NGO seeks review of Bukidnon environmental declaration

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/27 June)– A non-government organization (NGO) is calling for a stakeholders’ meeting for the assessment of the “Bukidnon Environment Declaration of 2008,” a document envisioned “to chart the future of environmental protection in the province.”

“After the talking was done five years ago, it is now high time for public social and environmental accounting,” said Ma. Easterluna Canoy, executive director of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, one of the conveners of the summit in 2008.

“All agencies in the government, civil society and the private sector must render their respective reports,” she added.

Canoy pushed for the holding of a meeting in the wake of the incoming assumption of new sets of local government officials.

To recall, around 100 stakeholders gathered for the Bukidnon Environment Summit on June 26-27, 2008 that led to the crafting of the “Bukidnon Environmental Declaration of 2008.”

The participants finished the two-day gathering at the Taipan Restaurant here with around 42 recommendations in six action areas.

These were on local governance in important biodiversity and conservation areas; ecotourism as a strategy for local environmental governance for sustainable natural resource and environmental management; government and private sector partnership in sustainable natural resources and environmental management; resource mobilization and financing for environment; indigenous peoples, community participation and empowerment in sustainable natural resources and environmental management; and institutionalizing sustainable natural resources and environmental management in the academe.

But nothing much have been heard about the declaration ever since.

Sammy Cadavos, officer-in-charge of the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office, said they have yet to convene for updates.

Canoy wondered what happened to the commitments made then and how far has been the implementation of the declaration, among others.

Why the summit and the declaration?

Back in 2008, the framers of the declaration cited some circumstances in the province for the reason behind the summit.

It included the role of Bukidnon in providing water for many uses–as headwaters of the major watersheds in Mindanao and its support to hydropower generation, irrigation canal and other industrial and domestic uses.

There are also Bukidnon’s mountain ranges, which play important roles in environmental conservation and cultural survival. These mountain ranges, primarily Mt. Kitanglad and Mt Kalatungan, are biodiversity hotspots and the wellspring of tradition among the indigenous peoples.

The framers underscored the need to increase Bukidnon’s forest cover from 25 percent natural forest to at least 40 percent. They recognized that the forests of Bukidnon provide valuable various ecological services to sustain its economic development.

They also cited the need to encourage multi-function forest in private lands and to ensure its sustainability to mitigate possible impact of climate change.

The declaration also touched on the need for an aggressive action to balance conditions for environmental stability against economic development. In 2008, the province experienced rapid economic growth due to the numerous agricultural, commercial and industrial developments due to favorable conditions like soil fertility and climate.

The framers said the declaration was also an expression of their desire to “sustainably manage our remaining natural resources and to conserve and perpetuate our wild flora and fauna, and to jointly commit to implement environmental laws and regulations.”

Canoy said the best way to answer questions on the implementation of the recommendations is to gather again those stakeholders and let them pursue a collective evaluation to keep track of the progress. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)