MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 January) — Local government units must regulate land use in Cagayan de Oro’s river catchment because massive deforestation and unregulated land use are a “recipe for disaster,” Raoul Geollegue, former regional drector of the Deparment of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.
Geollegue told MindaNews that typhoon Sendong’s 187 mm rains which unleashed the killer floods on December 16 and 17 in Cagayan de Oro City are gone but the local government must exercise its police power over the use of land in the catchment area, to avoid yet another disaster.
“It’s time to work to mitigate, time to break our head as the terrain and the basin are designed to exterminate people,” he said after he offered his inputs in the management planning session of the Mt. Kalatungan Range and Natural Park last Friday.
He noted that the area’s steep and high elevation of the ridge and slopes made it possible for water to gather volume and force with one outlet only, the Cagayan de Oro River.
Geollegue said more than 80 percent of the river’s 177,000 hectare catchment, unfortunately, is already alienable and disposable land. He said the stakeholders in the area are left with no choice but to do mitigation work
Geollegue said only about 12 percent of the area is forested covered by three protected areas including Mt. Kalatungan and Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon. But blaming Bukidnon alone is futile, he said.
“Blame the whole catchment area. What can a small area do when there is no control in the rest of the bigger area?” he added. “Blame also the agricultural plantations who do not use proper land management system,” he added.
Geollegue pushed for proper slope management. He said slopes must be equipped with multilayer vegetative protection and rivers should have forest cover.
“Every square inch of the land should be attended to considering the magnitude of the catastrophe,” he added.
Felix Mirasol, chief of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Bukidnon, said the challenge for stakeholders in Bukidnon is to plan what kind of interventions they want to do in the area before those from other places would dictate on them and trigger conflict.
“Bukidnon should start responding now,” Mirasol said.
Stakeholders, he said, include the Department of Envirnoment and Natural Resources, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, local government units, indigenous peoples and the public.
But Mirasol stressed the role of the indigenous people who consider the area their ancestral domain.
He said sources of knowledge on environmental protection are not just the “experts” in their office but indigenous peoples.
“Experts cannot solve it. If you want real work to start, go to the people up there. They know what to do,” said Mirasol. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)