ENVIRONMENTALISTS, nature lovers and even ordinary citizens have been raising the “alarm signals” that the country’s natural forest cover is gradually decreasing and degrading.
Admittedly, the alarming situation is due to various factors like logging (legal or illegal), “kaingin” farming (slash-and-burn agriculture), forest fires, volcanic eruptions and mining operations.
As a result of its declining forest cover, the Philippines, a nation of more than 100 million people, is now known to have the highest number of threatened species of flora and fauna in the world.
However, it is heartening to know that a well-meaning member of Congress, Buhay party-list Rep. Jose “Lito” Atienza, wants to hire more forest rangers to guard the nation’s remaining forests.
Not only that. Atienza, a former three-term Mayor of Manila and one-time secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), also wants to raise the pay of “forest rangers.”
In fact, Congressman Atienza has filed House Bill (HB) 2597, which seeks to increase the minimum base pay of “forest rangers” from P13,807 a month to P42,159 per month.
Likewise, the proposed legislation grants the guardians of the country’s forest and timber lands new employment benefits, including overtime, night differential, longevity and hazard pay.
Employed by the DENR, headed by retired Army Gen. Roy Cimatu, “forest rangers” enforce environmental laws against illegal loggers, poachers, wildlife traffickers and other environmental criminals.
In filing HB 2597, Atienza, a former member of the world famous and multi-awarded Bayanihan Dance Company, said these hard-working guardians of our forests “deserve these long-overdue benefits.”
Thus, members of two-chamber Congress – senators and congressmen – ought to quickly approve the proposed law if indeed they have the heart and mind for the good of the Filipino people.