Press Release
February 18, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged environment and natural resources authorities to draft a comprehensive master plan to protect and conserve endangered and denuded forest lands in order to prevent a repetition of soil erosion and massive landslides similar to what happened in St. Bernard town, Southern Leyte.

Pimentel said the disaster, which buried an entire village with 300 houses, killing an estimated 200 persons, could have been prevented if the heavily denuded adjacent mountain area had been replanted with trees at the initiative of the government.

The excessive landslide that hit the Southern Leyte town was traceable to the denudation of the forest land. Its too late to fingerpoint and blame anyone but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has to come out with a comprehensive master plan to prevent the occurrence of tragedies like this, he said.

Noting the observation of the DERN that the disaster site in the Southern Leyte town was prone to landslides, Pimentel said the fact was that the trees that used to cover the mountain there were almost totally gone.

Pimentel bemoaned that the country is being battered by a string of natural and man-made disasters, bringing untold misery to the already-suffering Filipino people.

There is an old Chinese belief that says: the gods must be displeased with the leaders of the land, he said.

Pimentel urged DENR officials to act fast in drawing up and implementing the strategies to preserve and protect the countrys thinning forests, especially by intensifying the crackdown on illegal logging and cancelling commercial logging permits. They should not wait for the next tragedy to happen before they take action.

He also prodded the government to take advantage of financial aid for forest conservation program from foreign governments and non-government organizations involved in environmental protection.

There are many non-government organizations abroad that are willing to extend help for our forest conservation program. But they want to see the sincerity and determination of the government in enforcing such program, Pimentel said.

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