Advancing CAR as the “Watershed Cradle of the North”

The RDC – CAR conducted the Regional Watershed Conference on October 29, 2008 in Baguio City.

The event was attended by 251 participants led by the officials and members of the RDC headed by its Acting Chairman and NEDA-CAR Regional Director Juan B. Ngalob. They were joined and supported by the key officials of the region’s six provinces and municipal and barangay LGUs, representatives of NGOs and POs, the academe, and the media.

The conference’ theme Danum ken Biag: Advancing the Cordillera as the Watershed of North Philippines ,highlighted the objectives of the conference which include: 1) increase awareness on the deteriorating conditions of the Cordillera watersheds and major river systems; 2) identify and validate the cause of the degradation of the watersheds and river systems; 3) formulate recommendation and courses of action to arrest the alarming situation; 4) advocate the position of the region as the Watershed of North Philippines; and 5) in preparation for the forthcoming Interregional Watershed Summit, help the region consolidate its position in co-opting the support of Regions 1 and II for external assistance to undertake a comprehensive watershed program.

In his keynote message, Ngalob explained that the activity forms an integral part of the RDC action agenda on development and autonomy. The said agenda aims to. among others, strengthen the capabilities of regional authorities and LGUs to induce development and perform the 8 plus functions of governance, as provided for in the Constitution, in the event the region becomes autonomous.

He added that “preserving and developing the region’s watershed and natural resources covers most, it not all, of these 8 plus government functions because “…our quest for sustainable watershed management may be pursued hand in hand with economic and social development within an autonomous government set-up”.

Another highlight of the conference was a regional watershed situationer given by DENR-CAR Director Samuel R. Penafiel.  He said that to reforest CAR’s watersheds, the region will be needing about 253 years at the rate reforestation is presently being done.  He also said that the remaining old growth forest in CAR now only comprise 4.66 percent of the region’s total land area.  He then urged all sectors represented in the conference to do their part in improving the state of the region’s watersheds.

 

Edgardo Tongson, vice-president for Sustainability Technologies of the World Wide Fund for Nature – Philippines, offered a solution to the problem.  He gave an overview on the concept of payments of environmental services (PES) and gave actual cases where this was successfully applied in various parts of the country. He explained that through PES, the provision of environmental services is improved because those who provide environmental services get paid for doing so, and those who benefit from such services pay for their provision.

 

The workshop resulted in the:

  1. passing a resolution proposing the amendment of the RA 7160 provision on the share of LGUs on national wealth taxes and pushing for an additional allocation of at least 10 percent of the LGU’s Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) for watershed protection and management;
  2. pushing for the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) redefinition of the term “host community” to include LGUs or communities protecting the watersheds that are the sources of water for hydroelectric generation;
  3. supporting the Domogan Bill which seeks the remittance of the national wealth tax directly to the LGUs; and
  4. advocating and pushing for the operationalization of the PES concept in the region.

A covenant was signed by all the participants, signifying their commitment to push for the implementation of the actions recommended during the conference. (Ma. Emelie G. Daquipil)