Group to Council: Implement, not amend, watershed code-A A +A
Thursday, January 17, 2013
AN ENVIRONMENTALIST group called on the Davao City Council to push for the full implementation of the Watershed Code, instead of approving its proposed amendment.
Although the Davao City Council on Tuesday deferred the approval of the proposal amending Article 9 of Ordinance 0310-07, Series of 2007, otherwise known as the "Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance," Interface Development Interventions Inc. (Idis) said it is best to implement the code first before introducing any changes to it.
"The most efficient way is that we implement the code first and then learn from the weaknesses that can be seen during its implementation. Only then can we know what specific provisions must be amended," Mary Ann Fuertes, Idis executive director, said in a statement.
She said the Watershed Management Council (WMC) is currently implementing the ground delineation of the areas identified in the code and spearheading the formulation of watershed management plans.
"Don't put the cart before the horse," Fuertes said. "It's counter-productive because we haven't seen yet the extent of what the code can do before suggesting amendments. The code was passed last 2007 but we only started to implement it during the later part of 2011."
The proposed amendment, authored by Councilor Pilar Braga, was approved on second reading during the regular session last January 8 and was supposedly subject for third and final reading on Tuesday, but Majority floor leader Councilor Tomas Monteverde IV moved for the deferment due to some "legal issues."
"We cannot afford to pass an ordinance kung naay mga questions (because there are questions)," Monteverde said.
Under the proposed amendment, construction in the conservation and agroforestry/agricultural non-tillage areas will be allowed if the project aims to harness renewable energy and has been granted an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the local Department of Energy and Natural Resources (DENR).
Monteverde said the amendment came about after Hedcor proposed to put up an 11.5-megawatt (MW) Tamugan run-of-river hydro project in upper Tamugan, which is a part of the identified critical environmental areas in the Watershed Code.
"Gi-prove man nila na safe daw didto, pero para ma-operate nila didto kinahanglan among ma-amend. I-exempt namo sila (They approved that it's safe there, but before they can operate, we have to amend first. We will exempt them)," he said.
"The development has raised concerns among local environmentalists who fear that the future water supply will be affected as the hydropower's operations will curtail the river flow and reduce the water content in the aquifers," Idis said.
It added that Tamugan River has been identified in the terrain analysis study as a high groundwater recharge area. “This is one of the reasons why, in its original form, the Watershed Code has defined Tamugan River as a conservation area, hence prohibiting any commercial development in the area."
Fuertes called on Hedcor to present the project in a public forum so that stakeholders, including the Watershed Management Council, will be informed on the details and impact of the proposed renewable energy project.
"Dabawenyos need to be reassured that the Hedcor project will not have an adverse impact on the aquifers. In the interests of transparency and public participation, Hedcor needs to address the public's concern on this issue," Fuertes said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 18, 2013.