Balance economy, environment – Bukidnon forum

MALAYBALAY CITY – The two-day Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum here ended Thursday with a resolution outlining at least 19 proposals and recommendations to President Benigno Aquino III directed at keeping the balance of economy and environment in the province, considered as the “headwater of six major rivers in Mindanao”.

“Recognizing that Bukidnon, due to its favorable conditions, is experiencing a rapid economic growth, with the numerous agricultural, commercial, and small-scale industrial developments; therefore, there is an indispensable need for a quick appropriate action to balance conditions for economic development in harmony with environmental stability,” said the forum resolution set to be signed by about a hundred forum participants.The resolution pushed for Aquino to declare as priority the passage of the National Land Use Policy, which forum keynote speaker former Rep. Neric Acosta considered as a national priority, “the absence of which is a hindrance to environmental conservation in the country.”

Another resolution in  the forum was to ask the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) that the Province of Bukidnon shall be provided “top priority role” and “preferential financial support” for the rehabilitation of the denuded and degraded uplands and forestlands, to include sustainable livelihood systems for upland farming families and other sectors.

The participants noted in the resolution that Bukidnon is the headwater of the major rivers in Mindanao, namely: the Alanib, Pulangi, Tagoloan, Umayam, Cagayan, Maridugao, Davao-Salug, and Agusan-Cugman Rivers.

They asserted that the said rivers support hydropower generation, irrigation, domestic, and industrial uses.

They have also pushed for the development of a comprehensive development plan of the watersheds and river basins as a “genuine recognition of native titles” and in partnership with indigenous communities as “traditional owners of indigenous lands and territories.”

Further, the forum participants expressed support for the exclusion of approved Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title in the passage of the proposed bill on the creation of the Pantaron Range Integrated and Protected Area.

The Lumad communities in the province were also represented in the forum, among them Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino Saway. Saway told the forum the indigenous peoples should be consulted on programs on the environment in their areas.

Among the resolutions is the proposal to address the concerns of the Lumads of Bukidnon; self determination, ancestral peace pact with the Lumads and the Bangsamoro people.

The resolution also included a recommendation to revisit and review Presidential Memorandum Order 270 creating the Bukidnon Watershed Protection and Development Council (BWPDC).

They also sought to formalize the “inter LGU collaboration” on integrated watershed management with the neighboring provinces of Bukidnon.

The forum, organized as a follow up to the Bukidnon Environment Summit of 2008, also proposed to the Provincial Government of Bukidnon to immediately review and if necessary revise the Bukidnon Environmental Code and the Implementing Rules and Regulations with the strong participation of the Civil Society and private sector.

Emphasis was placed on the rule of civil society and private sector in the endeavor.

Another recommendation was for the civil society in partnership with the National and Local government, shall organize Watershed Forum Committee with substantial financial and technical support from the government.

The participants also issued a statement on mining in the province: “responsible management of natural resources relative to mining” as among the 19 recommendations.

Not all of the recommendations point to new actions.

Another recommendation of the forum was for the strict implementation of RA 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act down to the barangay level especially pertaining but not limited to disposal of agricultural wastes, among others.

Among the other recommendations include: increase the financial and technical support for the participatory formulation of the ADSDPP, full implementation of IPRA, such as, the strict observance of FPIC process, among others; for environmental baseline database, conduct river sedimentation and other climate change-related studies; provision of financial and technical support to intensify advocacy on climate change adaptation through massive information drive, starting at the purok/sitio levels of our barangays; review sectoral budget within the DENR to give priority for Protected Areas and Headwater in terms of Personnel and Budgetary resources; prioritize delineation and monumenting of permanent forest boundary; increase Disaster and Relief Management Mechanisms and funds that highly include civil society and private sectors; all Local Chief Executives and Disaster Risk Coordinating Councils to immediately formulate or review disaster risk management plans in participation of the civil society and private sectors and ensure its inclusion in all Local Development Plans and Annual Investment Plans.

Convened by the Diocese of Malaybalay, Citizens Volunteer Assembly – Bukidnon, PPVR, Bukidnon State University, and the Provincial Government of Bukidnon; the forum gathered participants from the multi-sectoral groups such as the business sector, media, academe and research, civil society organizations (NGOs, POs), local government units, and national government agencies.

Forum organizers noted that a number of mountain ranges are also located in the province, “which are of high biodiversity conservation and cultural importance, internationally recognized as biodiversity hotspots, home of the highly endangered Philippine Eagle”.

They have also noted that critical watersheds and river basins in Bukidnon are located in traditional lands and territories of the indigenous communities and covered by native titles of the seven (7) tribes marked by living monuments and recognized by existing laws.

Bukidnon’s forests cover provides various valuable ecological and environmental services that sustain economic development in Mindanao. But they noted the need to increase its current twenty-five (25%) natural forest cover to at least forty (40%).

Multi-function forest in private lands is also encouraged to ensure its sustainability and mitigate possible negative impacts of climate change.

The forum resolution was set to be presented to Aquino “for the sustainable development of the environment, natural resources and the people of Bukidnon and of Mindanao.”

The forum resolution also included an endorsement for the immediate appoint of Dr. Juan Romeo Nerius O. Acosta as the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “in order to implement to abovementioned concerns.” (Walter I. Balane)


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