The cutting of thousands of century-old trees by a mining company in Palawan, Philippines has drawn the ire of a Catholic bishop who urged for action so that it won’t happen again.
Bishop Socrates Mesiona emphasized the importance of protecting the province’s environment and its remaining natural resources and described it as the country’s “last ecological frontier” because of its unique biodiversity,
“This is a tragedy because Palawan is the last frontier so we hope that our environment will be protected, especially the century-old trees,” Mesiona said over Manila archdiocese-run Radio Veritas.
Thousands of trees in Brooke’s Point town were cut just days after former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was rejected by the Commission on Appointments. Lopez, who took to Facebook in exposing the “massacre”, accused the Ipilan Nickel Corp. of cutting trees “without a permit and protected area clearance”.
The former Cabinet official said the cutting of trees will affect 3,000 hectares of agricultural land and 30,000 people in at least five barangays.
The prelate then lauded the unity among the people and local officials who fought to protect the environment. “It’s a good thing that the people themselves who led the fight because they realized that the environment is really important,” he said.
“My instruction to our Social Action Director is to do whatever we can to help the people because we see the initiative that’s really coming from the public,” he added.
Local officials are also planning to sue the mining company and demand for the cancellation of the firm’s environmental plan permit and a mineral sharing agreement with the government.
The once spectacular primary forests of the Philippines are now a relic of a bygone era. What little primary forest did remain existed on the island of Palawan, the last sanctuary for the Palawan eagle which is now being destroyed. Between 1990 and 2005 the Philippines lost a third of its forest cover, according to FAO estimates, but the country's deforestation was down since its peak in the 1980s and 1990s.
Widespread logging was responsible for much of the historical forest loss in the Philippines. Despite government bans on timber harvesting following severe flooding in the late 1980s and early 1990s, illegal logging continued.
After temporarily lifting the log export ban in the late 1990s, the government had increasingly tried to crack down on timber smuggling and forest degradation. Additional threats to Philippine forests came from legal and illegal mining operations — which also caused pollution and had been linked to violent conflict — agricultural fires, collection of fuelwood, and rural population expansion. In recent years, deforestation had been increasingly blamed for soil erosion, river siltation, flooding, and drought; environmental awareness was rising in the country. (CBCPNews)