Foresters, alumni propose amendments to SFM bill

The Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Bill took the spotlight during the alumni technical forum on Apr. 19 at the Nicolas P. Lansigan Auditorium, College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR).

Foresters shared insights on issues affecting the SFM Bill that was introduced in the Lower House in 1990 to push for the development and adoption of a sustainable forest management strategy. It seeks to increase land productivity and at the same time conserve biodiversity and rehabilitate denuded forest areas.

Participants deliberated on the effects of a prospective federalist government on SFM. Atty. Marlon J. Manuel, national coordinator of the Alternative Law Groups and Dr. Antonio P. Contreras, a political science professor at De La Salle University-Manila, raised important considerations  in the shift to federalism, such as the distribution of ownership and control of natural resources and the possible rise of local dynasties in the place of national elites.

The forum also promoted multi-sectoral participation and community-based management in forest governance, and especially of watersheds, as discussed by Dr. Jessica S. Salas, a member of the Board of Directors of the Philippine Watershed Management Coalition.

Also suggested was the creation of a separate Department of Forestry to address the wide scope of responsibilities being assigned to the Forest Management Bureau (FMB).

On behalf of Atty. Jonas R. Leones, DENR undersecretary for policy and international affairs, Dr. Florentino Tesoro, former undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology, justified his position considering the various resources and life-support system that forests provide. He believes that a stand-alone Department of Forestry will result in more focused and strategic efforts that would help develop forests “from ridge to reef.”

Past FMB directors, namely: For. Ricardo M. Calderon; For. Neria A. Andin; For. Marlo D. Mendoza, who is also a former DENR undersecretary; and For. Al Rashid Ishmael, who reiterated the need to reinvent the forest management profession and administration in the country, were also present in the forum. According to them, a Department of Forestry will enable a proactive forest management, create clear career progression for foresters, and promote accountability, dynamism, and specialization in the Philippine forestry agency.

The technical forum also featured discussions and insights on natural resources management from For. Nonito M. Tamayo, director of FMB-DENR; Atty. Roberto V. Oliva, former director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity; Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz, past UPLB Chancellor and a professor at the CFNR; and forestry consultants Dr. Ernie S. Guiang, Dr. Manuel L. Bonita, and For. Renato A. de Rueda.

The forum, entitled “Effective governance towards sustainable forest and natural resources management,” was part of the series of activities held to celebrate CFNR’s 108th anniversary. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)

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