Broad environmental alliance pushes for Forest Resources Bill passage in 16th Congress
Groups for the Forest Resources Bill or FRB.
by Eric Dorente.
Advocacy, Haribon Foundation.
July 19, 2013
Haribon Foundation on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 joined one of this year's largest actions in front of Congress as the pioneer conservation organization, along with its allies, to continue the push for the Forest Resources Bill in the Sixteenth Congress.
A sign for the National Land Use Management Act or NLUMA.
Days before President Benigno Aquino addresses the nation in front of the country's legislators to report on the Philippines' current state, hundreds of people marched to the House of Representatives reminding our leaders to pass the National Land Use and Management Act, the Forest Resources Bill and the Alternative Minerals Management Bill – three bills that have been languishing in Congress but are crucial if the country is to save its future.
One of the laws being pushed, the Forest Resources Bill, aims to effect a paradigm shift in the way the country sees its forests – or what remains of them. Currently, forests are seen largely as riches to be exploited, blinding us to the reality that we are depleting our country's forest cover.
This 16th Congress, the Forest Resources Bill was filed at the House of Representatives by Representatives Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Mel Sarmiento and Kaka Bag-ao. In the Senate, the bill was filed by Senator Serge Osmena.
The Forest Resources Bill being pushed not just by Haribon but by other groups is House Bill 95 in the House of Representatives and Senate Bill 45 in the Senate.
Signs for the Alternative Minerals Management Bill or AMMB and the Forest Resources Bill or FRB. Photo by Kevin Artiaga.
"Forests = Life"
The conservation of our forests is a matter of life or death – literally. Forests host among the largest concentration of our country's biodiversity. But forests are not just important for the birds and the bees. Ultimately, the concern with the conservation of our forests is an issue of our very survival as Filipinos.
Haribon and its partners in pushing for the Forest Resources Bill believe that we need a 54 percent forest cover so that forests can adequately perform its life-giving ecological functions – as source of water for agriculture; as carbon sinks that trap carbon dioxide in our warming planet; as protection for heavy rains, storms and their attendant floods; and as our main source of clean air and water.
Groups defending different environments participated, as well as folks of all ages.
Pass House Bill 95 and Senate Bill 45!
Briefly, the Forest Resources Bill contains provisions that ensure the all-out protection and conservation of our forests, so that we may enjoy the benefits we derive from forests sustainably. First of all, we use a functional definition of "forest." Official government definitions state that a 10 percent forest cover in half a hectare of land is a "forest." We, however, think that forests are more than just a collection of trees. Instead, forests are best described as an ecosystem where trees are the dominant life form, a community of plants and animals interacting with one another and the physical environment, and whose trees have an overlapping crown of 60-100% forest cover. In the FRB, all remaining natural forests will be protected. Forest restoration is prioritized. Local governments will be empowered to play important roles in forest management. The watershed continuum is recognized as the basic forestland management unit. Indigenous people's rights will also be protected.
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