(Photo courtesy of PIA)

MANILA – Rizal 4th District Representative Fidel Nograles has renewed his call for the passage of House Bill 1972 seeking to create the Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA).

Nograles made the call on Monday, which coincides with the commemoration of the "Save Sierra Madre Day" in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Karding which hit many areas in Luzon.

Once enacted into law, SMDA shall be tasked with conserving and managing the 540-kilometer mountain range, Nograles said.

“Amid the threat of Karding, Sierra Madre has once again shown just how crucial it is in protecting us against extreme weather events. The Sierra Madre Development Authority (SMDA) will help us preserve this shield in the face of a worsening climate crisis,” Nograles said.

He also mentioned that the Sierra Madre houses most of the 68 protected areas in the country.

Nograles added that SMDA would also lead the government’s anti-illegal logging and reforestation campaigns, prevent the construction of unwarranted and illegal infrastructure, enhance and develop indigenous resources in the areas that can be utilized for development, and educate people on the importance of the mountain range.

The proposed government body is also mandated to conduct a comprehensive survey of the Sierra Madre region's physical and natural resources and draft a comprehensive plan to conserve and utilize them to promote the region’s social and economic development.

It will also plan, program, finance, and undertake infrastructure projects such as river, flood, and tidal control work, wastewater and sewerage work, dams and water supply, roads, irrigation, housing, and related work; and assess and approve all plans, programs, and projects proposed by local government offices/agencies within the region related to the development of the mountain range.

The Sierra Madre plays a key role in Metro Manila’s major water supply demands, along with the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Quezon, Rizal, Laguna, and Bulacan.

The Save Sierra Madre Day is observed annually on Sept. 26 by virtue of Proclamation No. 413 as a reminder of the dangers of the continuous degradation of the mountain range, which is known as the “backbone” of Luzon.

It also commemorates the massive flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy in 2009.

Maraming nagsasabi na ‘we got lucky’ at naiwasan natin ang mas matinding sakuna na dala ng Karding. Pero hindi natin dapat inaasa ang kapakanan natin sa swerte (Many are saying we are lucky to evade the massive havoc brought by 'Karding'. However, we must not depend on luck for our welfare). We must act, and we must act now. We have to be more aggressive, strategic, and comprehensive in our efforts to mitigate the effects of the climate crisis. The SMDA will be a massive help in unifying our efforts,” the lawmaker said. (PNA)