Press Release
March 29, 2016


Independent vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said forest fires that hit Mt. Apo and Mt. Kanlaon could be prevented if there were enough "eco-guards" manning the country's forests and protected areas.

Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, reiterated his call for the government to hire more forest guards using the Environment Conditional Cash Transfer or ECCT, to address weak law enforcement, which is largely blamed for illegal logging and wildlife crimes.

"Ang isang madaling paraan na pwedeng gawin upang paramihin ang ating mga forest guard ay sa pamamagitan ng Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT). Kung may CCT tayo para sa edukasyon, CCT para sa kalusugan ng buntis na ina, dapat bigyan din natin ng posibilidad ang pagkakaroon ng ating ECCT, o Environment CCT," the vice- presidential race frontrunner said.

"Kapag ikaw ay naninirahan sa kagubatan at ikaw ay tumutulong para protektahan at pangalagaan ang ating yamang-gubat, dapat mabigyan ng kapalit ang ibinibigay mong serbisyo sa pamamagitan ng CCT o 4Ps mula sa pamahalaan," the veteran legislator explained.

The CCT, or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), gives out a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 to each family-beneficiary provided their children regularly attend school and the mothers, if pregnant, seek pre- and post-natal care, as part of government's efforts to improve the health, nutrition and education of children from the poorest sector of society.

Reports on burning of bushes at sitios located at the boundary of Davao City and Davao del Sur has been pinpointed as one of the possible origins of the forest fire at the highest peak of the Philippines. On the other hand, two forest fires were reported on Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island during the Holy Week, with one incident said to have started from a lit cigarette.

During a Senate hearing on the killing of "Pamana," a three-year-old female Philippine eagle, conducted by Escudero's panel in September last year, officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) lamented that there were only 2,500 forest guards nationwide.

DEENR officials said the average forest protection force ratio in the country was one guard per 7,000 hectares as opposed to the ideal ratio of one guard per 2,000 hectares.

Early this year, Escudero also expressed alarm over a report that all 23 forest guards at Ipo Watershed left their posts in January due to unpaid salaries equivalent to 15 months, which he said may expose one of the main sources of Metro Manila's water supply to illegal logging activities.

These forest guards, receive a salary of P8,500 a month, patrol the 6,600-hectare Ipo Watershed, an area of mountain forests in Bulacan which is part of the larger Angat Watershed system. It provides 97 percent of Metro Manila's water needs.

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