DENR chief: Tourism a vital source of income in Mindanao

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Thursday, May 22, 2014


ENVIRONMENT and Natural Resources secretary Ramon Paje sees tourism a vital source of income that could spur benefits to Mindanao.

“The air we breathe, the water we use, everything around us, they all must be paid. Beauty must be paid. That is why, the Aquino Administration is trying its best to sort out the disorder in Mindanao to sustain tourism,” Paje said during the launch of the various environmental programs last Wednesday.

He said the discussion on tourism was tackled in the conference on climate change that President Benigno Simeon Aquino III attended in Legazpi City recently.

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“Also, tourism can generate a lot of income to the community and to the country. But tourism is at par with climate. Tourists come to a certain place, of course, on a good weather condition. However, how can people visit with everything that is going on here, with all these abnormal weather conditions and disasters, ‘di ba?” Paje added.

Saving what is left

In a presentation of the Cagayan de Oro River basin Management Council (CDORMC), it showed that Mindanao has eight major river basins with 262 watersheds covering 140,000 hectares of land area straddled in three municipalities in Bukidnon, the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and a municipality in Lanao del Norte.

However, with Mindanao’s ‘new normal’ where weather catastrophes are becoming annual and in a poor state since only 21 percent of forest area are ‘healthy and green.’

With the alarming situation, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) launched a program called “MindaNOW! Nurturing Our Waters Program,” where it will help in harmonizing the management of Mindanao’s natural resources by adopting the “ridge-to-reef” approach that will protect, utilize, and rehabilitate the environment from the mountains to the seas.

Through the joint efforts of the three agencies, the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, Xavier University Science Foundation Inc. (XUSFI), the City Government, and the Miarayon-Lapok-Lirongan-Tinaytayan Tribal Association (Milalittra), the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) and Barangay StraTREEgic Forest Program (BSFP)’s memorandum of agreements (MOA) were signed.

Payment scheme

PES is a payment scheme where it encourages the industry stakeholders to participate in protecting the environment from eventual degradation caused by massive utilization of resources and excessive human activities.

The CDORBMC created a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will take charge of promoting PES to target buyers for Milalittra’s Community Development Plan (CDP), which will sustain the traditional forest management practices by the indigenous people.

Different cooperatives in Mindanao signed their pledges to help in acquiring buyers.

BSFP is a mechanism designed to help sustain the ecosystems, which provides support to public utilities and other industries, and encourages also for the establishment of PES.

MinDA chair Luwalhati Antonino said that both programs are designed to rehabilitate the denuded forest areas in Mt. Kalatungan Range in Bukidnon, mangroves, rivers and coastal areas of Mindanao.

Also, the programs will help sustain Mindanao’s natural resources.

For the next generation

“All of these things that we are doing, this is for the next generation. At least, the next generation will not blame us of not doing anything for the environment,” Antonino said.

During the signing, some P200,000 was turned over from MinDA and XUSFI for the Talaandig tribe to assist in its environmental development in the area.

Datu Rio Besto of Milalittra and Datu Johnny Guina, who represented the council of elders of the group, were the recipients.

‘By design vs. by default’

DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II is optimistic that the MOA signing will have a great outcome as it is a concrete, long-term plan for Mindanao.

“When you say ‘by default,’ when there are situations like this, the outcome will probably be expected and parang ‘go with the flow’ na lang tayong lahat. But when you say ‘by design,’ pinaplanuhan na natin kung anong gagawin natin like preserving our watersheds,” Roxas told the participants.

“Let us prevent what happened to us in 2011 during Sendong. The water won’t be raging just like that, now that we have concrete plans,” he added.

Roxas said that with the environment’s development in the future through the PES and BSFP, the economy and the people will also progress.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 23, 2014.

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