Abp. Quevedo proposes a Mindanao Watershed Week

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/05 June) –   The Archbishop of Cotabato today proposed the declaration of a week each year, starting  June 5, as Mindanao Watershed Week to help increase the level of awareness and consciousness of the people on the importance of watersheds in our lives at present and in the future.

“Today is a very historic day for Mindanao,” Quevedo said, noting that the two-day Mindanao Economic and Environment Summit at the Grand Regal Hotel was “the first time in memory” where church, civil society, government agencies in Mindanao and even from Manila “have come here to listen and discuss the problem of water, resources, watershed here in Mindanao.”

Quevedo said  among the many issues that need to be addressed is the “lack of awareness and consciousness of average people  on the effects of what they do today, the effects on water and watersheds tomorrow.”

The former two-term president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines proposed that since there is an annual Mindanao Week of Peace (held from the last Thursday of November to the first Wednesday of December), there should be a Mindanao Watershed Week, beginning June 5 every year.

June 5, which marked the end of the two-day Summit and the signing of agreements signifying partnerships for the Mindanano Nurturing Our Waters (MindaNOW) program, is also the annual celebration of World Environment Day.

Quevedo said the aim of the Mindanao Watershed Week would be for all government agencies, civil society and church sectors to “begin raising awareness about climate change, about watershed management, about the effects of what they do every day on these watersheds.”

The archbishop was chair of the Presidential Task Force on the Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (PTFMRBRD), an agency that was supposed to have ended by December 31, 2012 but which President Aquino abolished by Executive Order 50 on July 28 last year, transferring its functions to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Quevedo attended the two-day forum as delegate and speaker. He gave a Powerpoint presentation on the Mindanao River Basin masterplan and also showed the audience a preview of how thick the masterplan is and a separate document on maps of the river basin. The masterplan is expected to be completed this year.

Addressing Quevedo’s suggestion, Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, representing Environment Secretary Ramon Paje,  said President Aquino at the 1st Philippine International River Summit in Iloilo City on June 1, approved in principle a proposal declaring March 22 every year as National River Day, to coincide with World Water Day.

“We will incorporate the watershed in it,” Ignacio said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) celebrates Environment Month every June.

June 4 to 10 every year is Philippine Eagle Week, declared through Proclamation 79 signed by then President Joseph Estrada in 1999. The Philippine Eagle, described by aviator Charles Lindbergh as the “air’s noblest flier,” was declared national bird through Proclamation 615 issued in 1995 by then President Fidel Ramos.

The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is an endangered species largely because it has lost a major part of its habitat through deforestation.

Quevedo was chair of the Presidential Task Force on the Mindanao River Basin Rehabilitation and Development (PTFMRBRD), an agency that was supposed to have ended by December 31, 2012 but which President Aquino abolished by Executive Order 50 on July 28 last year, transferring its functions to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Also in Davao City on Tuesday, a multisectoral group launched the Mindanawons against Privatization of Water and Energy Resources (M-POWER)  at the Grand Menseng Hotel, Davao City.

The group is opposing Senate Bil 2997 authored by Senator Edgardo Angara which proposes the privatization of water resources.

In his introductory note, Angara said the bill “emphasizes that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) of water and sanitation services may be the step in the right direction toward securing uninterrupted, adequate, quality and dependable water services for everyone.”
He also proposes an incentive scheme “to induce more investors to participate in our water industry.”

In the press conference at the end of the Summit, Ignacio and Secretary Luwalhati Antoninio, MinDA chair, declined to comment on Angara’s bill, claiming they are not familiar with it.

In Iloilo City at the International River Summit on June 1, President Aquino said that after giving much thought to the problems of our water sector, “it was apparent to me and to the members of our Cabinet that we needed to approach our water resources from a holistic point of view and a unified mindset.”

“We had to leave behind the confusion of the past—with over thirty, may I repeat that? With over thirty different water-related agencies with overlapping mandates. To that end, I created an Inter-Agency Committee on the Water Sector, headed no less by Secretary Babes Singson of the DPWH, to create a comprehensive master plan for our water sector. I am told their proposal includes an agency to manage our national water resources, a proposal we will carefully review,” the President said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)