BALER, Aurora — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) renewed calls for the protection of the more than 500-kilometer Sierra Madre Mountain Range (SMMR).
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu stressed the need to strengthen forest protection in the SMMR, which serves as Luzon’s natural barrier against strong typhoons that 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 during his recent visit in the province of Aurora.
Known as the longest mountain range in the country, SMMR 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, home to hundreds of wildlife species that is endemic in the Philippines.
Regional Executive Director Paquito Moreno Jr. said forest protection and biodiversity conservation are among the priority programs of DENR, and these have been intensified 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 added.
DENR Region 3 likewise strengthened its 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.
It also established 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 McArthur Highway, Tarlac-Sta. Rosa Road, Quirino-Aurora Road, Cabanatuan-Bongabon Road, Dingalan-Cabanatuan Road, Dingalan-General Nakar Road, and San Miguel and Norzagaray roads in Bulacan.
DENR Region 3 also intensified its information, education and communication program on the importance of SMMR’s forests and biodiversity, and launched with the USAID the Protect Wildlife program in 2018 to combat wildlife trafficking.
Relative to this, 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.
These illegal activities and other environmental violations may be reported through the DENR Region 3 hotline number: 0945-368-5303.