The Cordillera watersheds are the source of water for the domestic, agricultural, power generation and industrial needs of the region and of significant portions of Regions 1, 2 and 3. It is also the habitat of diverse flora and fauna which are important genetic sources of medicine, food and other ecologically significant products. Mineral resources also abound, making the region consistently account for not less than 14 percent of the country’s mineral production. Given the often-conflicting productive and protective uses of the watershed, a continuing challenge for the region is to maintain a harmonious balance between these uses which will then further strengthen CAR’s position as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon.
Forest cover falls short of targeted 60%. The region is faced with the deterioration of the quality of its watersheds due to problems such as the rapid conversion of forest areas to other uses, uncontrolled timber harvesting, forest fires and kaingin.
Efforts towards improving the region’s forest cover have stepped up with active private and community sector involvement in environment and natural resources management while the government sector continues with various reforestation and other projects. Aside from the regular reforestation efforts, projects such as the Second Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP 2), the on-going Itogon Integrated Watershed Management Project (IIWMP), and the recent formulation of the Master Plan for the Management of Chico River are all geared towards the improvement of the forest cover.
Eight protected areas are also being proposed for inclusion in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). As a strategy towards forest resources management, initiatives such as the “Rewarding the Uplands for Environmental Services they Provide” (RUPES) project also helped concretize the concept of resource pricing in the region.
Deteriorating Surface Water Quality. Balili River, a major inland river located within Baguio City and La Trinidad, Benguet, registered in 2007 Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) values far exceeding the allowable maximum level. Similarly, various major river systems in the region exceeded the maximum allowable total suspended solids (TSS) values in 2006. In response, the region embarked on the stricter enforcement of environmental laws and the implementation of programs such as the NGO-led Balili River Rehabilitation Program.
Keeping a Healthy Environment Amidst Urbanization. In the urban front, Baguio City, declared in 2003 as the most polluted city in the Philippines, registered total suspended particulates (TSP) values much lower than the maximum values allowed for urban cities in 2005 and 2006. In the management of solid waste, however, much work still has to be done. Since the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act was signed in 2000, only five of the region’s 76 municipalities and 2 cities initiated intensive campaigns towards closing their open dumps and constructing landfills.
Ensuring Responsible Mining. Growth of the region’s mining industry continues to be hampered by problems such as persistent anti-mining sentiments among some sectors and the issue on unpaid LGU share from the proceeds of mineral wealth development and utilization. This notwithstanding, mining still continued to contribute significantly to the region’s economy. In 2006, the sector contributed P2.66 million or about 9.4 percent to the region’s GDP. During the same year, the industry was also a major employer with 7,000 jobs generated in 2006.
The on-going ground validation of the 2003 NAMRIA satellite image of CAR’s forest cover, as well as the expected release of the 2006 updated image, will be big steps towards updating actual status of forests and watersheds in the region. Complete ground validation surveys for Ifugao, Mountain Province, Apayao and Kalinga are soon to be completed.
To help strengthen fiscal capability of LGUs in support to the region’s bid for autonomy, a more rationalized management and utilization of CAR’s land resources may be expected with the passing of the CAR RDC Resolution No. CAR-034 in 2006 which paved the way for the settlement of boundary disputes in the region. This included perennial development concerns on the LGUs’ share in IRA and real estate taxation.
With the Environmental Management Bureau’s renewed emphasis on managing the country’s Brown Environment, the region can expect a more positive outlook where the quality of its water and air resources is concerned. National programs that focus on improving and monitoring the quality of air, water and land have been proposed for implementation in the next few years.
The region can also look forward to a stronger mining industry. The 2004 Supreme Court decision affirmed the constitutionality of the Philippine Mining Act’s provision on foreign ownership. Policies such as shift from tolerance to active promotion of the mineral industry, and the proposed House Bill 1445 which pushes for the payment of 40 percent of the mineral wealth tax directly to the LGUs have also given the industry its much-needed support.
Further, six of the country’s 23 identified priority mining projects are located in the region. These are: 1) Project 3000 of the Itogon-Suyoc Resources; 2) Teresa Gold Project of Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company; 3) Far Southeast Gold Project, also of Lepanto Consolidated; 4) Victoria, of Lepanto; 5) Acupan Contract Mining Project of Benguet Corporation; and 6) Padcal Copper Expansion Project of Philex Mining Company. Developments in these prioritized mining projects shall be closely monitored.
Small-scale mining is likewise going on strong in the region. The BSP Baguio Gold-Buying Station reports that gold purchases amounted to P3.12 billion in 2006 and about P3.18 billion in 2007. It can be noted that majority of the sellers in this BSP station are from CAR.
3.5.3 Goal, Objectives and Targets
The Cordillera Region shall endeavor to strengthen its position as the Watershed Cradle of Northern Luzon and a model of a balanced ecosystem. The objectives are as follows: 1) increase its existing forest cover; 2) improve the quality of air, water and land resources; and 3) increase benefits derived by the region and its component LGUs from the watershed areas.
Increase existing forest cover
- Continue the watershed approach in forest management
- Give to forest areas the level of protection appropriate to their specific circumstances
- Follow-up action on proposed areas lined up for inclusion in the NIPAS
- Facilitate the conduct of permanent forest line delineation
- Promote interregional coordination in watershed management
- Recognize indigenous environment and forest management practices
- Enhance partnership with communities, LGUs and other key stakeholders in watershed management
Improve the quality of air, water and land resources
- Intensify measures to sustain reductions in air criteria pollutants for major urban centers, and water criteria pollutants for major river and inland water systems
- Establish baseline data and conduct regular monitoring of surface and groundwater quality and quantity
- Provide/expand support to LGUs for the implementation of ENR-devolved functions such as ecological solid waste management
- Strengthen partnership with LGUs, NGOs, academe and private sector in environmental management and rehabilitation
- Facilitate the conduct of geohazard survey
Increase benefits derived from the watershed resources
- Provide policy and investment climate for more capital investments in agroforestry and other forest resources-based income generating activities
- Concretize the concepts of resource pricing and natural resource valuation
- Follow-up request for NWRB decentralization at the regional level
- Promote and regulate responsible large-scale mining
- Encourage the development of mining-related downstream industries
- Strengthen the Regional Mineral Development Council
- Provide support to the small-scale mining industry through 1) formulation of policies that helps small-scale miners (SSM) legalize their activities; 2) provision of technical assistance and trainings for SSMs; and 3) enhancement of LGU capability to manage the industry and ensure mining operations are not detrimental to the environment
- Support proposed laws that help LGUs and local communities directly benefit from the utilization of watershed resources
- With the National Innovation Strategy providing the framework, encourage the development and growth of industries that capitalize on the Cordillerau2019s unique and rich indigenous culture (e.g., conduct of biomedical researches)
- Study the creation of local mining corporations comprising concerned LGU and local communities who will then partner with interested investors
3.5.5 Priority Programs and Projects
- Chico River Watershed Rehabilitation and Management Program
- Geohazard Survey
- Establishment of Regional Ecology Center
- Municipal Forest Land Use Plan Preparation
- Mineral Investment and Promotions Development
- River Rehabilitation and Management Program
- GIS Application for ECAs and ECPs
- CAR Program on Capability Expansion of Air Quality Monitoring
- Abulog-Apayao Watershed Management and Rehabilitation Program
- Construction of MGB Laboratory