Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, January 09, 2009

Is Arroyo being misled by SBMA?

Is President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo being misled by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on the mini-forest that a South Korean company wanted to cut to give way to a casino-hotel? When shown pictures of the forest showing big trees, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza said the President had been told the trees were “small.” But pictures don’t lie. They showed some really big trees, with bulldozers and cranes standing nearby ready to massacre them.

“I will show this to the President,” Atienza said of the pictures. The other day, Atienza revoked the permits granted to the contractor of the Koreans to cut the trees. He also revoked the agreement with the SBMA giving the latter authority to issue clearances for tree cutting. Hallelujah!

The SBMA had said that the trees would be “balled” and transferred to another place. It also said that the Korean firm would plant tree seedlings on several hectares of denuded land. This is the usual ploy of people who want to remove trees to assuage the protests of environmentalists. But the survival rate of trees balled and replanted is very low, especially if the trees are already big. The trees die within a few weeks. The balling is usually only for show.

Even if seedlings are planted, how many years will it take for them to grow as big as the trees that are to be cut? Besides, many of the seedlings will die. That is what happens to all the reforestation projects of government and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). After the pictures of officials planting seedlings are taken, the seedlings are forgotten and they die.

Worse, the few that survive never grow to adulthood. Charcoal makers cut the saplings. Charcoal-making is worse than logging. In logging, only trees big enough to yield lumber are cut, but in charcoal-making even small trees are cut. That is why most hills and mountains are denuded. We are now reaping the whirlwind because of this. At the slightest rain, the plains are flooded and landslides from the hills and mountains bury the houses and people at their feet.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should strictly regulate charcoal-making. But how do we supply the “ihaw-ihaw” [grill] restaurants and barbecue stands with charcoal? Teach the people to make charcoal out of farm wastes. The rice hulls (“ipa”) that farmers just burn along the roadsides can be compressed into charcoal bricks. Coconut choir and dust, of which we have millions of tons, can also be made into charcoal. So with cogon and “talahib,” sugar cane fronds, twigs and leaves from tree cuttings, waste paper, etc. We don’t have to cut any trees for charcoal; there are many other materials that can be converted into charcoal.

Former congressman Gonzalo Catan has invented a process and machine that makes charcoal from farm wastes and he is already selling charcoal bricks. The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) should buy the patent from him and propagate the charcoal-from-farm-wastes technology. Aside from saving our trees, it would give farmers an additional source of income. That is recycling, wouldn’t it

By. Neal Cruz - Inquirer

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  • I am a former US Serviceman stationed at Cubi Point. Are you saying that all those beautiful trees are in danger of being lost?

    Have they already filled all of the open space down at the Subic side of the base?

    By Blogger The Tax Guy, at 1/10/2009 1:53 PM  

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