Constraints hamper Bukidnon’s advance watershed management capacity

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/21 January) – Back in 1993, Bukidnon already had the Bukidnon Watershed Protection and Development Council (BWPDC), a multi-sectoral body to exercise general guidance and oversight functions relative to watershed and environmental management in the province.

The council, activated through Executive Order No. 26, formulated the Bukidnon Watershed Management Framework Plan (BWMFP), which outlined the general principles and approaches to protection and development. Bukidnon became the first province in the country to introduce and promote the concept of watershed management in its local governments and among the general population, according to the inception report developed by the Pacific Rim Innovation and Management Exponents, Inc. (Primex), which is a consultant of the Asian Development Bank.

But the mechanism encountered constraints.

The inception report cited at least four issues and concerns including weaknesses in natural resource governance arising from policy and institutional limitations from the provincial down to the barangay level. This, the report added, constrained the enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

Another problem was inadequate management of conservation areas, which is a result of insufficient funding support and management constraints. The ADB consultants cited as examples lack of sustainable financing, technical capability, and management systems and logistics.

Another problem cited was lack of efficient decision support system, which includes up-to-date technical and socio-economic data/information needed for watershed planning and management. They also found out inadequate monitoring systems for collecting and tracking data on changes in water and land use patterns or water and soil quality.

The ADB consultants also cited lack of economic instruments to support sustainable use and lack of incentives to protect goods provided by the river basins.

“Ecosystem goods and services are exploited for free or with minimal payment that is insufficient to finance the management of these services,” the report added.

The report added that the absence of economic deterrents to unsustainable practices and incentives for sustainable practices in watershed areas has led to overexploitation, low investments in value-added processes, high environmental externalities.

The same has deprived the government of much-needed funds for law enforcements and natural resource management operations, the report added.

The ADB picked Bukidnon as a pilot project on watershed management for its local watershed management initiatives, according to Cecil Ignar, planning officer of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office.

The project, approved in 2010, is financed as a grant by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) and administered by the ADB. In December 2010, the ADB announced in a report that they will provide technical assistance to train officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local governments and communities in Bukidnon in sustainable watershed management.

She added that it helped develop capacity of the provincial and the municipal levels of governance on watershed and environmental management.

“The problem remains at the barangay and community level,” she added.

Bukidnon has a total of 829,387 hectares of watersheds in six areas, with 44 percent or 361,687 hectares belonging to the Pulangi River. Among the watersheds are the Cagayan and Tagoloan rivers, which brought flashfloods to Cagayan de Oro in December. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)