Press Release
March 15, 2011

Zubiri: We must protect our forests now

Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, chairman of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, yesterday called for an increased consciousness in the conservation and management of all types of forests for the benefit of the country's present and future generations.

"A recent study conducted by the United Nations Forum on Forests, thirty one percent (31%) of the total global land area is covered by forests and provides home to approximately three hundred million (300M) people," Zubiri said in a privilege speech delivered Monday afternoon. "The same land area not only serves as a source of livelihood for 1.6 Billion people, it also serves as habitat to Eighty Percent (80%) of the world's terrestrial biodiversity," he added.

Zubiri, whose privilege speech coincided with the observation and celebration of the International Year of Forests, also noted that in 2004, "world-wide trade in forest products was estimated at three hundred twenty seven billion dollars ($ 327B).

"There is no denying that the indispensable role of forests to the global community cannot be taken for granted," Zubiri said.

Zubiri lamented the fact that the 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, leaving the Philippines with approximately four million hectares (4M ha.) of forest resources.

According to Zubiri, this alarming phenomenon was the result of, among others, "unfettered logging in the country brought about by the number of inadequate and poorly-implemented forestry policies; 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."

"A lot of factors led to the gradual deterioration of our forest lands and forest resources," Zubiri lamented.

"The Philippine's forestry sector is at the very core of the country's natural resource base and ecosystems. 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," Zubiri added.

Zubiri, a champion of environmental concerns, reminded his colleagues of RA 7611, also known as the Strategic Environment Plan for Palawan Act, which was specifically created to help protect the biodiversity of what is considered the country's last frontier. "No other province in the country has been accorded such special law, yet, Palawan has not escaped the intrusion of destructive activities to its forests."

"If we want to be able to continue to reap the benefits of our natural resources, we must act now," warned Zubiri.

"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, and stakeholders must have that common resolve to promote the conservation and sustainable management of our forests," Zubiri added.

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