DAVAO CITY – PRIVATE and big corporations who want to convert watershed areas of Davao City into plantations must secure government permits and clearances, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said.
Duterte on Sunday issued the reminder after Sun.Star Davao columnist and Davao City Water District (DCWD) board of director Serafin “Jun” Ledesma called the attention of the city mayor through his weekly column.
“We really prohibit expansions in watershed areas. Naay balaod ana (There is a law) and it is enforced. Ug naay gusto mutanom o mugamit ug yuta (If anyone wants to utilize that land), it has to be delineated sa terrain analyses and they have to get a clearance. Otherwise, it would be a violation of law to proceed without a clearance,” Duterte said during his Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa Sunday.
He also said he will ask the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) to look into the areas and determine whether violations are committed.
Ledesma, in his column published on July 22, said “I have it from veritable source that a multinational banana corporation had developed some 200 hectares of land adjacent to Tamugan River and its tributaries.
This is a serious issue in the backdrop of the plan of the city government and of the Davao City Water District to tap the surface water of Tamugan.”
He said the corporation should stop its activity in the area and reforest the area, instead.
“I am urging Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to issue an order stopping corporate farms from converting recharge areas or watersheds of Davao City’s aquifers to monocrops. Their failure to comply with the directive of the city council to put up buffer zones should the more deter them from invading watersheds or anywhere beside Tamugan river and tributaries,” Ledesma said.
These allegations were confirmed by Duterte. He said corporate and even individual who are into agricultural farming operates in prohibited areas.
Duterte reminded the public “not to tinker with the watershed areas” since the spray being used goes straight to the river.
“Wala na tay underground water karon, naa pa pero dili mahatag ang supply nga panginahanglan sa syudad. So we have to tap the surface water and protect the watershed. Mao na dapat naay buffer zone especially in Tamugan (Our underground water is being depleted, there’s still some but no longer enough to provide for the whole city. Thus the need for a buffer zone in Tamugan),” he said.
The establishment of buffer zones along riverbanks is mandated by the Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance of Davao City.
Section 24 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations states that “A minimum of 40-meter buffer zone shall be established between the plantation and critical areas such as recharge zones, critical slopes, riverbanks, rivers, springs, wells and others sources of water measured from the outermost boundary of the nearest critical area towards the plantation area within 6 months after the approval of the IRR.”
Meanwhile, the Watershed Management Council (WMC) launched a reforestation project along the riverbanks of the tributaries inside the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed to protect its headwaters which are the future source of Davao’s world-class drinking water.
The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS), the Non-Government Organization Representative to the WMC, said this project will rehabilitate the areas already delineated and permanently marked by the WMC as critical areas for conservation and protection.
“This initiative gathers stakeholders to plant trees along the banks of streams and rivers, creating riparian forest corridors throughout the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed,” IDIS Executive Director Mary Ann Fuertes said.
“Riparian forest corridors are essentially buffer zones or easement banks along the rivers and streams. They are very important in forest ecology because not only do they prevent pesticide residues from reaching the rivers, they also serve as natural sponges which absorb excess run-off during heavy rains, thereby preventing flooding and erosion,” she said.
Funded by the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE), the project will identify appropriate riverbank sites for tree growing in coordination with the riverbank communities and barangays.
Endemic fruit trees will be prioritized in the tree growing activities with the communities being coached to take the lead in monitoring and evaluation of the forest sites.
“Barangay volunteers will be trained as Bantay Bukid personnel to help protect these forest corridors. Agro-forestry livelihood initiatives will also be implemented by the WMC so that communities can also generate additional income,” she said.
The initial areas identified for the project are in the upland barangays of Tambobong, Tamugan, Wines, Gumalang and Tawan-tawan.
The project aims to cover all riverbanks in all the eight watersheds of Davao City. At the end of the project year, incentives will be given to the best community-managed riparian forest corridor.
“Through this project, the riverbanks will finally be highlighted for their strategic impact in watershed management. It is my hope that all riverbanks, especially the urban riverbanks, will be eventually covered by this project,” said WMC member and Chair of the Watershed Multipartite Monitoring Team (WMMT) Engr. Liza Madrazo. (Arianne Caryl N. Casas, SUNSTAR DAVAO)