Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday raised the alarm over the current rate of deforestation that could wipe out the country's forest cover in 15 years.
With 1,900 hectares being deforested daily, the remaining forest cover as of 2006 was down to 8,000 square km from 270,000 square km at the turn of the century.
"Governments since the 1950s have not undertaken any genuine reforestation program. The current government has, in fact, handed out Timber Licensing Agreements and 23 Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMA) from 2001-04 covering an area of at least 191,000 hectares," he noted.
An IFMA allows its holder the right to harvest the timber and other forest products within the concession area.
Based on data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the total forest area of the Philippines has been reduced to 6.7 million hectares as of 1990 from 30 million hectares in 1930. In 1996, only around 2.1 million hectares of original vegetation were remaining.
Escudero stressed that preserving the country's fast-dwindling forests and protected areas like the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP) becomes even more urgent to protect endemic species and lessen the devastating effects of landslides during typhoons.
"Scientists said the NNNP in Negros Island is one of the top 10 most vulnerable forest ecosystems in the world. It is also inhabited by the rare Visayan spotted deer, one of the rarest animals in the world," he noted.
The Visayan spotted dear is just one of 336 endemic mammals that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources listed among 497 endangered animals in the Philippines, which also has the highest concentration of birds and butterflies in the world.
Waters surrounding the Philippines are also believed to have the highest level of biodiversity in the world with 2,117 species of fish, 330 of which are endemic. About 500 of 800 known coral species are also found in Philippine waters.
Other protected areas are Mt. Isarog National Park (Camarines Sur), Malampaya Sound Palawan), Mt. Malindang National Park (Misamis Occidental), Mt. Banahaw National Park (Quezon), Mt. Pulag National Park (Benguet), Mts. Iglit and Baco National Park (Mindoro), Mt. Guting Guting National Park (Romblon), El Nido-Taytay Managed Resources Protected Area Palawan), Pamitinan Protected Landscape (Rizal), Mt. Taliinis and Twin Lakes (Negros Oriental) and Northwest Panay Peninsula (Antique).