CAGAYAN DE ORO City, April 25, 2011?The Diocese of Malaybalay is spearheading a forum on the protection of the watershed and river basin of Bukidnon as a follow through of the Bukidnon Environment Summit in 2008.
To be held at the Bukidnon State University (BSU) auditorium on April 27-28, the forum will address the concerns raised by various sectors not only in Bukidnon but also in neighboring provinces and cities such as agricultural expansion, mining operations, flash floods and conflict on water rights, among others.
President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III will keynote the forum, which is also being organized in partnership with the Citizens Volunteer Assembly â€“ People Power Volunteers for Reform of Bukidnon (CVA-Bukidnon PPVR), the Bukidnon State University and the Province of Bukidnon.
â€œThe Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin forum is initiated as a follow through of the Bukidnon Environment Summit in 2008. It has been noted that with the expansion on the sectors of agriculture, industries, and the recent entry of mining operations in the province, there is a need to further assess the impact of these development activities on the watersheds and the river systems,â€ said Bishop Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay.
Cabantan said that Bukidnon is the headwater of the major watersheds in Mindanao, thus its condition has corresponding effects not just in Bukidnon but on the neighboring provinces and cities.
â€œThe flash floods in Cagayan de Oro City, Butuan, and other neighboring provinces have its source in the watersheds of Bukidnon. Added to this, is the increasing instances of conflicts over water rights; water is getting scare in Bukidnon. Furthermore, there is the need to assess the worsening impact of climate change in Bukidnon, the worsening poverty in the upland and forest denudation that aggravated the deteriorating conditions of the watersheds and river systems,â€ said Francisco â€œJunâ€ Mabaso Jr., chairperson of
the CVA-Bukidnon PPVR.
Mabaso disclosed that the forum is aimed at (1) raising awareness among the stakeholders as to the critical status of the river systems in Bukidnon in relation to Mindanao island ecosystems; (2) reviewing and strengthening the Bukidnon Watershed Development and Protection Council and to pass law/policy pertaining to this effect; (3) securing commitment from the stakeholders of Bukidnon and neighboring provinces and cities for the rehabilitation of river basins; and (4) instituting a support and monitoring
mechanism for the continued protection and sustainability of said watersheds.
He also said that the Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum seeks to expand the scope of participants by including the different representatives/stakeholders from neighboring cities and provinces of Mindanao, NGOs, peoples organizations, church, LGUs, indigenous peoples, business groups, farmers and the academe.
â€œThe forum is a Mindanao-wide event with participation from practically the important sectors and stakeholders. This is meant to emphasize that the watersheds of Bukidnon is a concern of all Mindanaoans,â€ he stressed.
Bukidnon has a total land area of 829,378 hectares, 40 percent of which is forestland. It has 2 cities, 20 municipalities, and a population of over a million. It has 2 protected areas, the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park and the Mt. Kalatungan Range Natural Park.
The province has a number of watersheds ranging from large to micro-catchments needed for water supply, forestry, agriculture and other basic needs of the people. Most importantly, these watersheds provide water to over 1.3 million people and over 500 industries; and irrigate over 65,000 hectares of farmland and serve as source of hydropower.
If not protected, these watersheds are in danger of being destroyed by siltation, dumping of household and industrial wastes, and erratic streamflow.
â€œDue to these problems, innovative interventions are undertaken for localized watershed management to implement the logging moratorium and eventually the creation and strengthening of the Bukidnon Watershed Protection and Development Council (BWPDC) and its Technical Advisory Committee (TAC),â€ Mabaso said. (Bong D. Fabe)