Former forester hurt by cuttings for road works

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Thursday, August 14, 2014


DURING his childhood, Dr. Roger Guzman, now 63, was fond of hunting in the forest and fishing.

His residence in Isabela is also near Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines.

“I already appreciated and valued the forest and environment even in my childhood days,” said Guzman, executive director of the conservation group Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern. “I later realized the benefits we can get from the natural resources.”

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Guzman's love for the environment “just developed naturally.”

He also credits his wife, Dr. Ruth Sara Guzman, a native of Mandaue City, in further deepening his caring attitude for the environment.

They reaped awards for their work and researches in the field of environmental protection.

Primer

He said his 62-year-old wife is also an environmentalist who wrote a primer on Cebu's biodiversity financed by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Guzman worked as a forester for lumber companies in Mindanao and Luzon after he graduated in the 1970s when logging was a booming industry.

“Logging used to be number one dollar-earner of the country,” he said.

Guzman said he was compensated well by the companies he served. He was always able to travel back to Manila by plane hassle-free because he was issued with tickets right away.

But he left the logging industry after two years because of his love for the environment.

“I was taken as a company forester of two companies. But I cannot withstand the fast destruction of the forest due to logging,” he said. “We could load two or three big ships in 15 days.”

Illegal logging

While there are logging permits issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), illegal logging activities exist as well.

To prevent further deforestation, President Benigno Aquino III imposed a total log ban through Executive Order 23, issued in February 2011. DENR credited the ban for cutting illegal hotspots to 31 from 197.

Guzman said every tree cut pains him. He is in Cebu to provide an independent assessment on the trees that DENR considered diseased and were supposed to cut by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to pave the way for the widening of the south national highway.

Guzman said roads can be designed without cutting trees.

Guzman and other experts convinced Pangasinan officials not to cut down more trees for a road widening project.

Guzman and his wife also worked on raising awareness about environmental protection by integrating relevant topics in the school curriculum. Both wrote a book, “Environmental Education for Sustainable Development” for college students.

“A teacher can reach out to the majority of the citizenry because the students can influence their families and friends,” he said.

Guzman retired from the academe in 2003. He was dean of the College of Forestry at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 15, 2014.

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