(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – With President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s pronouncement that addressing climate change is on top of his agenda, agriculture stakeholders have called for the protection of Sierra Madre mountain range as "protector" of the environment.

They cited Super Typhoon Karding's (international name Noru) expected onslaught was shielded by the mountain range, minimizing the damage to crops and livestock, and saved 17 million brood stock in Central Luzon.

“About 17 million brood stock would’ve been lost if not for Sierra Madre. Luzon is number one in aquaculture production, and Central Luzon or Region 3 produces 16 percent by value. By volume malaki rin (it is also huge),” said Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Region 3 (BFAR-3) Director Wilfredo Cruz in a statement on Wednesday.

Brood stock are mature fish used in aquaculture for breeding purposes.

A week after Karding hit the country on Sept. 25, farmers, fisherfolk, youth, indigenous people, and other food producers continue to thank the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, as well as the Caraballo and Cordillera Mountains, for diminishing the impact of the Category 4 typhoon.

Norberto Chingcuanco, vice president for corporate planning of Feedmix Specialist Inc., said Sierra Madre’s importance during Karding shows that nature is vital to ensuring a sustainable livelihood.

“We need nature for our livelihood. Aquaculture depends on clean water to survive and thrive. It is in our best interest to preserve the environment so we can keep on producing fish,” Chingcuanco said.

Former BFAR national director Asis Perez said the six regions affected by Karding -- the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR), Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Bicol Region -- are connected through the three mountain ranges.

“The impact of Karding to everyone in the agricultural community might have been worse had it not been for Sierra Madre. The mountains both protect us from danger and ensure that we are able to produce food,” he said.

Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines. Spanning over 540 kilometers and runs from the province of Cagayan down to the province of Quezon, forming a north-south direction on the eastern portion of Luzon.

Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) is the largest protected area of the Philippines covering the northern range of the Sierra Madre Mountains of eastern Luzon. The park is located in the eastern part of the province of Isabela in Cagayan Valley consisting of a total area of 359,486 hectares, broken down to 287,861 hectares of land area and 71,652 hectares of coastline water area.

Reports from the Department of Agriculture, agricultural damage and losses due to Karding is PHP2.02 billion, affecting nearly 150,700 hectares of farm lands, along with more than 91,900 farmers and fisherfolk.

“While we are grateful that the government has allotted PHP709 million worth of assistance to Karding-affected fishers and farmers, the same level of support should also be given to our environment, from ridge to reef. This is not just to ensure protection and conservation but as well as food security for the generations to come,” the group said.

President Marcos, in his speech at the 2022 multi-stakeholder forum organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), emphasized the importance of utilizing and developing the country's natural wealth and resources.

He said the fight against climate change would only be successful if everyone is committed and determined to "steer our practices and systems towards a greener direction." (PNA)