Press Release
March 14, 2011

Senate of the Philippines
Privilege Speech
by Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri

On the Observance of the International Year of Forests
14 March 2011

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, this year, 2011, has been proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Forests. The proclamation is significant as it enjoins governments across the globe along with various environmental organizations and stakeholders to direct all efforts and programmes of action towards increased consciousness on strengthening the conservation and sustainable management of all types of forests for the benefit of present and future generations. The thrust is to highlight the dynamic relationship between forests and man and underscore the vital and indispensable role of the former to our very existence as a people. Notably, the underlying statement is a call to action for the protection of forests amidst widespread environmental degradation and the constant threat of climate change.

Sustainable management of forest resources is undoubtedly a vital component of any and all efforts geared towards global security and economic stability. A recent study conducted by the United Nations Forum on Forests reveal that Thirty One Percent (31%) of the total global land area is covered by forests and provides home to approximately Three Hundred Million (300M) people. The same serves as a source of livelihood for 1.6 Billion people and is habitat to Eighty Percent (80%) of the world's terrestrial biodiversity. World-wide trade in forest products was also estimated at Three Hundred Twenty Seven Billion Dollars ($ 327B) in 2004. Distinguished colleagues, there is no denying that the indispensable role of forests to the global community can not be taken for granted.

In the Philippines, research initiatives undertaken by both government and non-government environmental institutions conclude that the forestry sector is at the very core of the country's natural resource base and ecosystems. Philippine forests prove to be an important element of national economic strategies and development goals. The sustainable management and conservation of the Philippine forestry sector is essential to the much-sought-after sustained growth in agriculture and other vital industries and the contribution of the same to the national economy in terms of gross value added, export revenues, employment opportunities, not to mention the renewable energy resources, such as hydro, geothermal, wind and solar, is absolutely significant. This very sector however, is on the verge of total degradation.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we are all very much aware, our Philippine forestry sector, much like those of other countries, is on a steady decline. Our country lost roughly a third of its forest cover in a span of fifteen (15) years from 1990-2005 with a deforestation rate of around two percent (2%) per annum - from an estimate of Fifteen Million Hectares (15M ha.) of forest lands, the Philippines is now left with approximately Four Million Hectares (4M ha.) of forest resources. This alarming phenomenon was brought about by a whole gamut of interrelated factors, foremost of which is the widespread unfettered logging in the country brought about by the number of inadequate and poorly-implemented forestry policies. There is also, of course, that lingering issue of rapid population growth which naturally translates into increased demand for scarce land and forest resources; and ultimately, that utter dearth in forest development, management, and conservation efforts. All of these and other unmentioned variables - the combination of which has led to the gradual deterioration of our forest lands and forest resources.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, with your indulgence, allow me at this point to play a video presentation produced by Jewelmer, on the degradation of forests in Palawan. (Play video.)

Mr. President, Palawan is considered as the country's last frontier in terms of environmental characteristics, primarily because of its diversity, habitat and geography. It is so special that we enacted a law specifically for environmental planning for Palawan, that is the RA 7611 or the Strategic Environment Plan for Palawan Act. No other province in the country has been accorded such special law.

However, as we have seen in the video, Palawan has not escaped the intrusion of destructive activities to its forests. If this is happening to our considered "last frontier", I could not imagine what is happening to the forests of other provinces or areas in the country.

Mr. President, your Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, is doing its share to halt the further destruction of our forests and environment and reverse the situation towards conservation and sustainable management of our forests and its resources. We are fastracking the submission of the committee report on various bills on sustainable forest management and reforestation bills. I do hope that at the proper time, this August Body will speak in one voice towards the conservation and sustainable management of our forests and forest resources. We will try to find a balance in meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations in the utilization of our forest resources.

As an advocate of the environment along with many of our colleagues in this Chamber, I am of the strong belief that all efforts directed at the conservation and sustainable management of our forests shall be nothing more than exercises in futility if not reinforced by an increasing level of awareness among our people. A concerted action towards a particular end necessarily requires a certain degree of shared consciousness among all those involved. Stakeholders must therefore have that common resolve to promote the conservation and sustainable management of our forests in order that actions undertaken or to be undertaken towards the realization of the same may completely be effective. This is the underlying premise of the United Nations proclamation declaring 2011 as the International Year of the Forests - an acknowledgement that a requisite component of the global advocacy for sustainable forest resources utilization is an informed and genuinely involved community.

Let us draw inspiration from the selfless sacrifice of all those unsung heroes who went to the extent of even offering their lives in order to protect our forests. I mention in particular the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers Cantalisio Lumina, Edilberto Embay, Cresencio Tapnayan, Villamor Sihagan, and Alvinio Monia who all died in Mt. Kitanglad as they endeavoured to guard our forests from any and all threats, along with the other environmental workers who have died while protecting our forests and the environment. Let us all honor them by not allowing their supreme and selfless sacrifice to be in vain.

Maraming Salamat po!

Please check against delivery

News Latest News Feed