Victims of forest destruction remembered in symbolic ceremony

Feature story - March 6, 2006
A solemn ceremony memorializing all the precious lives that should not have perished in deadly calamities caused by the senseless destruction of our forests marked the eve of the East Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.

Greenpeace,Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) Task Force Chair,local government leaders and community representatives light 1,500 candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Shrine) in Quezon City, Philippines on the eve of the East Asia FLEG meeting in Manila. The candles laid out in the shape of a tree stand for the victims of the 2004 Aurora and Quezon landslides caused by commercial logging.

Greenpeace,Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) Task Force Chair,local government leaders and community representatives light 1,500 candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Shrine) in Quezon City, Philippines on the eve of the East Asia FLEG meeting in Manila. The candles laid out in the shape of a tree stand for the victims of the 2004 Aurora and Quezon landslides caused by commercial logging.

Greenpeace,Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) Task Force Chair,local government leaders and community representatives light 1,500 candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Shrine) in Quezon City, Philippines on the eve of the East Asia FLEG meeting in Manila. The candles laid out in the shape of a tree stand for the victims of the 2004 Aurora and Quezon landslides caused by commercial logging.

Greenpeace,Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) Task Force Chair,local government leaders and community representatives light 1,500 candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Shrine) in Quezon City, Philippines on the eve of the East Asia FLEG meeting in Manila. The candles laid out in the shape of a tree stand for the victims of the 2004 Aurora and Quezon landslides caused by commercial logging.

Greenpeace,Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) Task Force Chair,local government leaders and community representatives light 1,500 candles at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Heroes Shrine) in Quezon City, Philippines on the eve of the East Asia FLEG meeting in Manila. The candles laid out in the shape of a tree stand for the victims of the 2004 Aurora and Quezon landslides caused by commercial logging.

On the eve the East Asia Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Process (FLEG Process) meeting in Manila, Greenpeace called on the Philippine government, current FLEG Task Force Chair, to immediately enforce serious measures to stop forest destruction. The call was made during a solemn ceremony at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City in remembrance of the thousands of victims of destructive logging in the Philippines.

Participants, including League of Cities Environment Committee chair Mayor Edward Hagedorn, Dingaluhan, Quezon Mayor Marilyn Marquez, community representatives from Casiguran, Dingalan, and Baler towns also in Quezon, and representatives from local NGOs, lit 1,500 candles laid out on the ground to form the shape of a tree, and tied white ribbons around an acacia to symbolize their deep commitment to help end destructive logging. Photos and footage of floods and landslides were shown during the event and a solidarity statement opposing all forms of forest destruction and supporting total commercial logging ban was signed.

"Tonight's solemn ceremony is intended to memorialize the people-the mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons-all the precious lives that should not have perished in deadly calamities caused by the senseless destruction of our forests," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director Von Hernandez.

"Their deaths should not be meaningless. The government must honor their memory by stopping destructive logging to ensure that no more lives will be lost in the same manner."

The Philippines suffers from constant floods and landslides, and environmental degradation, due to the loss of forest cover which has resulted many times in tragic devastation that has claimed thousands of precious lives. The latest incident last February 17 in Southern Leyte, a province which carries a bitter legacy of destructive logging, swallowed a whole town whose almost 2,000 residents are now believed dead.

The Philippine government constantly cites extreme rainfall as the cause of floods, and has cited geological factors as the cause of the recent Leyte landslide, but it has yet to acknowledge that the denuding of forests play a crucial role in causing these tragedies.

Destructive logging, however, is a primary cause of floods and landslides, and its disatrous effects are exacerbated by heavy rains, and in some cases, even normal precipitation. Continuous logging-both legal and illegal-severely compromises the natural carrying capacity of the forests which act as effective barriers against strong winds, rains, and landslides during typhoons, to provide protection from natural calamities.

Experts estimate that close to 97% of the original forest cover of the country has been logged(1), above 50% of which is believed to have been felled illegally(2). Today, less than 3% of ancient forests remain in small, scattered patches(3). The Asian Development Bank, in its Key Indicators for 2005 reports that among Asian countries, the Philippines has the worst record of preserving its forests(4).

Greenpeace believes that the catastrophes show that the country continues to pay dearly for its history of deforestation, and stresses that the government must do far more to prevent on-going destructive logging, as well as enforce rigorous measures to curb illegal logging and illegal imports. At the same time, it must also support the international community in dealing with the problem of massive deforestation in the region.

The Philippines is hosting tomorrow's East Asia FLEG Process meeting which will gather government officials from around the world to promote greater protection and sustainable management of the world's remaining forests, and respond to the urgent need for effective cooperation to address forestry problems simultaneously at the international, national, and local levels.

"Countries in the region, like Indonesia where illegal logging is rampant, should learn from the tragic experiences of the Philippines," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Executive Director Emmy Hafild.

"Through this commemorative event, we wish to also address the leaders of the East Asia FLEG Process, and highlight the fact that destructive logging is not just an issue of economic gain for the few, but an issue of survival for many. They must be reminded of their moral, if not legal, obligation to fight for those who have fallen victim to the consequences of destructive logging."

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organization that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future.

For further information:

Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Campaigns Director, +63 917 526

3050

Lea Guerrero, Media Campaigner, +63 916 374 4969

(1) this is based on Forest Relief's homepage citing US Library of Congress Forestry article on the Philippines which states: "In addition to the officially sanctioned logging industry, there has been considerable illegal logging. The full extent of this activity was difficult to determine, but the discrepancy between Philippine and Japanese statistics on log exports from the Philippines to Japan provided one source of information. From 1955 through 1986, log imports from the Philippines, according to Japanese statistics, averaged about 50 percent more than log exports to Japan according to Philippines statistics." (2) FAO, Global Forest Resource Assessment 2005 (3) World Resources Institute, Country Profile Philippines, http://earthtrends.wri.org/text/forests-grasslands-drylands/country-profile-145.html (4) 'Deforestation in RP called worst in Asia,' Manila Standard Today Online, http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=politics06_feb27_2006

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