‘Pablo’ disaster exposes continuing effects of commercial logging – group

GREEN group Kalikasan Partylist said the effects of Typhoon Bopal (Bagyo Pablo) in Mindanao revealed to the nation what can happen when nature’s wrath is coupled with the unabated extraction of natural resources.

More than 350 people were killed after flashfloods, laced with fallen trees and boulders, engulfed entire communities in Compostela Valley, one of the hardest hit provinces. More than 400 remain missing.

Frances Quimpo, Secretary-General, Kalikasan Party-list, said typhoon Pablo’s aftermath is a grim reality check. The carnage reveals the government’s inability to institute effective disaster preparedness and response systems in grassroots communities. It likewise exposes the failure to regulate the wanton extraction of natural resources, such as timber, and rehabilitate areas and communities where logging has taken root.

In particular, the areas devastated by typhoon Pablo are geographically and ecologically connected to places where massive logging operations have historically taken place. Information from the DENR’s regional Forest Management Service revealed that deforestation has continued to rise since 2006 due to the increased incidence of unemployment and poverty. Many of these illegal logging activities occurred in areas covered by expired timber concession permits throughout Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte. These are areas where cutting of timberland for commercial use has taken place over the decades, Quimpo said.

The Agusan River Basin, which is the 3rd largest river basin in the country is being challenged by various activities within its forest areas. The deteriorating quality of Agusan River Systems—manifested in the loss of biodiversity and degraded natural resources—points to the rampant logging, mining, and agroplantation activities in the forest areas. The denudation of Agusan forest areas is a potential catastrophe for more flooding disasters in flood plain communities.

The group said that the flashfloods that happened in Compostela Valley can not be seen as an entirely separate event, disconnected from the environmental destruction of its neighboring areas. For instance, Agusan del Sur’s river tributaries directly drain into Compostela Valley, where most of the fatalities happened.

In 2011, Mindanao suffered a devastating loss when typhoon Sendong triggered massive flashfloods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, killing more than a thousand people. Subsequent investigations have revealed that the disaster was brought about by the compounded effects of disaster unpreparedness, logging, and the conversion of forest lands into plantations for agricultural export.

Quimpo said the nation’s experience with typhoon Sendong in 2011 should have taught the Aquino administration that more needs to be done in order to prevent more loss of lives in this time of extreme weather events. Up to now, environmental and social justice has not yet been given to the victims of typhoon Sendong. Up to now, the government has yet to institute wide and deep reaching reforms towards disaster preparedness, land use planning,environmental protection, protection of natural resources and rehabilitation of vulnerable and degraded lands.

The group called on government for comprehensive scientific investigation into the various factors which have led to the massive loss of lives in the aftermath of typhoon Pablo taking into account the resource-extractive activities that have significant impacts in the forest cover of Agusan, It is high time to identify and assess the different factors and problems which have contributed to these repeated disasters.

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