The gathering of scientists, researchers, educators, students, environment advocates, public officials and government employees from various regions in the country on Nov. 17-18 manifested a multi-sectoral effort to address issues affecting watershed areas in the country at the national fore.
The event, called the 12th Multi-Sectoral Forum on Watershed Management with the theme “Promoting integrated development using watershed approach” was held at the DENR Social Hall in Diliman, Quezon City. The Forestry Development Center (FDC), in cooperation with the Integrated National Watershed Research and Development (INWARD) Project, both of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, UPLB, organized the Forum.
Watershed approach, according to Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, is using the watershed as a unit of analysis for planning and decision making for land use, such as in forestry, agriculture and infrastructure development.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Willie Abasolo, dean of CFNR, emphasized the importance of watersheds in sustaining life. He said that the problems and concerns that surround watersheds are complex and persistent. Dr. Abasolo hoped that the “never-ending issue” of managing the country’s watersheds will continually be discussed in the future and that the data gathered from such discussions would contribute to watershed management plans.
The first keynote speaker, Engr. Samuel Contreras, chief of the Soil Conservation and Management Division-Bureau of Soils and Water Management of the Department of Agriculture (DA), representing DA Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, said that mismanagement and the lack of a sense of responsibility towards watersheds have contributed greatly to its critical state, thereby affecting people’s livelihood.
He recognized the efforts on integrated development using the watershed approach, which national agencies spearhead and local government units (LGUs) participate in. He expressed confidence that the Forum will help craft the action agenda for better watershed management.
Atty. Jonas R. Leones, undersecretary for international affairs and foreign-assisted programs of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), representing DENR Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez, gave the second keynote speech.
Atty. Leones said that “high population, economic growth and climate change have exerted increased pressures on our natural resources, including watersheds.” He said that “solving the problem using the watershed approach with the participation of stakeholders will not only promote integrated development but also uplift environment and the economy especially in local communities.”
The two-day forum also included plenary sessions. The first, “Sustainable area-based development planning and science-based watershed management through INWARD” was led by Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, professor at CFNR, UP Scientist and former UPLB chancellor. The second, “Adoption of watershed and ecosystems planning framework” was spearheaded by For. Ricardo Calderon, director of the Forest Management Bureau.
Other discussions were on “Integrated development planning for the national level” led by Diane Gail J. Llanto, OIC-director of the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment-National Economic Development Authority and “Promoting integrated development using watershed-based approach” by Engr. Carlos Inofre, head of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office of Tanay, Rizal.
The second day was dedicated to workshops and group sessions in which the various sectors were able to discuss and suggest agreements on managing and using watersheds based on what they have learned in the plenary sessions and their respective sector. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)