By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
SUSTAINING the program to protect the city’s watersheds has become a big challenge to stakeholders involved in its preservation.
The Cagayan River basin, that include parts of Bukidnon, Iligan City and Lanao del Norte, is one of the 18 major river basins in the country.
Efforts have already been made by private corporations, cooperatives, volunteers, and other entities to take care of the forest lands surrounding it to prevent degradation that could lead to massive flooding and landslide on the lowland.
At the “greening pinning” event held at a restaurant here Monday, at least 23 groups, companies, national government agencies, local governments, and other institutions mostly from this city and Bukidnon that have taken part in the reforestation and protection initiatives started by the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council were given recognition for their contributions.
During the greening pinning, logos of companies, groups, and agencies that have played an active role in the protection and preservation of the basin were pinned on a map showing where their projects are.
The council’s partners were also given certificates of recognition aside from being given time to share their experience during the project.
Felix Mirasol, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-10 assistant regional director, said the event was to ensure commitment to the program.
The pinning of the logos, he said, was a sign “that we will continue what we have started.”
Mirasol said the protection of the basin cannot be achieved by a single entity.
“It cannot be done by one institution alone. Instead there are a lot of partners contributing their resources to implement the plan within the council,” he said.
But, Mirasol said, “the challenge is how to sustain these efforts, to cover as much as possible the whole area.”
Mirasol said the basin’s expanse is more than 137,000 hectares covering parts of Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Lanao del Norte, and Iligan City.
The Mt. Kitanglad Range, which is part of the basin, covers 47,000-plus hectares in the towns of Lantapan, Talakag, Baungon, Libona, Manolo Fortich, Impasugong, and Sumilao, and a portion of Malaybalay City.
Benjamin Maputi Sr., head of the Kitanglad Guard Volunteers, said that illegal tree cutting has been reduced since their group was established sometime in the 1980s.
In fact, he said, there were “forest gains” discovered in portions of the range, where native trees that were not planted have suddenly grown and flourished because of their vigilance.
Maputi said they have recently received a P23 million grant from the Forest Foundation of the Philippines that provided them with livelihood, technical support, and firefighting equipment and other tools needed to keep the range safe.
Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, CDORBMC chairperson, said the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the protection program is to assist the indigenous peoples who are guarding the forests.
“The archdiocese has no funds but we work with other groups,” he said.
Ledesma said the church also has a Ministry of Agro-Ecology where knowledge and techniques on sustainable agriculture, especially in organic farming, are being shared to farmers in the hinterlands.