‘Strengthen green governance in Bukidnon’

MALAYBALAY CITY (January 18, 2018) Strengthen environmental governance, including the revisit of the 2008 Bukidnon Declaration on Environment and a review on the province’s environment code, are among expectations expressed by stakeholders in their response to the Bukidnon 2018: Public Outlook Series initiative.

Ms. Marie Angeli C. Abendaño, faculty member of the Natural Sciences Department of Bukidnon State University said she hoped there will be strengthened environmental governance in the province.

She expects for Bukidnon environmental protection that there will continued community-based forest management especially in the uplands.

“It helps protect our watersheds, secure our water and prevent climate change induced disasters such as landslides and flood, which have been recurring in our province,” she added.

Ma. Easterluna Canoy, executive director of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, has pushed for the a follow up summit of the Bukidnon Environment Summit, convened 10 years ago to take stock of the Bukidnon declaration for the environment.

The declaration anchored on how Bukidnon stands headwaters of seven rivers of major watersheds, its high conservation in cultural values and how it provides ecological services to sustain economic development.

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.

Canoy, one of the conveners said the review summit will enable the stakeholders to act in unity to ensure how the conservation and sustainability of the province’s God-given resources.

She added that it will push the government, the private sector, the church, the civil society organizations and non-government organizations to provide an account of their works, advocacies and commitment to realize their pledges made in the 2008 summit. Notably, in 2008, a provincial level follow up committee was to be set-up to take stock of the accomplishments.

“If really serious in its environmental advocacies, Bukidnon can take the lead in environmental programs and initiatives that will benefit not only people of Bukidnon but the rest of Mindanawons,” she added.

In 2018, let Bukidnon province be the watershed model on environmental or in ecological governance, Canoy added.

Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway, tribal chieftain of the Talaandig tribe and head of the Council of Elders of Mt. Kitanglad said that before total conservation is achieved, stakeholders, including government should give more thrust and recognition, not discrimination, to the spirit of the biodiversity.

In an earlier conversation, he clarified that in saving the environment, it is not only environmental laws that matter. There are aspects that are invisible and not recognized in government but are also important to factor it.

Canoy said there is a need to balance the benefits of relevant customary traditions with that of environmental policies that would ensure sustainability amid the dangers of climate change.

Vice Governor Alex P. Calingasan, who also chairs the provincial board committee on environmental protection backed the idea of reconvening the Bukidnon Environment Summit, 10 years after, to assess what has been achieved. He vowed to co-organize the summit with other conveners within the year.

He also eyed a review of the Bukidnon Environment Code, passed and approved in March 2001, to update some obsolete provisions.

Roland Lacson, legislative researcher at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, said as early 2007 to 2017 term of provincial board, there were already discussions on the review of the environment code due to some obsolete provisions.

He cited as example that the code was passed when policies on climate change adaptation had not been articulated in local government yet.

Lacson also added that by that time also, provincial board members also noticed that the code did not have enough provisions on regulation of water resources.

“Before only rice lands and other farms would need irrigation. But eventually more farm types required big water supply,” he added.

He cited that board members noted water rights applications of farms planted to high value crops, like banana and pineapple.

“Almost every river or stream have been covered with applications before the NWRB, (National Water Resources Board),” he added. The NWRB seeks a certification of posting of public notice on the application from the SP.

Daniel Somera, Mt. Kitanglad Protected Area Superintendent said he wished for a lush and a greener Bukidnon province with the strong support of an increased number of environment-conscious citizens.

Kris Guerrero B. Tabernero, supervising environmental management specialist at the Malaybalay City Environment and Natural Resources Office, said he expects that all applicable measures will be undertaken by local government units in protecting, restoring and enhancing the environmental quality of Bukidnon.

“With due consideration of the principle of ecological sustainable development,” added Tabernero, head of the environmental management division.

Tabernero said it can be done by coordinating activities, programs and policies from the barangay LGUs to the provincial level aimed at reducing, minimizing, or eliminating environmental damage integrating the principle of good and accountable local governance, participatory approach of resource management, and comprehensive program implementation.

He said all environmental attributes are ought to be considered in all decisions relating to the environmental resource utilization, conservation and management.

Emma Molina of the civil society group Barog Bukidnon said Bukidnon should be more concerned in reforestation specifically on areas within the six watersheds situated in the province.

“(It must also) check on the current situation of the headwaters and seek the national government’s attention and urgent implementation of the proposed Tagoloan River Basin Management Project as has been presented five years ago by the Mindanao Development Authority with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 10.

She said the project will not only seek to help beautify and prevent damages due to floods and other calamities within Bukidnon and its neighboring provinces.

“These will also help, provide jobs, livelihood and the basic needs among the needy, especially the indigenous peoples of Bukidnon,” she added.

But Molina said citizens also have a stake to the situation of the environment in Bukidnon.

“Everyone should be more concerned about what has been happening to our environment, considering the damages incurred at times of calamities caused by too much extractions of natural resources,” she added.  (Walter I. Balane/Contributor)

[BUKIDNON 2018: PUBLIC OUTLOOK SERIES is a community journalism project that seeks to provide space for the public to speak up on the future of the province in 2018. The editorial team sent text messages and sought interviews with random sources from different sectors in the province from December 25 to 28, 2017. The responses were consolidated and categorized thematically and then used as bases for stories in these pieces. React to waltzib@gmail.com.]