42 forest guards deputized at Watershed Summit in Davao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 March) — The city’s Watershed Management Council (WMC) deputized Friday 42 upland farmers from Barangay Tawan-Tawan in Baguio District here to monitor and report activities harmful to Mt. Tipolog hosting the Panigan-Tamugan watershed.

Dubbed “Bantay Bukid” volunteers, they were formally deputized as forest guards during the Watershed Summit here.

The Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), in partnership with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment through a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), organized and trained the forest guards last year as “protectors of the environment.”

The Panigan-Tamugan watershed is one of the sites of the “Upscaling Forest Restoration Efforts in Key Biodiversity Areas” project funded by the USAID.

Ann Fuertes, IDIS executive director, said the forest guards will be entitled to subsidized Philippine Health Insurance Corp. contributions until 2014 and training and medical assistance.

They will also be provided with equipment worth P200,000 that would include radios, digital camera, rain coats and boot, she added.

The deputized forest guards are residents of Sitios Panigan, Sumpitan, Gading and Ubay-Nanap in Barangay Tawan-Tawan, Fuertes said, adding that IDIS hopes to expand the “Bantay Bukid” volunteer project to Barangays Tambobong and Carmen, areas also near the watershed.

Forester Christopher Asibal of the Davao City Environment and Natural Resources Office enumerated the roles of the forest guards during the formal deputation at the summit.

He said they will assist in the enforcement of the Watershed Code rules and regulations, and in governing environmental forest lands, conservation areas, and agro-forestry areas covered by the code and other environmental laws.

They will also conduct actual monitoring in the conservation and agro-forestry areas, and submit monitoring reports, including photographs, to the Barangay Watershed Management Council (BWMC) and the WMC multipartite monitoring team, Asibal said.

The forest guards will act as informants to authorities should there be violators of
the Watershed Code, he said.

They will also act as witnesses in court, if necessary, for the speedy prosecution of criminal complaints against violators of the code, and will attend the meetings set by the BWMC, Asibal added.

In his synthesis at the summit, Arnold Vandenbroeck, a member of the IDIS Board of Trustees, said all stakeholders need to work together because “we [now] feel the effects of climate change.”

Representatives of local government units and non-government organizations attended the summit.

Fuertes said the event aims “to strengthen the partnerships among and between government and non-governmental organizations to improve the protection and management of water resources.”

Presentations in the summit include the watershed management action plans for the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watersheds, and the current and future sources of Davao’s drinking water. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)