House solon cites importance of SMDA bill approval

WITH a president who has vowed to tackle the issue of climate change, Rizal 4th District Representative Fidel Nograles is hoping that Congress finally approves a bill creating a government body tasked with the conservation and management of the 500-kilometer-long Sierra Madre Mountain Range to help protect its forest cover and prevent flooding in areas in Luzon.

“I hope that with President [Ferdinand] Bongbong Marcos Jr. vowing to prioritize climate change, the House leadership will follow and place this issue at the top of our legislative agenda. The effects of climate change sweep far and wide and affect all sectors of society and governance, so we cannot simply turn a blind eye,” Nograles said.

House Bill (HB) No. 1972, which is among the lawmaker’s priority bills for this Congress, seeks to establish the Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA). The measure was also filed during the 18th Congress.

Nograles emphasized the need to protect the Sierra Madre region, which includes the majority of the country’s sixty-eight protected areas, consisting of national parks, watershed forest reserves, natural monuments, marine reserves, protected landscapes, and seascapes.

Under the bill, the SMDA would be tasked to: conduct a comprehensive survey of the Sierra Madre region’s physical and natural resources and draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize them to promote the region’s social and economic development; provide the machinery for extending the necessary planning, management, and technical assistance to prospective and existing investors in the region.

The bill also includes: providing recommendations to the proper agencies regarding the financing and technical support to be given to agricultural, industrial, and commercial projects; assessing and approving all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range; plan, program, finance and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, wastewater and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing, and related work; undertake studies on the conservation, improvement, exploration, development, and maintenance of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.

According to the solon, the SMDA would also spearhead the government’s campaigns to stop illegal logging and promote reforestation, prevent the construction of unwarranted and illegal infrastructure, enhance and develop indigenous resources in the areas that can be utilized for development, and educate people on the importance of the mountain range.

“The onset of the rainy season should serve as a stark warning for us in Congress that climate change is not an issue that will go away. We need to confront it head-on and seek to craft legislation that would comprehensively address the myriad issues surrounding it,” said the Harvard-trained lawyer.

“We are presenting this bill for our countrymen who are always worried every time the rainy season comes. We in Montalban are fed up with the flood, with the fear and persecution it causes. We hope to support this measure so that we can live peacefully, ”Nograles said.

President Marcos committed to addressing climate change during his inaugural address last June.

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