Butuan approves watershed code

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/11 Aug) —The Sangguniang Panlungsod here recently approved a watershed code that seeks to address the protection, rehabilitation and management of watersheds in the locality.

The code, authored by Vice Mayor Lawrence Fortun, aims to implement a comprehensive program that would rationally manage identified and soon-to-be identified watersheds in the city.

Fortun said that only the Taguibo watershed has been proclaimed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a source of water supply in the city.

Citing explorations, he added that there are more watersheds existing in at least 14 barangays here.

Fortun, also the chairman of the city’s Environment and Natural Resources Council, said the ordinance mandates the creation of a Watershed Management Council (WMC).

The WMC shall have the primary task of protecting, preserving and managing the identified watershed and all the others that will be later identified by the city council.

Fortun said that a Watershed Multipartite Monitoring Team will also be created to ensure the strict implementation of the code.

Various groups have hailed the passage of the watershed code.

The Father Saturnino Urios University (FSUU), one of the local institutions that spearheaded the conservation drive on the Taguibo watershed, along with the Butuan City Water District and the National Economic and Development Authority regional office, described the code’s passage as a new milestone.

“We laud the effort of the city council for finding a better way to protect our watershed and that of our environment. Together with the other stakeholders and with the new ordinance, we can now act together and help heal our ecosystem,” said Fr. John Young, FSUU president.

Carl Cesar Rebuta, associate executive director of the Legal Rights & Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/FoE Philippines, said the ordinance is a good initiative of the city council in response to the growing demand of the people for environmental justice.

“The limited and fragile watershed must be protected not only by local policies but also by the continuous participation of the community,” Rebuta said, noting that Caraga region hosts logging and mining projects.

Rebuta stressed that these projects threaten the survival of the community, especially the indigenous peoples, in relation to the use and management of resources.

Nokie Calunsag, Green Mindanao campaign officer, also praised the city council for passing the ordinance.

“The ordinance would bring newfound hope in the protection of our natural resources, which would benefit not only our communities but the generations to come,” he said.

“With it, we hope that they will be able to manage the resources and implement the code wisely,” he added.

Dr. Virgilio G. Neri, Jr., chair of the city council committee on environment and natural resources, said the watershed code gives the local government “the power to fully protect watershed sources” in the city. (Erwin Mascarinas/MindaNews)