MANILA — Planting seedlings to combat global warming is useless if the Arroyo administration continues to promote the plunder of our forests with commercial logging permits, environmental activist organization Kalikasan Peoples Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) stressed.
“What’s the use of planting seedlings if the government keeps farming out commercial logging contracts covering hundreds of thousands of hectares?”, Kalikasan PNE National Coordinator Clemente Bautista said in reaction to the Arroyo administration’s Greening Philippines program, which claims to plant a billion trees in 2007.
Bautista brought attention to “the number of Industrial Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs) being issued by the Arroyo administration, which replaced most Marcos-era Timber Licensing Agreements (TLAs)”.
“The Arroyo administration granted 23 news IFMA contracts between January 2001 and June 2004 covering 191,250.60 hectares or around 30 percent of the areas covered by existing IFMAs. 201 IFMAs were already issued as of 2003, covering around 714,000 hectares”, Bautista noted.
An IFMA contract allows its holder not just the right to timber bit to all other forest products in its concession, he stressed.
“Our existing forest cover acts as a carbon sink by trapping pollutive substances in the atmosphere and serves as a source of life for the people. But this is being rapidly depleted due to wanton and government-sanctioned deforestation,” Bautista said.
“Even a million seedlings can not replace these hundreds of hectares worth of primary and secondary growth forest ecosystems that will be affected by commercial logging operations,” Bautista said.
Bautista also remained wary of the Arroyo administration’s use of soldiers to “combat global warming by planting trees” in provinces where counter-insurgency operations are being held.
“The military is using reforestation gimmicks to cover up for their human rights violations and militarization of the area,” Bautista said.
“Instead of using soldiers to plant seedlings, the government should allocate more budget to community-based forest management efforts,” Bautista said.
Kalikasan PNE believes that the government has to first resolve the long-standing issue of commercial plunder of our forest reserves, if it is truly interested in addressing the problem of global warming and ecological conservation.
“We challenge the government to ban export-oriented commercial logging operations until sufficient rain forest cover for the country has been achieved and rehabilitate damaged watershed areas,” Bautista said. #