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the line at a typhoon relief food drive, 2020. photo: issa barte

What do we lose when we lose our forests? 

With the continuing degradation of one of the world's 17 mega-biodiverse countries, what does it mean to lose our forests? 

By Issa Barte, January 20, 2021.

MANILA- Last October 2020, the Philippines was hit with an onslaught of typhoons that ravaged our home. One of the bigger cities to feel the wrath of the storms is Marikina, Metro Manila. Where residents were forced to evacuate or left on their roofs to ride out the intense weather. 

Marikina, just like Quezon City and Pasig, are dowstream from the Upper Marikina Watershed-- a forest area that is exploited by land grabbers, quarrying, and illegal logging. Despite conservation efforts from organizations like Masungi Georeserve, activities that continue to degrade the forest areas continue. A rapid research done by the Advocates for Science and Technology for People report that the degraded condition of the watershed were a critical factor in the intense floods. 

a month after typhoon ulysses hit, a boy strolls along the riverbed that had reached the second floors of his neighborhood. photo: issa barte

BICOL- A month after Super Typhoon Goni hit, residents in the Bicol region try to rebuild their lives. Goni was categorized as a Category 5 typhoon and called "the most powerful tropical cyclone yet in 2020."

Residents in Tiwi watched in a cramped evacuation center as the storm ravaged their community. A boat ride away, in Catanduanes, where the storm first made landfall, residents prayed inside their homes to be spared. A resident from Catanduanes reports that the illegal logging in the area had aggravated the consequential landfalls. 25,000 homes were destroyed in this area, 45,000 were damaged, and their livelihoods taken away by the rain. 

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franka, a resident of catanduanes with a kerosene lamp in her temporary home in tiwi, bicol. photo: ivan torres

WILDLIFE- The Philippines, together with the other mega-biodiverse countries hold over two thirds of our world's biodiversity, with over 20,000 species of plants and animals one can only find on these islands. Due to human activity, wildlife only has 4% of their natural forest habitat remaining.  Losing our forests not only affects our humans, but puts the other residents of our islands to the brink of extinction. 

The most common face of of this is the Philippine Eagle, one of the rarest eagles in the world. Once known to inhabit the whole country, the Philippine Eagle's life solely rests on the work and dedication of our conservationists and environmentalists who have been working to keep this species alive. Due to human activity, the Eagle has been pushed higher into the mountains. Since the 1970's the Philippines has been losing our forests-- their homes-- and have since lost 70% of our forests.  

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from left to right: the Philippine tarsier, philippine crocodile, philippine eagle, bleeding heart pigeon, philippine eagle, visayan leopard cat, rufous hornbill, visayan warty pig, philippine hawk eagle. photo:  issa barte.  

We lose much more when we lose our forests. We lose protection, security, and our homes, not only today, but of the future generations that will inhabit our home. The condition of our forests not only speaks of the ways in the wild, but the ways we will continue to live our daily lives. We tend to forget how interconnected we are with our natural world, how close nature truly is. 

Nature is not far away, after all. 

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