Wholeness, Fragmentation and Reconnection: Building Hope
To Save the Sierra Madre Landscape

In 1997, the country experienced severe drought resulting to loss of lives and livelihoods due to El Niño phenomenon. The great Sierra Madre is the only area that did not suffer rain deficit because of its topography with the existence of large tracts of intact rainforest in the mountain range[1]. The Sierra Madre Mountain Range and its forests serve as protective barrier against storms and cyclones coming from the Pacific Ocean.

All storms that have passed through this range have weakened in terms of wind speed (strength)[2]. Water supply in Metro Manila comes from the Angat and Umiray watersheds which are located in Southern Sierra Madre[3]. This mountain range provides for our water needs, it also plays a role in minimizing the impacts of typhoons, floods, and other disasters. That was the time when Sierra Madre experienced wholeness.

As we celebrate, Save Sierra Madre Day this year, El Nino is rearing its ugly head. Areas in Regions II, III, and IV-A are experiencing varying degrees of dryness. The Great Sierra Madre seemed to have become vulnerable to El Nino which it survived 18 years ago. This is attributed to the continuous fragmentation of its forests and various ecosystems due to logging, large extractive industries such as mining, road building and conversion to agricultural and settlement areas. New and additional threats are forthcoming that will increase fragmentation: These are the large dams i.e. New Centennial Water Source Project, the Ilagan-Divilican road that cut across the Sierra Mountain range, and coal mining projects. The MWSS, in particular, has been resorting to using all kinds of tricks to railroad the Free Prior and Informed Consent of the indigenous peoples and the social acceptability of the dam-affected communities.

The Sierra Madre Mountain as a continuous landscape covers the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan. As a whole it provides these provinces and Metro Manila precious water and other ecosystem services. But now, it is now experiencing fragmentation where ecosystems are left in patches and isolated due to so called development projects. Along with this creeping fragmentation is the loss of biodiversity and ecological services that drive local and national economy.
We call on the government to stand up against those who are blinded by greed and do not see Sierra Madre as a mother who also needs to be nourished. The MWSS and other extractive industries in the Sierra Madre should stop manipulating the indigenous people. Allow all people to be well-informed and define their development. Democracy demand transparency. Implement the intent of the Presidential Proclamation 413 declaring September 26 as Save Sierra Madre Day.

We call on the people to take up the challenge of Pope Francis. The heat, the drought and the rains are here – alarming signs that we are headed towards a very critical period putting in grave danger the next generation. We need to wake up, be aware of our connection and relationship with nature and act especially since government is dragging its feet.

Concretely, we call on people to look into alternative solutions to the dams. This also entails learning how to consume only what we need, caring for the earth, opposing projects that fragment the Sierra Madre.

The Environment is the Economy. Conserve, Protect and Restore the Wholeness and Integrity of the Great Sierra Madre!

Save Sierra Madre Network is a coalition of 32 civil society organizations, networks, Church-based groups, peoples’ organization and indigenous communities working for the conservation, preservation and restoration of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. Its campaign initiatives are supported by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment and the Missionszentrale Der Franziskaner

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