Every town in Palawan needs to plant trees every 10,000 hectares to save the province’s forests and keep its reputation as the “Last Ecological Frontier” of the Philippines.

This was the recommendation made by Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) Executive Director Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta in a video presentation during the Usapang Palawan Summit at the City State-Asturias Hotel last Thursday.

He said that a recent study done by the PCSD, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Project Sibol, which is run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will “wake people up to the huge problems that lie ahead.”

PCSDS Executive Director Atty. TJ Matta explaining Palawan’s forest cover situation in a video presentation during the Usapang Palawan Summit.

The presentation revealed that since 2005, the province has lost 98,000 hectares of primary forest and 3,000 hectares of mangrove forest. Other problems include landslides, siltation, the loss of homes, communities, and wildlife, the loss of a way to make a living, the spread of illegal logging, and quarrying.

As the provincial government lays out its plans for the next few years and the new direction of Governor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates’s administration, he said that they must be based on facts on the ground to give a true picture of the situation in the province and in Puerto Princesa City.

He said that with the majority of forests having been degraded or lost because of agricultural expansion from 2005-2015, drastic policy and direction changes must be made.

He explained that based on a recent study conducted by the PCSDS, agricultural expansion, increasing human settlement, and unabated kaingin farming, the province’s forest cover, particularly in the south, continues to get depleted, while in the north, the province is facing an even greater challenge.

“The post-Odette environmental damage assessment made by PCSD in coordination with DENR and USAID Sibol reveals that 60 percent of our forest cover has been destroyed. Because of this, our biodiversity is also at risk, with catastrophic consequences. We need your help, province level, city level, municipal level, to adjust your plans and programs to reforestation and restore our beloved Palawan,” Matta said.

“In order to address the situation, we recommend 10,000 hectares at least for reforestation for each municipality, and hopefully, expand that to even greater areas,” he added.

Socrates said that while he was giving the presentation, he realized that people aren’t the only ones who destroy forests. Typhoon Odette’s effects showed him this.

“I think it is an eye opener for me also. That’s why I think doon pa lang, may kabutihang dulot ang pagtitipong ito sapagkat nakakapulot tayo ng kaalaman na maaring hindi alam ng nasa ibang sector. At isang bit of knowledge is that 60 percent ng ating forest cover ay nawala dahil sa typhoon Odette at dahil sa pagkawala ng kagubatan natin, ang biodiversity ay maaapektuhan at maaring maraming species na ang iba ay hindi pa nga natutuklasan, ay mawala na rin, dahil sa kawalan ng kagubatan. And we don’t want that to happen kasi nga, part of our ecological conservation, a large part of it now, sa ating kaisipan ay dapat panatilihin ang biodiversity,” Socrates said.

He also said that, aside from Matta’s recommendations, participants will be able to come up with solutions through the summit.

“What can we do about it?” he asked. “Let’s see what the delegates come up with.”

“Siyempre, normal na reaction natin is paigtingin natin yung ating law enforcement – I don’t think we need more laws, masyado nang maraming batas at ang malaga ay ipatupad na lamang ng husto. Alam ko challenge pa rin yun sapagkat mahirap talagang magpatupad ng batas at maging law enforcer. Yun ang conventional thinking at yun lang din ang masasabi ko ngayon pero sa mga discussions na mangyayari, meron sigurong lalabas diyan na magandang mga mungkahi at kaisipan,” he added.


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