Group warns of SouthCot’s vanishing water resources

Sister Pia Rabiera, chair of the province's Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committee (MSFPC), said the continuing destruction of the province's forests and watershed areas has already reached an "alarming stage" since the area now only has 11 percent primary and 23 percent secondary forest cover.

Rabiera said such finding was based on a recent study made by the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance and the Environmental Science for Social Change.

"The study shows that we only have a limited primary forest cover, which is our major source of water and home to many wildlife and endemic species. But if their destruction will not stop, our water supply here may reach the year 2070," she said.

To help address the problem, Rabiera said the MSFPC has linked up with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for an intensified development and forest monitoring in the province's 10 towns and lone city.

She said the committee is currently working on protecting the watershed areas, investigating cases of illegal cutting of trees, cases of illegal logging in protected areas and restoration zones and intensify campaigns on riverbank rehabilitation.

Rabiera said the committee has initially sought for an investigation on the alleged deterioration of the ground water sources in barangay Cacub in Surallah town due to the use of powerful water pumps by a local company.

She said residents of the area themselves reported the situation to the committee.

Aside from this, Rabiera said they are also set to investigate the alleged "underbrushing" and slash-and-burn farming or "kaingin" in Sitio. Glandang, barangay Kablon in Tupi town.

"We will look into reports that non-permanent crops were being planted in the area. This is not according to what the DENR has suggested. We will also see to it that such activity is not done within the restoration zone," she said.

Mary Jane Manlisis, forestry division chief of the Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO), said Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes has already initiated steps to protect the forests in the province from further devastation by strictly enforcing the forestry laws.

She said their office has also started to educate the local communities in some parts of Allah Valley, particularly near forested areas, about the possible damage to the environment and to the people of the continuing illegal cutting of trees in the area.

To complement these efforts, she said Fuentes also directed the proper implementation of the stoppage orders to illegal mining and illegal logging activities in Tboli and Lake Sebu towns, where the province's primary water sources are located. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)