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Agency to protect Sierra Madre proposed

A special body that will protect a vital mountain range and prevent floods in Luzon should be created, Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles proposed.

Nograles, a stalwart of Lakas-CMD, is urging government to put up a special body that aims to oversee, manage, and care for the 500 kilometer-long Sierra Madre Mountain Range in order to protect the biodiverse area’s forest cover and prevent flooding in Luzon.

The onslaught of typhoon Ulysses like heavy flooding in many parts of Luzon is a wake up call for the government to create this body, Nograles said.

According to Nograles, reports of typhoon flooding from Metro Manila all the way to towns in the Cagayan Valley “emphasize the importance of taking concrete steps to care for the Sierra Madre Mountain Region.”

“Malaki talaga ang impact nito. The increased frequency and severity of flooding in areas close to the Marikina River, as well as in towns in the Cagayan Valley are attributed to the loss of Sierra Madre’s forest cover––and we can no longer ignore this,” the solon stressed.

“There is clearly a need to provide this vital mountain range with further safeguards and protection while finding ways to responsibly develop part of the range not under its Protected Areas,” he added.

House Bill No. 5634, filed by Nograles, proposes the creation of a Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA), which, aside from protecting the mountain range, also adopts “a wholistic approach to enhance development of indigenous resources of the Sierra Madre region to its fullest potential for economic development in order to raise the standard of living of those residing in the area.”

Among the functions of the SMDA are: conduct a comprehensive survey of the physical and natural resources of the Sierra Madre region and the draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize the said resources in order to promote the region’s social and economic development; provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region; provide recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects ; assess and approve all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range; plan, program, finance and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, waste water and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing and related work and undertake studies on the conservation, improvement, exploration, development, and maintenance of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

The SMDA will be led by a Board of Directors (BOD) with nine members composed of the Executive Secretary; the National Economic and Development Authority Director General; the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Energy; the Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; a provincial governor representing the provinces comprising the Sierra Madre Region; a city or municipal mayor representing the cities and municipalities comprising the Sierra Madre Region; and the General Manager of the SMDA.

Under the measure, the SMDA General Manager shall be appointed by the President and will be tasked to manage the operations of the Authority, which will execute the policies passed by the BOD. The Executive Secretary chairs the BOD, while the NEDA Director General will act as vice chairperson.

Publication Source :    People's Journal