Near the beginning of the 20th century, 60% of the Philippines’ total land area was covered in lush green forests. Photo of forests in Valderrama, Antique.
by Luke M. Imbong
Near the beginning of the 20th century, 60% of the Philippines’ total land area was covered in lush green forests. With this came the steady supply of clean water from functioning watersheds, flourishing wildlife given a healthy habitat, and a natural safeguard from disasters such as flooding, landslides erosion, and even storm surges.
After a century of short-sighted logging, mining, and construction in forest lands, a mere 6.8 million hectares or 22%, remain according to statistics from the government’s Forest Management Bureau. What’s even sadder is that this is the optimistic estimation.
Trees allow water to infiltrate where it is stored and later re-charged as clean and precious water.
From the state of forests, threatened biodiversity, and the amount of reports of natural disasters come typhoon season, one might say the Philippine environment has entered the dark ages. Indeed, a common question among environmentalists and concerned citizens is what will it take to rise from this dire situation? Who will take up the cause and when will Easter come for Philippine biodiversity?
For starters, nature doesn’t need an Easter. It may be humbling, but the earth does not need humankind to keep spinning. People’s existence, on the other hand, is completely dependent on it.
The resurrection that is needed is not of nature’s, but of the mindset that forests, oceans, and the countless biodiversity residing there are more than just resources to exploit. Clearing mountain tops, extracting minerals, then rinse and repeating in another location is not the only relationship people have with nature and those old ways is what is necessary to leave behind to move forward.
"Para sa Bukas" by Josielyn Catulin.
As for the who and when, the rise to restore Philippine biodiversity has already begun with ordinary people. Non-government organizations have been founded each handling a specific part, be it the education of students, the training of fishermen in more sustainable livelihood methods, or campaigning against the illegal capture and trade of wildlife, they are a part of the shift in thinking.
If the 90 million citizens of the Philippines adopted, planted and nurtured even just one native tree on their birthday each year, this shift would be accelerated and Philippine forests will nearly double in less than a single generation.
There’s no excuse not to be part of it.