Bukidnon mayor to critics: stop the blame, help raise funds for reforestation work instead

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 February) – A Bukidnon town mayor has slammed people from low-lying areas blaming his province for the flashflood brought by storm Sendong and urged local government officials and environmentalists instead to help raise funds in the task to reforest the upland areas.

“They benefit and yet they do not even pay environmental fees that can be used to help in the mitigation work up here,” Libona Mayor Leonard Genesis Calingasan said.

The son Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan denied that the floods occurred in the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park buffer zone.

Calingasan said environment groups and stakeholders should proceed from doing rehabilitation and recovery work to mitigation.

“Don’t be limited to building dikes. Let’s also go for the root cause of the floods,” he added.

He said he has stopped attending meetings with environmentalists who gathered after Sendong “because they just always make plans but there are no concrete actions.”

Calingasan said one thing they can do is to raise funds among big business firms operating in the city to raise environmental funds to help pay reforestation projects.

“They put the blame on Bukidnon but they don’t even give seedlings to the mitigation work. There are volunteers from private institutions who do tree planting here but do not even bring their own seedlings,” Calingasan said.

Libona is one of the three Bukidnon towns in the catchment basin of the Cagayan de Oro River.

Calingasan said they have already done mitigation work with their own nurseries and reforestation projects even before Sendong.

“But we can only do so much. Had Sendong come 10 years later, it could have already helped,” he added.

Calingasan said they spend around P8 million to P10 million a year to pay for labor and other costs to maintain 100 hectares of tree plantations.

He said a big portion of the mitigation work that can be done after Sendong could come from the government and the private sector from downstream. He said they need to share in the cost as they also benefit from the watershed and yet “they contribute nothing.”

“If they do not want to share funds because they are afraid it might go to the wrong hands, then they give seedlings instead,” the mayor stressed.

He said companies in the city should be asked about their environmental plans.

Calingasan said companies can give at least 1 percent of their corporate social responsibility funds to reforestation in the uplands.

He said this could be used for “food-for-work salary for indigenous peoples” who can help plant trees in their areas.

Calingasan said it is more expensive to rehabilitate and cure than to do preventive work.

He said priority areas in Libona include the riverbanks of Bubunawan River and the Agusan River, where he intends to plant bamboo. He said he preferred bamboo because it is economically viable as it is ecologically.

He said they intend to plant trees in the buffer zone, in the watershed, but bamboo in the riverbanks. He said the efforts in the upland should be complemented with support from those downstream.

But Calingasan admitted that he did not open it up yet in the post-Sendong meetings he attended and that no one has ever initiated it in those meetings.

He also cited the poor soil management practiced by the agricultural plantations in the area, even ruining riverbanks to maximize space. But he said even local farmers, not just the agricultural plantations, practice no proper land management. This, he said, has remained a major struggle for the local governments. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)