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CREATE BODY TO PROTECT SIERRA MADRE — RIZAL SOLON

Amid the widespread flooding as a result of the onslaught of Typhoon Ulysses, Rizal 2nd District Rep. Fidel Nograles on Friday reiterated the need to put up a government body to oversee, manage and care for the 500 kilometer-long Sierra Madre Mountain Range in order to protect the biodiverse area’s forest cover and prevent flooding in areas in Luzon.

According to Nograles, reports of Typhoon flooding from Metro Manila all the way to towns in the Cagayan Valley “emphasize the importance of taking concrete steps to care for the Sierra Madre Mountain Region.”

The increased frequency and severity of flooding in areas close to the Marikina River, as well as in towns in the Cagayan Valley is attributed to the loss of Sierra Madre’s forest cover––and we can no longer ignore this.”

“Malaki talaga ang impact nito. The increased frequency and severity of flooding in areas close to the Marikina River, as well as in towns in the Cagayan Valley is attributed to the loss of Sierra Madre’s forest cover––and we can no longer ignore this,” stressed the solon.

“There is clearly a need to provide this vital mountain range with further safeguards and protection while finding ways to responsibly develop part of the range not under its Protected Areas.”

House Bill No. 5634, filed by the Harvard-trained lawyer last year, proposes the creation of a Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA), which aside from protecting the mountain range also adopts “a holistic approach to enhance development of indigenous resources of the Sierra Madre region to its fullest potential for economic development in order to raise the standard of living of those residing in the area.”

Among the functions of the SMDA are:

  • conduct a comprehensive survey of the physical and natural resources of the Sierra Madre region and the draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize the said resources in order to promote the region’s social and economic development
  • provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region
  • provide recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects
  • assess and approve all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range
  • plan, program, finance and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, wastewater, and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing and related work
  • undertake studies on the conservation, improvement, exploration, development, and maintenance of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range

The SMDA will be led by a Board of Directors (BOD) with nine members. The members are the Executive Secretary; the National Economic and Development Authority Director General; the secretaries of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Energy; the Chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; a provincial governor representing the provinces comprising the Sierra Madre Region; a city or municipal mayor representing the cities and municipalities comprising the Sierra Madre Region; and the General Manager of the SMDA.

“The SMDA will ensure coordination and cooperation among all these, resulting in a coherent and comprehensive strategy that will protect the Sierra Madre’s forest cover while allowing for sustainable development.”

Per the measure, the SMDA General Manager shall be appointed by the President and will be tasked to manage the operations of the Authority, which will execute the policies passed by the BOD. The Executive Secretary chairs the BOD, while the NEDA Director-General will act as vice-chairperson.

Nograles pointed out that the wide-area covered by the Sierra Madre mountain range and the importance of the region “requires coordination that cuts across various LGU jurisdictions and numerous departmental concerns.”

“The SMDA will ensure coordination and cooperation among all these, resulting in a coherent and comprehensive strategy that will protect the Sierra Madre’s forest cover while allowing for sustainable development.”

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