Sierra Madre

By Joshua Corcuera

Recently, Super Typhoon Karding devastated several provinces in Luzon, hitting Central Luzon the hardest. The rapid intensification of Karding made it into a super typhoon from being a mere tropical storm in less than a day. There is no question as to how disastrous the typhoon was especially if you look at the pictures reported by the media.

While Karding has claimed lives and caused huge damages in agriculture and infrastructure, it weakened into a typhoon upon landfall. One contributing factor is the longest mountain range in the country, the Sierra Madre, which is located in the eastern corridor of Luzon. Weather specialist Vanessa Torres told the Inquirer that “it [Sierra Madre] was one of the factors that weakened the typhoon because a storm weakens after a land interaction,” she explained. “Sierra Madre is a rugged terrain so Karding naturally lost some strength,” Torres ended.

In the past few days, especially during and shortly after the impact of the typhoon, social media was filled with content about Sierra Madre, educational videos, artworks, and facts about the mountain range. Coincidentally, September 26 was ‘Save Sierra Madre Day’ pursuant to a 2012 proclamation by former President Aquino III.

Sadly, however, the mountain range has been subjected to mining and illegal logging in recent years. Moreover, the controversial Kaliwa Dam project was likewise discussed in social media with many objecting to its construction because of its potential adverse impact on the biodiversity of Sierra Madre and the lifestyle of the indigenous peoples living nearby.

Back in November 2020, I wrote a column in Daily Guardian regarding the Kaliwa Dam. “The construction of the Kaliwa Dam is aimed to resolve the intermittent water shortages in Metro Manila, which is home to over 13 million people,” I wrote. “However, the project is met with backlash and criticism due to issues which can be classified into three: environmental, social, and economic,” I explained. I wrote in the end that:

“Altogether, even if we assume that the Kaliwa Dam would benefit millions of residents, it would eventually pose a serious risk that would affect the same people in the long-term. This is because the Sierra Madre — particularly its biodiversity — would be severely threatened. Also, stronger storms cannot be weakened if the mountain range would be neglected. Henceforth, it is essential for authorities to resolve the water shortages in Metro Manila through other means — not through the construction of a controversial dam which would only create another problem.

It is imperative to remember that Sierra Madre is not merely a natural barrier against typhoons, it is also an important center of biodiversity which is home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and flora. Furthermore, the mountain range is a sacred ground to 11 indigenous peoples groups.

With this in mind, there is no doubt that Sierra Madre is helpful to many people in Luzon whether as a protection from typhoons, a source of resources, a sanctuary for indigenous peoples, and so forth. Thus, it is important for each and everyone of us, especially those in power, to take care of Sierra Madre in particular, and the environment in general.