This makes me so sad… and angry. I urge you to also sit up and take notice. This affects not just other people. It affects you. It affects everyone.
Apparently, our brave Bantay Gubat of the Ipo Watershed covering Bulacan and Rizal are again suffering. Their pay is once again reportedly delayed. UP Mountaineer member and environmentalist Fredd Ochavo reports that as of December 19, the forest rangers have not received eight-month-worth of salaries.
Maybe you are thinking why this matters to you. Well, there’s simple compassion for our fellow human beings who have been denied what’s due them. And there’s the fact that they just happen to protect the forests and mountains from where your water comes from.
A Bantay Gubat crouches sadly beside the stump of a 10-year-old Narra tree. It was cut down by illegal loggers.
Ipo’s forests and mountains supply most of the water needs of Metro Manila. About just 50 of them patrol over 7,000 hectares to guard the forests against slash-and-burn farmers, charcoal makers, and timber poachers. They nurture tree saplings and they pull out weeds to make sure the grass does not choke the baby trees. Their work is one of endurance and backbreaking work, patrolling for days and walking as much as 20 kilometers each day through rain or shine, at day and night.
Sometimes, they encounter armed people who burn or cut trees for profit or other motives. The forest guards must defend themselves and the trees they guard with only an itak or machete.
We owe our water to them… and yet they are paid less than the minimum wage and their salaries are often held for months or even years.
A few months ago, the Bantay Gubat sent out a call to the public, humbly asking for backpacks and some trekking gear so they can properly carry out their work. (You can still donate. Just contact the UP Mountaineers.)
It’s incredible that they ask for so little when, daily, they risk life and limb for us. How can they even afford the basic necessities without pay?
Last Thursday, someone left a comment on Fredd’s post that the forest guards will finally get their pay for the months of May to August. This is great but, Fredd asked, what about their pay for until the end of the year? And why is the pay of the Bantay Gubat frequently delayed? If your salary is delayed by just a day, won’t it already mess you up? When the pay of our forest guards is delayed, their work is hampered and our forests suffer.
10-year old Narra trees inside a reforestation site at the Ipo Watershed are still being cut down by informal settlers for firewood, Fredd reports.
Unfortunately, our forests are bearing the brunt of this lack of support. Fredd reports that the young trees that the forest rangers and some volunteers planted and nurtured on Mt. Balagbag are being uprooted. He also shared a photo taken by an environmental group showing that a part of the mountain was burning, the work of forest arsonists.
We really need the MWSS to provide regular funding for Forest Protection activities because our water here in Metro Manila comes from those mountains. The last time the Bantay Gubat forest rangers received their salaries was last April. We’re hoping that MWSS will be able to hand over to them their salaries for the 8 months (May to December) of work they provided in protecting the forests that supply us with water.
The forest is burning! Sadly, humans deliberately set it on fire.
Photo credit: Fredd Ochavo
How can we help the Bantay Gubat? How can we help protect our forests and water supply? Share your thoughts below!