Press Release
August 12, 2007

Loren's appeal to mayors: Please build new forest parks

ILOILO CITY - Sen. Loren Legarda has sought the help of all mayors in Iloilo province in putting up new forest parks in every barangay in their domains.

Legarda made her plea for more aggressive tree-growing projects immediately after she administered the oath to all the 42 mayors belonging to the Iloilo provincial chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP).

"Now more than ever, we must all not only seek to cease all destructive tree-cutting activities, we must also consciously cultivate new trees in all open and idle public and private spaces in order to reinforce the environment," Legarda said during her brief remarks.

The ceremony was held at the Iloilo Grand Hotel, where LMP members led by Mayor Raul "Boboy" Tupas gathered for their first meeting since the May elections.

Right after the formality, Legarda then sought to give more meaning to her appeal by proceeding to the highly critical Maasin watershed reservation, where she planted trees.

The 6,738-hectare Maasin watershed reservation, which spans three municipalities, 16 barangays and 80 sitios in Iloilo province, has for years been a threatened major source of potable water.

In the 1990s, the reservation was severely degraded as a result of uncontrolled open cultivation. Fortunately, the problem has since been checked through a community-based forest management program and other timely interventions by local officials.

The reservation now provides drinking water to more than 500,000 residents in this city and over 2,000 households in nearby towns. The reservation also extends much-needed irrigation water to more than 2,900 hectares of land cultivated by 1,276 farmers.

Legarda credited all the local officials here for their gallant efforts in guarding the reservation against further desolation, and for their work in rehabilitating and sustaining the watershed.

Legarda's visit to the Maasin reservation coincided with the Department of Agriculture's dire warning that with the persistent dry spell, the cost of spoiled rice harvests may reach up to P1.14 billion, or as much as 400,000 metric tons this year.

Legarda is founder of Luntiang Pilipinas, the nationwide tree-growing program that received the United Nations Environment Program Award in 2001. She also chaired the Senate environment and natural resources committee and authored two major environment-protection laws in the 12th Congress -- the Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act.

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