Green Groups Back Proposal to Proclaim September 26 as “Save Sierra Madre Day”

Quezon City. As the nation commemorates the fury of last year’s typhoon Ondoy this Sunday, two major green networks have thrown their support behind a growing campaign to declare September 26 of every year as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

The Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) and EcoWaste Coalition in a press release expressed their unity with the Save Sierra Madre Network (SSMN), the lead group pushing for the “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

The ATM, which has over 80 members nationwide, and the EcoWaste Coalition, which has over 100 members, both strongly support SSMN’s proposal to the government to officially observe September 26 as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

According to the SSMN, the Office of the President received their letter proposing “Save Sierra Madre Day” last July 30, which was subsequently transmitted to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for action on August 13. The draft proclamation on “Save Sierra Madre Day” is reportedly in the desk of Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi since September 16.

At the House of Representatives, Congressmen Maximo B. Dalog (Mountain Province), Carlos M. Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) and Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. (Ifugao) filed last September 21 House Resolution No. 00438 declaring September 26 of each year as “Save Sierra Madre Day.”

Fr. Pete Montallana, one of the convenors of the SSMN, announced last Wednesday their plan to mark Ondoy’s first anniversary as “Save Sierra Madre Day” to call attention to the urgency of protecting the 1.5 million hectare mountain range from widespread illegal logging and other “developmental intrusions.”

“Forested mountains are our best natural defenses against the twin scourges of ‘too much water’ on one hand, and ‘too little water’ on the other. Ondoy and the recent drought brought by El Nino could not have done their worst on the island of Luzon if its once-majestic protector, the Sierra Madre, had not been so degraded by unabated logging and other “developmental” intrusions,” the Aurora-based Franciscan priest said.

“Alyansa Tigil Mina believes that another Ondoy can be prevented if our remaining forests are completely protected. One way to ensure this is to stop the entry and expansion of large-scale mining operations.

The President and the Environment Secretary must declare certain areas as ‘no-go zones’ for mining, such as Sierra Madre,” stated Jaybee Garganera, ATM National Coordinator.

For its part, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the authorities to halt landfill and other “dirty” waste disposal projects that are making Sierra Madre “a graveyard of garbage.”

“Open dumpsites, ‘sanitary’ landfills and other waste disposal facilities like used tire pyrolysis plants and cement kilns firing solid and hazardous waste pose toxic threats to Sierra Madre and her capacity to sustain life amid the climate crisis,” said Rei Panaligan, EcoWaste Coalition Coordinator.

Storm Ondoy was just one of a series of storms and typhoons that devastated different parts of the country last year, snuffing lives and destroying homes, property, crops and livelihoods, the groups observed. Yet it has come to symbolize our country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, the groups noted.

“The lesson of Ondoy is as elementary as it is clear: the more trees we have standing, the better our chances of surviving another typhoon’s onslaught – and, if we are to rely on sound scientific projections, more onslaughts are coming. The climate has changed and it is not for the better. It will continue to change and we will continue to feel it – unless we re-learn the virtue of nurturing back our environment – which ultimately is not for its sake but for ours,” the groups said.