Bukidnon forum tackles impact of development projects on Mindanao’s watersheds, river basins

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews/24 April) —  A forum organized as a follow up to the Bukidnon Environment Summit of 2008 will be held here on April 27 and 28, with President Aquino delivering the keynote address.

The Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum aims to assess the impact of development activities such as expansion of agricultural plantations, industries and the recent entry of mining in the province, on the watersheds and river systems of Mindanao.

The forum is organized by the Citizen’s Volunteer Assembly–Bukidnon People Power Volunteer for Reforms,  the Provincial Government of Bukidnon, the Diocese of Malaybalay, and the Bukidnon State University, which is also the forum venue.

President Aquino has been invited to deliver the keynote address, according to the program released by BSU to MindaNews last Saturday.
Originally scheduled for March, the forum was reset to April pending the availability of the President.

In a statement, organizers said that since Bukidnon is the headwater of the major watersheds in Mindanao, its condition has corresponding effects not just on Bukidnon but on the neighboring provinces and cities.

“The flash floods in Cagayan de Oro City, Butuan, and other neighboring provinces have its source in the watersheds of Bukidnon,” the organizers said in a statement.

The organizers also cited the increasing instances of conflicts over water rights. Water is getting scarce in Bukidnon.

Furthermore, they said, there is the need to assess the worsening impact of climate change in Bukidnon, the worsening poverty in the upland and forest denudation that aggravated the deteriorating conditions of the watersheds and river systems.

Unlike the Bukidnon Environment Summit of 2008, the forum seeks to expand the scope of participants by including the different representatives/stakeholders from neighboring cities and provinces of Mindanao, NGOs, Peoples Organizations, Church, LGUs, Indigenous Peoples, Business Groups, Farmers and the Academe.

“Thus, the forum is a Mindanao-wide event with participation from practically the important sectors and stakeholders. This is meant to emphasize that the watersheds of Bukidnon is a concern of all Mindanaoans,” organizers added.

The forum aims to raise awareness among the stakeholders as to the critical status of the river systems in Bukidnon in relation to Mindanao island ecosystems and to review and strengthen the Bukidnon Watershed Development and Protection Council and to pass law or policy pertaining to this effect.

Organizers said they also want to secure commitment from the stakeholders of Bukidnon and neighboring provinces and cities for the rehabilitation of the river basins and to institute a support and monitoring mechanism for the continued protection and sustainability of the  watersheds.

On Day 1, Dr. Guillermo Q. Tabios III of the University of the Philippines Institute of Civil Engineering will speak on the “Need for climate change studies and parameters prior to climate change adaptation efforts in the Philippines.”

Tabios, whose family is from Bukidnon, is director of the UP-based National Hydraulic Research Center. He was one of those asked to conduct a study on the proposed dredging of the   Pulangi IV hydroelectric channel in southern Bukidnon.

He will also be the presenter of another topic, “Watershed and reservoir sedimentation modeling: Case of San Roque Reservoir of Agno River Basin in Northern Luzon.”

BSU’s Dr. Joy Molina will also speak on climate change adaptation in Bukidnon.

Myrna Decipulo of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Ecosystem Research and Development will lead discussion on the carbon stock assessment of the Manupali River Watershed.

On the second day,  Cecille Egnar of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office will provide forum participants with a situationer on watershed and river systems in Bukidnon and its effects to the neighboring provinces. Mayor Elvino Balicao Jr. of Wao, Lanao del Sur, whose town shares boundaries with Bukdinon, will be a reactor to the presentation.

Former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus O. Acosta, who is expected to assume the post of Environment Secretary after the year-long ban on appointing persons who lost in the May 2010 elections lapses, will discuss environmental laws and policies. Datu Migketay Vic Saway, Talaandig tribal leader and Felix Mirasol of the DENR Malaybalay unit will be the reactor.

Participants are expected to formulate resolutions and hold civil society-executive-legislative fora. The resolutions will be presented to legislators in the province, who will be among the 150 participants to the forum, Prof. Christian Inovejas of BSU said.

Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan and Malaybalay Bishop Jose A. Cabantan are expected to attend the gathering. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)