Bukidnon Gov creates watershed and riverbasin forum; names Bishop as head

MALAYBALAY CITY  (MindaNews/04  February) — Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan has named Bishiop Jose Cabantan as head of the Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum created through an Executive Order issued last month.

The Forum convenes civil society organizations to participate in  decision-making, particularly on environment concerns.

Calingasan told MindaNews Friday that the bishop is the best person to head the Forum because of his influence and the initiatives they have done for watershed and environmental protection.

Calingasan said the initiative came ahead of the killer floods unleashed by typhoon Sendong in December which also affected some areas including Baungon town near Cagayan de Oro and Valencia City.

He said the creation of the Forum is an offshoot of the two-day Bukidnon Watershed and River Basin Forum held in April 2011.

But it took nearly a year before Calingasan issued the EO creating the Forum.

Francisco Mabaso Jr, of the People’s Power Reform Volunteers, convenor of the April 2011 Forum, said they had been holding regular meetings presided by the bishop to discuss  action plans based on the resolutions passed then.

The April 2011 forum ended 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 which is the headwater of six major rivers in Mindanao.

The resolution asked Aquino to push for the passage of the bill on national land use policy, which Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection Nereus Acosta considered as a national priority, “the absence of which is a hindrance to environmental conservation in the

“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.

Another resolution asked the Mindanao Development Authority 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 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 April 2011 forum proposed to the Provincial Government of Bukidnon to immediately review and if necessary revise the Bukidnon Environmental Code with the participation of civil society.

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 recommended “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 April 2011 forum gathered participants from the business sector, media, academe and research groups, civil society organizations, local government units and national government agencies.  (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)