appealing to the Protected Area Management Board of the Northern Negros Natural Park, our Senators, Congressmen and Local Government Officials to hear our appeal to save and preserve the forests in the Northern Negros Natural Park (NNNP).

Invoking the constitutional right to a balanced and healthful ecology and a wish list on the quality for present and future generations: “to live in a world where we are not threatened of drowning in our own homes when heavy rains come; to have the assurance to always have drinking water; to live with the security of an unquestionable certainty that our forest and trees will be enjoyed and seen by generations to come.”

And then the whammy: “to plant trees instead of building palatial homes and commercial establishments to our already diminishing forest cover, and to enjoy the natural protection of thriving biodiversity for the benefit of millions.”

I have seen the photos of these “palatial” homes. That adjective might be a stretch in many cases, but the point is that these structures have no place inside the multiple use zone of NNNP.

One of those implicated in building illegal structures is none other than Salvador Benedicto Mayor José Max Ortiz. To retain or to dismantle these structures, that is the question.

Ortiz, it seems, will rely on the recommendations of mayors and stakeholders on occupancy issue in the multiple use zone. He can of course expect the support of Murcia Mayor Andrew Montelibano who’s also in hot water on the same concern. Will Ortiz scratch their backs, expecting that they too will also scratch his back on this?

The SalBen mayor insists that the multiple use zone can be occupied as implied in a Forest Land Use Plan approved by the PAMB in the past.
True. But the policy refers to longtime residents with prior rights. The question is: does he have one? The Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office-Negros Occidental said these structures were built within Integrated Social Forestry farm lots. That means to upland farmers with the tenurial instrument Certificate of Stewardship Contracts which have been illegally sold, it seems, to outsiders.

The environmental activist group Green Alert is helping spread the petition. Rusty Biñas PMed me to mark that the network celebrated its 25 years yesterday. As a founding member, I had to take a raincheck, however. I had to fly to Manila for a partners’ meeting of the Non-Timber Forest Product-Philippines.

From Rome, I received an email from Dr. Rosalaura Romeo, the program Officer of the Mountain Partnership Secretariat-FAO. She wrote that the “FAO Forestry Department has developed a program concept with the title “Building Climate-Resilience in Upland Watersheds” for potential implementation in a number selected countries. Sent to 18 potential implementing countries, the FAO representatives in Guatemala, Nepal, Philippines and Tajikistan responded positively.

The island-wide movement to create a one island Negrense region is a good entry point to this potential global project. The FAO Mountain and Watershed Team identified a concrete funding opportunity through the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB).

The IKI supports projects emphasizing climate change mitigation and adaptation to impacts of climate change and the protection of biological diversity. Major components are the adoption of regional and national adaptation strategies and ecosystem-based adaptation in water and land-use management. Can Negros Island rise to the global and subnational challenge of conserving our mountain ecosystems?

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 23, 2014.

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