Baguio City – Cordillera Administrative Region’s (CAR) forests continues to deteriorate on several major fronts, undermining their long-term economic contribution to the region.
“Our forests are ailing,” rued forester Julius Cawilan of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR (DENR- CAR) as International Day for Preventing Exploitation of the Environment is up this month, particularly November 6.
DENR did its “physical examination” of CAR to check vital signs. Its findings are not reassuring: The causes of forest degradation in CAR are complex, constituting a confluence of socio-economic, cultural, political and institutional factors.
It can be examined in terms of direct and underlying causes. Direct causes are two types: natural and those resulting from human intervention, known by foresters as “direct anthropogenic causes.” Natural forest degradation causes include fire, pests and diseases and natural calamities.
Direct anthropogenic causes are activities initiated by humans like logging, shifting cultivation, agricultural expansion, cattle ranching, dams construction, infrastructure development, mining and the like.
Some life support systems for the forest appear to be decelerating. Forests are shrinking. Vital mossy forest cover, capable of collecting water from mist and clouds and dripping them below is critically threatened. Deforestation impacts not only northern Luzon but down south as far as Metro Manila, among others.
It is estimated that about 300 hectares of CAR’s forest reserves are being lost – , severely carving deep into the region’s estimated 544,504 hectares of forest lands reserve – due mainly to agricultural purpose, timber filching, fires and population encroachment.
Environmentally-wise, the result of these activities translates to the region’s losing its mossy forest also called cloud forests – and impairing the “green water” life support system of the ecology.
Including its water sources, the richness and sustainability of the environment in CAR is provided by its forest cover through what is known as green water.
Mossy forest consist of the upper level of the forest spectrum where leaves are able to capture water from mist and clouds and dip them below, increasing water needs of plants, groundwater level, minimizing soil erosion and water run-off.
Pedro Wadpole of the Environmental Science for Social Change said that “Our environment is not only sustained by rainfall, but also the thin invisible atmospheric blanket of moisture about 40 meters above provided by natural forest cover.”
In short, forest destruction causes potential and rapid evatransportation rate, considered the most critical water measurement of sustainability and the most rapidly changing aspect of our environment, DENR-CAR explained.
And nowhere have these grim realities been truer than in CAR’s forestlands, home to 1436,323 hectares of closed canopy and mossy forests, 79,320 hectares of mossy forests, 422,210 hectares of open canopy forests and 75,970 hectares of coniferous pine trees.
Cawilan noted that CAR society needs a deeper understanding of the natural world and the ways dwellers in CAR regulate their behavior. Like in forest conservation, participation is often associated with community forestry, which refers to forest management or co-management by people living close to the forests.
What seems redeeming and positive is the grave urgency by other authorities, concerned citizens and society to save and regenerate whatever remains of the region’s forests.
Just yesterday (November 5), DENR-CAR Director Ralf Pablo spearheaded signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) giving greater scientific rigor and teeth for protection of the Abra River Basin. It is hoped this action will gravitate to other CAR provinces.
By Bony Bengwayan