Tulunan signs MOU with Korea's IUTC on Liguasan's conservation

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/17 December) – The municipal government of Tulunan in North Cotabato and the International Urban Training Center (IUTC) of the Republic of South Korea inked on Thursday a memorandum of understanding  for information and knowledge sharing on protecting ecology, in particular, that of Liguasan Marsh.

The signing was between Tulunan Mayor Lani Candolada and IUTC executive director Prof. Kwi-Gon Kim.

Tulunan, a third class town located northwest of this city, is part of the Liguasan Marsh in Cotabato province. Four of its villages — Popoyon, Dongos, Tambak, and Galidan — traverse the marsh.

Liguasan, according to a study made by the Tulunan local government unit, is the country’s largest natural wetland, a conglomeration of freshwater bodies with a total area of approximately 288,000 hectares and which is considered a bio-geographic zone.

The signing of the MOU took place after Kwi-Gon and his team toured on Thursday morning two of the villages in Tulunan.

Kwi-Gon said the two-hour trek to the marsh had given them an opportunity to study the place.

He said the marsh is an asset which can be a good opportunity for eco-cultural tourism not only for the locals but also for international interests.

“To pursue this, the government needs a good and environment-sound land use plan,” he stressed.

According to a study made by the Tulunan LGU which was presented to IUTC, the marsh has 194 recorded species belonging to 153 genera in 65 families.  It has 12 endemic, mostly upland species.

The study showed that the original flora have been largely altered due to encroachment and land use conversion.

Rodel Lebiano, a consultant of the Tulunan LGU on environment, said threats to the marsh include deforestation due to timber poaching, land conversion, and improper agricultural land management practices.

Candolada said the marsh is a priority area for bio-diversity conservation. In fact, she said, reforestation projects in villages near the marsh are ongoing.

Just recently, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tulunan approved a resolution granting authority to Candolada to allocate funds as equity to implement a World Bank-funded reforestation project under the National Program Support for Environment Project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Southwestern Mindanao.

The MOU signing in Tulunan was the second for IUTC, a training facility based in Gong-won province in South Korea.

IUTC earlier signed a MOU with the LGU of Kidapawan City on information sharing on stream ecological preservation.

The city has at least four rivers, two of which are located within the vicinity of the Mount Apo Natural Park.

Kidapawan City Vice Mayor Joseph Evangelista has made it clear that the Korean ecologists are not investors who intend to put up structures in the marsh and in the city.

“They are ecologists who want to help governments, not only in the Philippines, lay down eco-cultural designs or plans which can last for say, 50 years, without destroying the ecosystem,” said Evangelista. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)