Andi Dela Torre Griffiths
Sierra Madre Mountain Range: The Backbone of Luzon
In November 2020, Super Typhoon Goni (the world’s strongest storm of 2020) ravaged the Philippines and left the country in devastation. Farmlands were destroyed, rivers overflowed, and villages were submerged in murky waters. Update:
This year (2022), Super Typhoon Karding (with the international name Noru) did the same, causing damages amounting to $110 million after it hit the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.
Flooding, landslides, and storm surges are commonplace in the wake of a storm, most especially in a country like the Philippines; it sits in the western rim of the Pacific Ocean, and that area is where typhoons usually form. While we Filipinos are no stranger to calamities and are very adaptable as a nation, I don’t think we’ll ever get used to the aftereffects, which are usually saddening and devastating. Can you imagine having to rebuild your home, look for another source of income, and start your life all over again after a catastrophe? That’s very difficult, not everyone has sufficient resources, and not everyone can deal with the psychological effects. It really takes a toll on communities and livelihoods, not to mention it hurts the economy as well.
There remains a good reason to be thankful despite typhoons, though, and that is the Sierra Madre; it’s a blessing that we have it because it protects our eastern borders and decreases the amount of damage caused by storms by weakening them.
What is the Sierra Madre?
The Sierra Madre is the Philippines' longest mountain range.It has a land area of 1.4 million hectares and spans for 340 miles, covering ten provinces (Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Quezon).
It also represents 40% of the country’s forest area and is home to hundreds of species like the Philippine eagle and the golden-crowned flying fox.
Our greatest protective barrier against storms
The Sierra Madre has saved Luzon many times from what could have been more disastrous outcomes from typhoons and storm surges; it remains to be our greatest protective barrier against storms and is definitely irreplaceable. Its highest peak, Mount Bintuod, has an elevation of 1,953 meters (6,283 feet) above sea level. As mentioned earlier, it also has a massive land area of 1.4 million hectares. In an interview with Orange Magazine, environmental group Haribon Foundation perfectly explained how the mountain range guards us all, saying: “Since the Sierra Madre has a large surface are with many slopes and curves, it can help break the eye of the cyclone, resulting in a slower wind speed”.
Unfortunately, irresponsible human activities such as illegal logging, mining, and quarrying have been threatening Luzon’s backbone for years, and now, the construction of the Kaliwa Dam, if pushed through, can pose more damage to our mountain range’s biodiversity and displace indigenous people.
For those who don’t know, the construction of the Kaliwa Dam is a new water source project that aims to meet Metro Manila’s increasing demand for water. It is funded by a loan from China and is expected to produce 600 million liters of water per day (MLD) once completed.
As many environmental groups and experts have mentioned, there are other ways to address the water crisis in Metro Manila without harming our already depleting natural resources.