QUEZON City Rep. Alfred Vargas on Friday sought a congressional inquiry into the status of the government’s reforestation programs and initiatives to protect watersheds following the succession of typhoons which have devastated several parts of Luzon this month.
Vargas asked the House special committee on reforestation in House Resolution (HR) No. 1361 to conduct the inquiry.
“The extensive damage caused by Typhoon Ulysses, as well as the previous typhoons, should be seen as a wake up call for us to work for a viable and successful reforestation program and to protect our forest areas and watersheds from such extractive activities as illegal logging and quarrying,” Vargas said.
Vargas, a member of the House committee on disaster resilience, said he wants to know what the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and other concerned government agencies have been doing to address illegal logging in protected areas, such as the Sierra Madre mountain range.
“The local officials in the affected provinces have blamed the widespread flooding on supposed illegal logging in the Sierra Madre and the prevalence of quarrying in areas of the Marikina Watershed. These are serious concerns that need to be addressed decisively if we are to prevent a repeat of the disaster that has affected millions of our kababayans,” Vargas said.
In his resolution, Vargas noted that the National Greening Program (NGP) adopted in 2011, set a target of 1.5 billion trees to be planted on 1.5 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2016.
While DENR claimed to have planted 1.7 billion trees during the five-year span of the NGP, data shows total forest cover of the Philippines is the lowest in Asia at only 23 per cent.
Vargas said DENR officials should disclose during the congressional hearings details about other components of the NGP, such as the moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests to be implemented by an anti-illegal logging task force, and the rehabilitation of denuded and degraded forest lands estimated at 7.1 million hectares from 2016 to 2028. These two component programs are covered by executive orders.