'Pacman's' proposal: make barangays reforest at least 5 ha each

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/16 July) – With the tropical storms hitting the country now getting unusually stronger and their impact turning worse, world boxing champion and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao believes it’s high time for the government to push for a stronger reforestation program, especially in the countryside.

The first-term lawmaker said he will file within the next few days a proposed measure that would require all barangays in the country to adopt or establish at least five hectares of reforestation areas.

He said the proposed community reforestation areas would be maintained and developed by barangay officials and residents in coordination with concerned government agencies.

“It’s about time that we make tangible efforts to restore our damaged ecosystems and push for more effective environmental preservation and protection mechanisms,” Pacquiao told reporters.

He said the filing of the proposed measure is very timely in the wake of the destruction wrought by typhoon Basyang, which already left at least 38 people dead and directly affected some 150,000 residents in 12 provinces in Luzon.

Citing various environmental studies, Pacquiao said the continuing destruction of the country’s forests has increased the risk of heavy flooding in the lowlands and landslides in the mountainous areas of the country.

Such problem was specifically experienced in several areas in Sarangani province during the rainy season in the last three years. “Now even a small amount of rainfall could result to heavy flooding and trigger landslides because most of our forests are already barren,” Pacquiao pointed out.

Pacquiao, who convincingly won as Sarangani’s lone district representative last May, said he hopes the proposed measure will gain the support of his colleagues at the House of Representatives.

“This is for all of us. We will all eventually benefit from this measure,” he said.

Pacquiao is a known advocate of various environmental initiatives and was once designated as honorary chair of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Task Force Luwas Kinaiyahan (save the environment) in Mindanao.

Last year, Pacquiao voiced his opposition to the construction of a 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the coastal town of Maasim in Sarangani, stressing it poses serious harm to the environment and the local population.

He pointed out that most coal-fired power plants across the globe, including the United States, are being shut down due to their ill-effects.

The coal-fired power plant project is being pushed by Conal Holdings Corporation, which is backed by local firm Alsons Corp. and Thai power producer Electricity Generating Public Company. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)