The country’s forest cover has drastically declined from 70% down to just 22.8%, according to the latest data from the Philippine Forestry Statistics, and it continues to decrease with the rampant deforestation and exploitation of our natural resources.
Most of the Philippines’ mountains and forests are protected by law, but the loose implementation of these policies fails to stop mining companies and illegal loggers from chipping away at the country’s raw materials.
The continued destruction of our forests has impaired the country’s natural defense against calamities, and the aftermath of the recent disasters that hit the nation is a resounding call for a policy that will strengthen the management and sustainability of the Philippine forests.
The Sustainable Forest Management Act (SFMA) aims to ensure that there are enough forest resources for present and future generations. It seeks to fortify the country’s forest management strategies by highlighting the protection, conservation, and sustainable use of our natural resources.
Four versions of the bill were filed at the beginning of the 18th Congress and have been approved for a consolidated substitute bill by the House Committee on Natural Resources in November 2019.
A Senate counterpart of the bill was also filed in the first session of the 18th Congress. SFMA will not only promote a more responsible and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources, but it will also hold every qualified individual accountable in managing forestlands.
But even with the urgent need for its passage, the bill’s progress in both chambers has been incredibly slow.
Its consolidated substitute is still pending in the House Committee on Appropriations while the senate counterpart is also waiting for a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change.
Moreover, conflicting interests in various sectors make it difficult to fast-track green initiatives that seek to end the degradation of the country’s natural resources.
We must show our support for the passage of the SFMA by spreading awareness on the importance of the bill and urging lawmakers to advance the right of the Filipino people to a balanced and healthy ecology.