Nadine Fandialan

When nature strikes the Philippines with typhoons, only nature itself can fend the country from the worst. 

Sierra Madre - Fandialan
Photo Courtesy of Virma Simonette/BBC/genurrrr/X(Twitter)

Spanning over 540 kilometers from the province of Cagayan in the north to the province of Quezon in the south, the Sierra Madre stands as the longest mountain range in the Philippines. It forms the eastern backbone of Luzon, the largest island of the archipelago. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, its range serves as a natural barrier against typhoons that come from the Pacific.  

Sierra Madre plays a crucial role in reducing the impact of destructive strong winds and heavy rainfall that often comes along with tropical storms.

Not only does its rugged terrain and thick forest serve as a natural shield; the Sierra Madre is home to many species of plants and animals, some of which are endemic to the Philippines. It serves as a habitat for a diverse range of wildlife including various species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. It also hosts many protected areas, such as parks and marine reserves, that help conserve the abundant biodiversity and natural resources in the region. An example of this is the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, which is the largest protected area in the country, and is a candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage Site.   

Despite being the sanctuary to all animals and humans in the region, the Sierra Madre is also facing many threats from human activities. Humans have been exploiting the place by illegal logging, mining, road construction, and development projects for their own personal gain. Additionally, there may be a lack of awareness about the importance of preserving this natural treasure. People of the region themselves have also been cutting down trees that contribute to Sierra Madre's own destruction.

These said activities destroy the forests and habitats of the wildlife, as well as affecting the livelihoods and cultures of the indigenous peoples who live in the mountains. People such as environmentalists, scholars, and scientists have been urging the government and the public to protect and conserve the Sierra Madre. It is a vital part of the country's natural heritage and ecological security, and its final devastation may result in the destruction of our very own nation.

Recently, some news reports have broadcasted the current state of the Sierra Madre and the challenges it's facing. For instance, a report by ABS-CBN News revealed that some parts of the mountain range have been deforested and excavated by illegal loggers and miners, especially in Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela provinces. The report also showed how the environmental degradation caused communities to suffer from landslides, floods, and water shortages.

Another report by Rappler featured a documentary by environmental group Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE) that exposed how some politicians and corporations are behind the destruction of the Sierra Madre.
 The documentary, titled "Sierra Madre: The Last Frontier", showed how these actors are involved in illegal logging, mining, dam construction, and land grabbing in the mountain range. The documentary also highlighted how some local communities and environmental defenders are resisting these destructive projects and fighting for their rights to their ancestral lands.

Mankind has not been very good in protecting what keeps him safe.

Sierra Madre is one of the last strongholds that protects the mainland of the Philippines from heavy typhoons. There would be massive consequences for both the community and the environment that depends on it if Sierra Madre is destroyed completely. The loss of the forests would result in the loss of habitat for many plants and endanger many animal species. Additionally, the destruction of the Sierra Madre would lead to the loss of valuable natural resources that will make an impact in the livelihoods of local communities who rely on the forests for their sustenance.

Without the Sierra Madre, typhoons could potentially make landfall with greater force, causing more damage and posing a greater disaster to communities not only in the region, but the nearby locations that will go unprotected.

In the destruction of nature, to suffer is the consequence. When will mankind ever learn its lesson?