Cordillera mayors seek cooperation for watersheds | Inquirer News

Cordillera mayors seek cooperation for watersheds

/ 01:24 AM May 19, 2014

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Cordillera mayors are asking for upland-lowland cooperation to manage the watersheds to reduce the impact of droughts or floods that plague much of the food-producing areas in Luzon.

The Cordillera region is classified as a watershed cradle for northern Luzon, since it serves as a headwater for major river systems that irrigate Pangasinan, La Union and other provinces in the Ilocos region.

The mayors met at a science and technology road show last week where they listed down the worst possible disasters that could strike their communities due to climate change.


The exercise, which was introduced at the May 8-9 Science for Safer Communities road show, was intended to help local executives draw up the best possible response plan to major calamities.


Most of the mayors considered a big landslide their worst possible scenario due to extreme weather “but drought and flooding are also potential problems here as much as in the lowlands if we do not protect our watersheds,” said Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit of Mt. Province.

Local governments and industries that profit from highland waters can pay a water fee, which the mayors can use to replenish the forests, said Akilit, a former Cordillera director of the National Irrigation Administration.

But the fastest means of cooperation are for the lowland governments to divert funds meant for reforestation or forest protection in their areas to the upland watersheds to improve the resources needed to keep the ecosystem functioning efficiently, he said.

“We will take care of the uplands but lowland communities should help us,” he said.

He said the government should review efforts made in 2009 when forest managers and community planning officers of the Cordillera, the Ilocos and the Cagayan Valley regions set out to combine their resources and jointly manage their watersheds.

The Ilocos region has 22 priority watersheds, Cagayan Valley has more than 40 watersheds and the Cordillera has 13 major watersheds.


Many of these watersheds are characterized by depleted forest covers and forest encroachments by settlements and farms.

The Cordillera watersheds, however, remain “the biggest source of water for the irrigation systems of neighboring lowland regions, with a total service area of 208,065 hectares and an irrigated area of 128,909 ha as of 2008,” according to a document of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Akilit said upland mayors also needed to cooperate. Many watersheds and primary forests have been invaded by vegetable gardens, some intruding into neighboring towns because officials fail to regulate their expansion, he said.

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Critical forest ecosystems, like Mt. Pulag National Park, Luzon’s tallest peak, and Mt. Data in Bauko town, have been targeted by commercial farmers, he said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

TAGS: Cooperation, Cordillera, drought, mayors, Politics, Watersheds

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