Protecting SMMR reiterated

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THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has reiterated its call to protect the more than 500-kilometer Sierra Madre Mountain Range (SMMR) to avert the impact of the world’s rising temperature and fight climate change.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu recently visited Aurora province and stressed the need to strengthen forest protection in the SMMR, which serves as Luzon’s natural barrier against strong typhoons as it reduces wind speeds of potentially destructive storms.

“Prioritize the protection and conservation of Sierra Madre. Saving this mountain range is equivalent to saving the lives of many people from damage and destruction brought by natural calamities,” Cimatu said.

SMMR is known as the longest mountain range in the country. It covers a total land area of about 1.6 million hectares that serves as home to the largest remaining tract of old-growth tropical rainforest. Its biological importance goes beyond its intact forest, since it is also considered a megadiverse ecosystem, as it is home to hundreds of wildlife species that are endemic in the Philippines.

Paquito Moreno Jr., executive director of the DENR-Central Luzon office, lauded the intensified forest protection and biodiversity conservation programs of the DENR implemented in the provinces of Aurora, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, where the SMMR traverses.

“The deployment of 130 forest rangers and protection officers in these areas not only augment our patrolling efforts, but also help us guard 15 protected areas and 21 watersheds within the SMMR,” Moreno said.

He also noted the strengthened drive against unregistered chainsaws in support of Cimatu’s marching order of protecting standing trees in the forest areas to save the country’s remaining natural resources.

According to Moreno, the Environment department put up eight forest product monitoring stations strategically located in the entry and exit points of major routes of forest products in Pangasinan-Zambales-Bataan-Pampanga-Bulacan-Manila Road; Bataan-Pampanga Road; Manila North Road via MacArthur Highway; Tarlac-Santa Rosa Road; Quirino-Aurora Road; Cabanatuan-Bongabon Road; Dingalan-Cabanatuan Road; Dingalan-General Nakar Road; and San Miguel and Norzagaray roads in Bulacan.

Likewise, the department in the said areas intensified its information, education and communication program on the importance of SMMR’s forests and biodiversity, and launched with the United States Agency for International Development the Protect Wildlife program in 2018 to combat wildlife trafficking.

Lastly, Moreno appealed to the public to remain vigilant in reporting to the nearest DENR office in their area any destructive activities within the SMMR to prevent unscrupulous groups from conducting illegal logging, poaching and encroachment.