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The Sangguniang Panlalawigan is calling for a more concrete action plan to address the deforestation in the province of Palawan as reported by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) during the Usapang Palawan Summit held last week.

At the regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Board Member Ryan D. Maminta delivered a privilege speech where he called for more stringent measures stating that the PCSDS did not lay out concrete plans.

Maminta particularly noted that the environment sector had not laid out programs or projects that will back the recommendation of the PCSDS for the reforestation of 10,000 hectares per municipality, during the summit.

He added that with the grim future pictured out by Matta in his presentation, they need to move fast, otherwise, sustainable development will no longer be attained in the province.

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Stakeholders meeting
“Ang hamon nga na binanggit, at ito’y kinuha at in-adopt, inaprubahan ng PCSD ang pagtatalaga ng panuntunan o kautusan na ang bawat munisipyo ay maglaan ng 10,000 ektarya ng lupain upang mapagtaniman ng mga puno upang maibalik sa dati, kung hindi man ay makalapit tayo sa ideal situation na ang ating lalawigan ay maituturing pa na last ecological frontier. Kaya nais ko sana na magkaroon ng isang masusing pag-uusap sa pamamagitan ng Committee on Environmental Protection upang makita natin at magkaroon tayo ng kongkretong plano kung paano tayo susulong upang maibalik natin yung dating sigla ng kalikasan sa ating lalawigan,” Maminta said.

Kaya baka pwedeng magkaroon ng isang masusing pagpupulong kasama ang mga stakeholders sa environmental sector na papangunahan ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan, ng PCSD, Provincial Government-Environment and Natural Resources Office, DENR at mga kinatawan mula sa pribadong sector upang pag-usapan ito at magkaroon ng kongkretong plano at hakbang na may kaukulang partisipasyon at magiging aksyon ng mga stakeholders,” he added.

Reforest 10,000 hectares per municipality
During the summit, PCSDS made a video presentation where Executive Director Atty. Teodoro Jose Matta said the province is facing a dire situation that “will give a rude awakening to the daunting challenges that lay ahead.”

Matta said a study conducted by the PCSDS together with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) Project Sibol showed that forest covers in the southern part of the province have been inundated by agricultural expansion and in-migration while in the northern part, 60 percent of the forest cover was destroyed by typhoon Odette.

The presentation also showed a total of 98,000 hectares of primary forest and 3,000 hectares of mangrove forests lost.

To address the problem, the PCSDS recommended that all municipalities of the province allocate at least 10,000 hectares of land for reforestation.

Let nature heal itself
PCSDS spokesperson Jovic Fabello meanwhile said that the first step to me taken is to let the forests heal itself, while at the same time, conducting clearing and recovery efforts, particularly in Odette-affected areas.

He added that with the wood recovery permit granted by the DENR having lapsed, clearing of woods was also hampered.

“For now, wala tayong ibang maisip na paraan for recovery, except mag-regenerate ng mga nawalang areas. Pero dahil nga sa hirap ng sitwasyon sa ground – marami pang mga kahoy na nakahambalang, and I remember last June 30 ay tinapos na ng DENR yung pagbibigay ng wood recovery permits. So meaning, hindi na tayo makakapag-retrieve ng mga nakahambalang na kahoy doon sa kagubatan nang walang kaukulang permiso galing sa DENR,” Fabello explained.

“So nag-iisip pa tayo ng ibang paraan, katulad ng paglilinis ng areas, inuuna muna yung critical areas. And of course yung forest natin ay pinag-uusapan pa ng composite team at ng technical working group kung ano yung mas mabilis na paraan para ma-revive yung nawala nating vegetation,” he added.

Fabello also said even with the province being resilient because of its high forest cover, Palawan is still vulnerable to typhoons of Odette’s intensity, but can still manage to heal by itself.

“Ang nature naman kasi ng ecosystem, basta kumpleto pa yung parte na bumubuo ng ecosystem, may capacity yan to recuperate on its own. Pagdating siguro sa puno, matatagalan kasi kailangan i-liberate pa natin yung ground kung saan dapat silang tumubo. And at the same time, ang forest naman may capacity to recover by itself, huwag lang gagalawin. Huwag lang pupuntahan at iiskwatan ng mga tao,” he explained.

No timeline for reforestation
He further stated that while they are not setting a timeline for the reforestation, he believes that the target is achievable in less than ten years.

What is important is for the municipalities to segregate 10,000 hectares for reforestation, in order to fast track the recovery of the net equivalent of what was lost.

“Kung hindi natin kayang taniman yung doon mismo sa na-devastate na area, baka may iba pa na pwede pa para ma-offset yung tagal natin na mag-rehabilitate, ma-offset yung mga areas na makikita ng mga LGU na pwedeng pagtaniman. Kasi through artificial regeneration, kesa antayin mo yung nature to heal itself, mas mabilis. Kaya hinihiling natin sa mga LGU na mag-set aside ng mga area kung saan pwedeng pagtaniman right there and then,” he stated.

He also said with the typhoon Odette being considered as a game changer in terms of forest protection, it has generated a baseline for response to future calamitites.

“Based sa mga sinasabi ng mga scientist, meron pang mga darating na bagyo na the same intensity with Odette. So bago siguro tayo tamaan ng bagyo na yun ay dapat naka-recover na tayo, at least 50 or 60 percent ng recovery nandyan na,” he said.

Stricter law enforcement
Governor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates for his part said to address the situation, laws must be strictly and strongly implemented.

He also said he expects more recommendations from stakeholders.

“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,” Socrates said.

“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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