Press Release
February 21, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to immediately draw up and implement a massive reforestation of the denuded forests of Southern Leyte and other provinces to arrest soil erosion that causes landslides and flooding in nearby communities during heavy rains.

Pimentel said that the indiscriminate cutting of hardwood trees in the mountains of Southern Leyte decades ago has made the earth in the area porous, weakening the capability to absorb water especially during typhoons.

He noted the admission of local government officials of the province that while the surrounding mountain areas in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte are verdant with coconut and banana trees, there are not enough to hold the heavy surge of rainfall, making them susceptible to landslides.

The location of St. Bernard along an earthfault has made the town doubly susceptible to catastrophic avalanche of rocks and mud, the lone senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel also called on the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to take up the cudgels for the poor victims of the landslide and sue those whose acts contributed to the catastrophe. He said the IBP should consider filing a class-suit against loggers, who denuded the area and the government officials who illegally made it possible.

Aside from the replanting of hardwood trees, Pimentel proposed to the DENR the extensive planting of vertiver, a vine-like tree whose huge roots crawl and sink several meters deep into the ground.

Pimentel said vertiver can absorb large amounts of water that will help hold the soil together when heavy rains fall.

Some countries are now experimenting on vertiver as a safeguard against erosion and landslides. And this plant is very versatile in the sense that it needs very little water to keep it alive, he said.

At the same time, Pimentel reiterated his proposal for a 25-year total ban on logging operations to bring back the countrys already inadequate forest cover to ideal level.

The continued degradation of the forests has caused the erosion of fragile topsoil, destroying rich agricultural lands and even fishing grounds. The siltation of riverbeds, irrigation canals and estuaries eventually follow. This destroys the marine ecosystem, when coral reefs are covered by silt caused by soil erosion. This ecological disaster would have been avoided had the forests been protected from unabated and indiscriminate logging, Pimentel said.

In batting for a total log ban, Pimentel cited a DENR report that only 15 provinces in the country have a forest cover of more than 50 percent of land areas.

These provinces are Aurora (78.80 percent), Quirino (76.30), Eastern Samar (65.84), Palawan (65.29), Nueva Vizcaya (64.82), Occidental Mindoro (61.80), Ifugao (61.49), Oriental Mindoro (60.74), Cagayan (58.34), Mountain Province (54.78), Bataan (54.59), Isabela (53.62), Rizal (53.54), Lanao del Sur (52.37) and Catanduanes (50.24).

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