The country’s longest mountain range protected many provinces from floods and landslides caused by Super Typhoon Noru
A view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. (Photo: Martin Dela Rosa)
Catholic groups in the Philippines have renewed their resolve to protect the Sierra Madre mountain range, observing September 26 as the annual day to raise awareness of the need to protect the mountain.
Catholic environmental groups have opposed illegal logging, mining, conversion of forests to farmland, and construction of the controversial Kaliwa Dam in the mountain range.
The Kaliwa Dam, a $244 million project, “would affect more than 1,500 households, including indigenous peoples who own ancestral lands in the Sierra Madre mountains,” said Kristine Villaluz, executive secretary of the Catholic Movement. for a greener environment.
She stressed the need to restore the longest mountain range in the Philippines, which saved several provinces, including the capital Manila, from flooding and landslides caused by Super Typhoon Noru.
The Sierra Madre, which stretches 540 kilometers from Cagayan province to Quezon province, plays an important role as a natural shield against typhoons coming from the Pacific Ocean, according to environmentalists.
Villaluz told UCA News that his organization opposes construction of the controversial dam that spans Rizal and Quezon provinces.
The dam has been called the pet project of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who threatened judges not to interfere, saying it would “save the nation”.
In February 2020, the Catholic bishops opposed the roadblock, alleging that it was only aimed at “big Chinese companies and investors”.
Environmental group Laudato Si has also called for the protection of the Sierra Madre highlighting how it serves as the “backbone of Luzon” during natural calamities. Its spokesman, Jovert Gomez, said: “We have the Sierra Madre to thank. It acts as a backbone along the east coast of Luzon.
Fr Nicanor Diesta of the Diocese of Legazpi in the Bicol region of southern Luzon, said private companies should include the Sierra Madre mountains in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme.
“Here in our diocese, we have included the sea in the CSR framework for businesses in the region. They make it a point to clean our waters or the beach at least twice a year. Maybe we should do the same for the Sierra Madre. We must clean the roads, plant trees and oppose any program that threatens it,” Fr. Diesta told UCA News.
The late Philippine President Benigno Aquino III declared September 26 as Sierra Madre Day, emphasizing the need to save the mountains, especially its trees.
“President Aquino was instrumental in issuing an executive order asking citizens to help preserve the longest mountain range in the country,” Villaluz told UCA News.
According to meteorologist Ariel Rojas, the mountain range weakened the winds, preventing further damage in the provinces where it made landfall.
“Because there is friction with the surface, the circulation of the wind is disturbed. The rains were also reduced and the water was absorbed into the ground because of the trees. So the less trees we have in the mountain, the less shield the Sierra Madre could give us. [living in Manila],” he explained.