Sierra Madre

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Sierra Madre

Also known as the “backbone of Luzon,” Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines. It covers the northeast coast of Luzon island, serving as natural shield against typhoons coming from the Pacific Ocean. The range also comprises numerous watersheds that serves the adjacent agricultural lands in Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley. Furthermore, it supports major infrastructure, including irrigation dams, water utility and power plants, that are serving urban settlements, including Metro Manila.

  • It has a land area of approximately 1.4 million hectares spanning 10 provinces (Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Quezon).
  • The continuous forest landscape represents about 40% of the country’s forest cover.
  • It encompasses the greatest number of protected areas in the country; all in all sixty-eight (68), including national parks, watershed forest reserves, natural monuments, marine reserves, protected landscapes and seascapes.
  • Given its vastness, the range is an important biological site due to its high floral and faunal diversity, in which many of the species are unique to the Philippines.
  • Northern Sierra Madre is drained by 14 major river systems, 11 of which empty into the Philippine Sea and 3 flow into the Rio Grande de Cagayan as tributaries of the Ilagan River. Palanan River, with a drainage area of 63,571 hectares (157,090 acres) or 29% of the park’s total area, is the most extensive, followed by Abuan River and Catalangan River.

Sierra Madre is going through a process of unprecedented human-induced environmental change. The likelihood of losing a significant part of the region’s biodiversity has led to growing global and local concerns.

Illegal Logging
While only five commercial logging companies are currently operating in the Sierra Madre, there are indications that operational lapses are causing great damage to the forestlands and biodiversity resources.

Road Construction and Development
There are many proposed road development projects that have potential impacts to the natural resources and biodiversity of the Sierra Madre. The patterns of location show at least four roads crossing the backbone of the mountain range and at least two trans-highways traversing the long stretch of the Sierra Madre. The expected roads will be vectors of in-migration of upland cultivators that will take advantage of the easier access provided by the roads. This opportunity will also promote the establishment of new settlements along road routes, thus increasing the pressure on adjacent biodiversity resources resulting from increased population in these new settlements.

Agricultural Practices
This activity is inseparable from unscrupulous commercial logging operations and road construction, which allows forest occupants to use forest lands for agriculture – for their food and as a source of income.

Mining Activities
Mining covers an aggregate area of 811,541 hectares in Sierra Madre. Fortunately, many applications have already been withdrawn due to the absence of required legal documents to support final endorsement. There is also a continuing resistance to mining operations at the local level.

Given that Sierra Madre extends through three regions covering 10 provinces, the millions of people living within these areas will be the ones to mostly feel the effects of the degradation of Sierra Madre. Ethnic groups, some of which living in the mountains of the Sierra Madre, would have to flee their homes in search of new areas where resources are abundant and readily available.

In addition, since most of the economies of the provinces depend on agriculture, which also counts on the water coming from the forests of Sierra Madre, harvest of farmers would plummet. Not only will this affect our food supply, it will also increase poverty incidence as the northern part of Sierra Madre is heavily dependent on its resources. Likewise, without the natural wall defending the provinces, typhoons would ravage or flood the affected provinces, including Metro Manila.

Because of this, we have allocated Php 106M to provide grants to protect the forests of Sierra Madre.