Villar asks Senate to probe denuded forests, silted rivers after massive flooding

Published November 24, 2020, 8:59 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Cynthia Villar on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking a legislative inquiry on the state of the country’s forests, watersheds, and rivers following the severe and widespread flooding in Luzon due to the recent onslaught of typhoons.

Sen. Cynthia Villar (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Villar, chairwoman of the Senate environment and natural resources committee, said the denuded forests and the reported heavy siltation on rivers and tributaries have “largely contributed to the immense flooding” in the region, specifically after Typhoon “Ulysses.”

In her proposed Resolution No. 581, she noted several statutes mandating the protection of the country’s forests, watersheds and river systems and the preservation of biodiversity to prevent environment-related risks.

“Science has taught us that forests and the watersheds should be kept healthy and protected and that deforestation should be avoided so that abundant forest trees could help forest soil absorb and retain rainwater, thereby naturally regulating the release of rainwater from hills and mountains and serving as natural protection to the adverse impacts of natural disasters, such as heavy rainfalls during typhoons and extreme flooding,” Villar said.

She said deforestation caused by illegal logging, quarrying, unregulated and open-pit mining, and slash-and-burn agriculture, among others, “continues to threaten the forest cover of the country, thereby resulting to a reduced protection from the effects of natural disasters.”

She cited for instance the deforestation of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, which was supposed to protect Luzon from oncoming typhoons.

“The muddy quality of the water that flooded Cagayan and Marikina alike is an indication that the surrounding forests and watersheds are already so denuded such that they do not anymore retain soil water and prevent erosion,” Villar said.

“The apparent silted condition of the rivers and tributaries in the flooded areas did little in containing the rainwater that flowed from the mountains and so may have contributed to the rapid rise of the flood waters as well,” she added.

Villar said the Senate inquiry would help strengthen the conservation of the country’s forest cover and waterways to mitigate, if not prevent, the devastating effects of natural disasters.

The joint hearing of the Senate committees on public works, environment, agriculture and national defense on the recent flooding in Luzon due to the typhoons is set on Wednesday, November 25.

 
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