‘Pantaron Range, one of PH’s largest remaining forest blocks’ – MinDA

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – (Bukidnon News/13 December 2011) The Pantaron Mountain Range, which straddles Bukidnon and the Agusan provinces is one of the largest remaining forest blocks in the country, Sec. Lualhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority told reporters attending the 7th Mindanao Media Summit last week.

Antonino sought the help of the media on Mindanao’s deteriorating environment status.

She described the range as a valuable corridor of biodiversity in Mindanao. She said Mindanao has 262 watersheds, with the two largest being the Agusan and Pulangi watersheds.

These two watersheds are drained by Mindanao’s nine major and 20 secondary rivers, she said.

The Pantaron Mountain Range, she added, is at heart of these important water sources.

She said it influences more than half of the Mindanao mainland or about 45,200 square kilometers, consisting of all watersheds originating from it.
“It (range) covers an area of about 12,600 square kilometres or roughly 12.4% of Mindanao,” she said.

Antonino showed some illustrations on the situation of the “watersheds and river basins in Mindanao” in her presentation on the opening of the three-day summit that focused on “Environment Watch: Mindanao.”

She also mentioned in her presentation the current production and settlement practices affecting the environment and the serious implications of unsustainable development practices to food, human, and environmental security.
Mindanao boasts of many key biodiversity areas. In fact, two of its major marshes, namely the Agusan Marsh and the Liguasan Marsh, are home to some of the rare species endemic only to Mindanao, she said.
But she added that Mindanao also holds original growth forest blocks which are now fast depleted.
Based on DENR 2002 data, which she cited, the remaining forest cover of Mindanao is now 21 percent, including plantation species.
The Environmental Science for Social Change showed data as of 2010 that Mindanao’s remaining forest block, which is essential for water production, is now at only 6 percent.
“Given the diminishing forest cover, our Indigenous People Communities are at stake primarily because their ancestral domains are within these supposed protected forest blocks,” she added.
She said while Mindanao is fortunate to be the home of about eighteen (18) major tribes, it is also at risk of diminution of diversity of its ancestral and tribal heritage.
She cited two realities confronting a developing Mindanao, first, she said, is that its natural resources are so diverse and rich that it is able to support Mindanao’s economic progress well, given the right support and monitoring.

But she said the second reality is “while we bank on our resources as our key production reserves, we are faced with the impact of unparalleled activities that pose implications on the capacity of our resources to support developments.”

She said the economy of Mindanao is primarily hinged on agriculture.

“Any adverse effect to its resources affects production and livelihood of many farmers and workers dependent on agriculture for daily sustenance,” she added.
For Mindanao to achieve sustainable development, she added, an appropriate and effective resource management mechanism must be put in place to harmonize and integrate all efforts to rehabilitate watersheds and river basins.

Antonino highlighted MindaNOW: Nurturing Our Waters Program, a project spearheaded by MinDA. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)

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