Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Denuded mountains

Degraded, if not denuded, mountains are a reality in many provinces in the Philippines. The traditional "culprit" and whipping boy -- the commercial loggers -- is exagerrated, if not absent. The main culprit are the people themselves, rich and poor, who invade the forest like fishermen invade the seas, to harvest whatever standing tree, big or small, catches their attention. Although in most rural and midland to upland areas, it's the poor that really abuse the forest, especially the public forest land. The usual "tragedy of the commons" where a resource is owned by everyone and no one in particular (through the government).

These degraded and partly denuded mountains are those of Bugallon and Labrador, Pangasinan province. When illegal loggers attack, they do it in droves and huge number, and they do it 7 days a week, cutting trees for firewood, charcoal, wood and lumber, for household posts, etc.

The government as "administrator" of the public forest land is very inefficient and lazy in preserving and conserving the public forest. When there are high profile calamities like several dozens people killed by landslides and flashfloods, there is strict "enforcement" of anti-logging, anti-transport of forest products. When there is no high profile calamity, the guards are out.

But more than guarding the highways and municipal roads, the real work is up in the mountains -- how to control the hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal poachers and loggers. The government environment offices, whether national or local government, are hardly visible.

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