Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed a bill seeking to enact a comprehensive sustainable forest management strategy to safeguard the country’s dwindling forest resources.
Through Senate Bill No. 284, or the ‘Sustainable Forest Management Act,’ Cayetano wants the country to preserve and optimize the utilization of forest resources in line with the government’s sustainable development agenda.
She said protecting forest resources forms part of government commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the Philippines adopted in 2015. Goal 13 of the SDGs urges nations to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.
“Forests provide the country with natural resources that contribute to economic growth. They provide livelihood through raw materials that are converted into finished products,” Cayetano said.
“At the same time, forests serve as protection and buffer from natural disasters, and help mitigate the effects of climate change,” added the senator, a known environment advocate.
She lamented, however, how the Philippines has been losing approximately 47,000 hectares of forest each year, increasing the risk of massive social and economic losses from resource depletion and climate disasters.
“As President Duterte said in his SONA, natural disasters are poverty creators. And so protecting our forests is not only an environment matter, but an economic imperative,” she stressed.
Cayetano’s bill seeks to promote land use practices to protect existing forest resources, conserve our fragile biodiversity, and rehabilitate deforested or denuded areas.
The Forest Management Bureau shall be the primary agency to oversee the development, management, and utilization of forest lands, including the identification of areas for protection or production purposes. An Undersecretary for Forestry position shall also be created under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Furthermore, the bill rationalizes the establishment, operations, and development of forest-based industries, mandating the DENR to institute measures for an open and competitive market of our forest products.
SBN 284 pushes for the establishment of agroforestry economic zones to ease the conduct of business and attract local and foreign investments.
The proposal also seeks to improve the quality of forestry education to develop highly skilled human resources in the field of sustainable forest management.
Finally, SBN 284 provides for a Community-Based Forest Management Program (CBFMP) to be undertaken by concerned national agencies and the local government units.
“With this, we aim to empower indigenous people’s groups and other forest-based communities as stewards and partners in managing our forest resources in a sustainable way,” Cayetano noted. #