Reforestation and biodiversity conservation remain as the imperative agenda of the Laguna-Quezon Land Grant (LQLG) 90 years after its establishment.
LQLG emphasized these in the celebration of its foundation anniversary on Feb. 14 at its field station in Siniloan, Laguna with the theme “Protecting biodiversity: the urgency of forest reforestation in the Sierra Madre.”
Dr. Virgilio Villancio, manager of the UPLB Land Grant Management Office (LGMO), said that majority of the remaining forest cover of Sierra Madre is in the LQLG, making it a last bastion for many species that have become endangered in other parts of the Philippines.
To strengthen their conservation efforts, LGMO held an initial meeting with various stakeholders of the LQLG for a new endeavor called Forest Protection Program.
According to Analeah Ricohermoso, LGMO’s resident botanist, the program is their way of coordinating protection efforts with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), local government units, the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Army, and all institutions mandated as members of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force.
The task force is prescribed in Executive Order 23, series of 2011, declaring a total ban on logging in natural and residual forests such as LQLG.
Ricohermoso, who also serves as LQLG’s special police captain and assistant chief for forest protection, added that LGMO will meet with the task force soon to be updated on their respective forest protection efforts.
During the program, Dr. Villancio shared to the audience information on the development projects at the LQLG such as the UP Sierra Madre Heritage Park, a 150-hectare area within the land grant where students and researchers will be able to study the biodiversity of Sierra Madre in close proximity.
He said that LQLG has started to garner more attention recently not just from other UP units but also from nearby private and public schools and universities.
“Ang vision natin, lahat ng high school students ng Manila, sa halip na kung saan pa pumunta ay pumunta dito para makita ‘yung UP Sierra Madre Heritage Park,” said Dr. Villancio.
For his part, Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. recognized the vital role of stakeholders and the private sector in protecting all 10,000 hectares of the UP Sierra Madre Land Grants.
“It is only through working together that we can bring back [the former state of] LQLG, which is a small parcel of the Sierra Madre. And I hope it becomes a model [showing] that with shared political will and by working together collegially, we can bring back all the mountains of the Philippines to its former state as primary forests. Because we already have a model: Mt. Makiling. It can be done,” he said.
UP officials also expressed support on behalf of the UP System.
Dr. Teodoro Herbosa, executive vice president (EVP), emphasized the need to protect Philippine forests for human health and protection. “Kapag ‘di po natin na-preserve itong ating biodiversity, wala po tayong future,” he said.
Dr. Nestor Yunque, VP for administration, recognized the importance of enforcement in forest protection as performed by the PNP and the Army, while Dr. Elvira Zamora, VP for development, underscored the potential of the land grants as laboratories for the university’s faculty and students.
The celebration was attended by UPLB vice chancellors, namely: Dr. Marish Madlangbayan (planning and development); Dr. Portia Lapitan (academic affairs), and Dr. Serlie Barroga- Jamias (community affairs).
Joining the anniversary program were UPLB staff and representatives from the LGUs of Quezon and Laguna, DENR, Department of Agrarian Reform, PNP, Philippine Army, and the private organization Fostering Education & Environment for Development, Inc. (FEED).
LQLG is a 6,765-hectare property that was bequeathed to the UP System on Feb. 8, 1930. LQLG and the Laguna Land Grant both comprise the UP Sierra Madre Land Grants and are managed by LGMO. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)