A House leader has stressed the need to establish a government body to protect the 500-kilometer Sierra Madre mountain range which has been the country’s safety net against strong typhoons for centuries.
“The increased frequency and severity of flooding in areas close to the Marikina River, as well as in towns in the Cagayan Valley, are attributed to the loss of Sierra Madre’s forest cover. We can no longer ignore this,” Assistant Majority Leader Rizal Rep. Fidel Nograles said.
According to him, these shocking reports of typhoon-triggered floods in residential areas “emphasize the importance of taking concrete steps to care for the Sierra Madre mountain region.”
House Bill No. 5634, filed by the Harvard-trained lawyer last year, proposes the creation of a Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA). Aside from protecting the mountain range, the SMDA will also be tasked to adopt a “wholistic 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.”
“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,” he said.
Nograles said the wide area covered by the Sierra Madre mountain range and the importance of the region “requires coordination that cuts across various LGU (local government unit) 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,” he noted.
Included in the functions of the proposed SMDA is the conduct of a comprehensive survey of the physical and natural resources of the Sierra Madre region and subsequent drafting of a conservation plan as well as the approval of all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices and agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range.
The SMDA will provide recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects. It will also provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region.
“The SMDA will be led by a Board of Directors 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,” Nograles said.
The SMDA General Manager shall be appointed by the President and will be tasked to manage the operations of the Authority.