Gov’t urged to balance environment, economy in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 April) — The two-day Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum here ended Thursday with a resolution outlining at least 19 proposals and recommendations to President Benigno Aquino III to keep the balance of economy and environment in the province considered as the “headwater of six major rivers in Mindanao”.

“Recognizing, that Bukidnon, due to its favorable conditions, is experiencing a rapid economic growth, with the numerous agricultural, commercial, and small-scale industrial developments; therefore, there is an indispensable need for a quick appropriate action to balance conditions for economic development in harmony with environmental stability,” the resolution said.

The resolution asked Aquino to push for the passage of the bill on national land use policy, which environment secretary in-waiting Nereus Acosta considered as a national priority, “the absence of which is a hindrance to environmental conservation in the country.”

Another resolution asked the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to prioritize Bukidnon in terms of financial support for the rehabilitation of denuded and degraded uplands and forestlands, “to include sustainable livelihood systems for upland farming families and other sectors”.

The participants noted that Bukidnon is the headwater source of the major rivers in Mindanao, namely, the Alanib, Pulangi, Tagoloan, Umayam, Cagayan, Maridugao, Davao-Salug, and Agusan-Cugman Rivers.

In addition, the participants supported the call to exclude approved Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles from the coverage of the bill creating the Pantaron Range Protected Landscape.

The Lumads were represented among others by Talaandig Datu Migketay Victorino Saway, who asserted that the indigenous peoples should be treated as partners not just beneficiaries of environment programs.

The resolution also sought to formalize the “inter-LGU collaboration” on integrated watershed management with the neighboring provinces of Bukidnon.

Organized as a follow-up to the Bukidnon Environment Summit of 2008, the forum proposed to the Provincial Government of Bukidnon to immediately review and if necessary revise the Bukidnon Environmental Code with the participation of the civil society and private sector.

Issues related to mining were not included in the original draft [of the resolution] but were later added to the document after these were raised during the plenary. The participants urged for “responsible management of natural resources relative to mining”.

Convened by the Diocese of Malaybalay, Citizens Volunteer Assembly – Bukidnon, PPVR, Bukidnon State University, and the provincial government, the forum gathered participants from the business sector, media, academe and research groups, civil society organizations, local government units and national government agencies.

The resolution finally called for the immediate appointment of Acosta as environment secretary, although such was not mentioned in the original draft. Nobody, however, objected to it. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)