Press Release
March 6, 2010

Villar vows strict environmental management for Mindanao

Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Manny Villar yesterday said a strict environmental preservation policy for Mindanao would be in place under his presidency.

"Mindanao still boasts of rich natural resources. Under my watch, these resources will not be abused. We will work with local government units in the region to make sure that Mindanao's forestlands and coastal resources are protected," said Villar, who capped a successful campaign sortie through CARAGA (Region XIII) and Davao Region (Region XI).

"It is important that local communities be given the responsibility and the power to decide on issues that matter to them. Sound environmental management is one of those issues because most Mindanaonons depend on the environment for their livelihood," he added.

The NP standard-bearer said he is fully committed to giving LGUs more teeth in governing their affairs through the improvement of their revenue-raising powers, the speedy release of funds earmarked for LGUs, and a system of rewarding efficient LGUs.

He said the power crisis that has hit Mindanao should be a wake-up call not only to the government's energy officials but to environment executives as well because the island draws more than half of its energy requirements from hydroelectric power plants. "A comprehensive protection and management policy should be in place to preserve Mindanao's watersheds because they are critical to a sustainable supply of hydroelectric power. Climate change is upon us, and our policies must be geared towards adapting to the conditions," Villar said.

He explained that LGUs must be empowered to be able to manage their natural resources properly. This will include adequate funding to draw up and implement forest land use plans and coastal resource management programs, as well as for protecting forest areas from illegal loggers and coastal areas from illegal fishing practices.

"Massive deforestation due to illegal logging and environmental degradation from mining are major problems that need to be addressed," he said.

"While I agree that natural resources should be managed to benefit Mindanaonons, there must be strict implementation of laws on mining, forestry and agriculture. This is where LGUs will have to play a critical role," Villar added.

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has only one forest ranger for every 5,000 hectares.

"This is a ridiculous situation. We have to put more funds into environmental management and protection at the national level. But we will also have to support our LGUs when it comes to protecting our environment," Villar explained.

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