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DENR seeks protection of Sierra Madre

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CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — To stave off climate change, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu has sought the protection of the 500-kilometer Sierra Madre Mountain Range (SMMR).

During a visit to Aurora Province, Cimatu said that the SMMR has been Luzon’s natural barrier against inclement weather that breaks upon impact on the mountain range. He cited that the protection of the mountain range is critical in protecting the island from storm surges brought about by climate change.

“Prioritize the protection and conservation of Sierra Madre. Saving this mountain range is equivalent to saving the lives of many people from damage and destruction brought by natural calamities,” Cimatu said.

Home to the largest remaining tract of old-growth tropical rainforest, the SMMR is the longest mountain range in the country, spanning a total of 1.6-million hectares of land area in Luzon. Cimatu said that the SMMR is also considered a megadiverse ecosystem, as it homes hundreds of wildlife species that is endemic in the Philippines.

DENR Central Luzon Executive Director Paquito Moreno Jr. cited that Secretary Cimatu prioritizes forest protection and biodiversity conservation programs in the provinces of Aurora, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, where the SMMR traverses.

He added that the agency has deployed 130 forest rangers and protection officers in SMMR, providing security to 15 protected areas, and 21 watersheds within the mountain range’s vicinity. These 130 personnel have been instrumental in protecting standing trees in the forest areas from illegal loggers, saving the country’s remaining natural resources.

Eight forest product monitoring stations were erected by the agency to safeguard the SMMR from illegal loggers and poachers. Moreno said that these are located at the entry and exit points of major routes of forest products in Pangasinan-Zambales-Bataan-Pampanga-Bulacan-Manila Road, Bataan-Pampanga Road, Manila North Road via Mc Arthur Hiway, Tarlac-Sta. Rosa Road, Quirino-Aurora Road, Cabanatuan-Bongabon Road, Dingalan-Cabanatuan Road, Dingalan-Gen. Nakar Road, and San Miguel and Norzagaray roads in Bulacan.

The DENR here likewise intensified its information, education and communication program on the importance of SMMR’s forests and biodiversity, and launched with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) the Protect Wildlife program in 2018 to combat wildlife trafficking.

Moreno appealed to the public to remain vigilant in reporting to the nearest DENR office in their area any destructive activities within the SMMR to prevent unscrupulous groups from conducting illegal logging, poaching and encroachment.

These illegal activities and other environmental violations may be reported through the DENR Region 3 hotline number: 0945-368-5303.

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