SCIENTISTS, environmentalists and concerned organizations will discuss the growing threats of the country’s river basins in the third International River Summit, set to open on November 24 in Cagayan de Oro City.
The summit organizers are expecting more than 1,600 participants coming from the different local government units, leading experts, scientists, policy makers, river administrators, indigenous communities, support groups, people’s organization and practitioners.
About 200 foreign guests and experts are expected to attend as this year's theme is “Healthy Watershed, Clean Rivers, Safer Communities.”
The Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council, the City Government of Cagayan de Oro with the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources-River Basin Control Office are the summit organizers.
The International River Summit is a biennial multi-partner national initiative that serves as avenue to identify opportunities, problems and best practices toward managing rivers across four vital issues on governance, biodiversity conservation and management, climate change and disaster risk reduction management and water quality.
“The theme is a global platform for exchange of knowledge and experience towards the building of an inclusive agenda for sustainable development and resiliency of river basin ecosystem,” said Dr. Hilly Ann Roa-Quiaoit, summit chairperson.
Quiaoit said the state of Mindanao’s eight river basins, part of the 18 river basins in the entire country, will be highlighted during the summit where eminent leaders and stakeholders are invited to share knowledge and best practices to formulate a blueprint of needed actions to address pressing issues affecting river basins and their communities.
“The summit will help us review and assess the present plan for our own river basins, and guide us in the formulation of appropriate policies that would ensure the development of rural communities dependent upon the watersheds for their livelihood, for their agriculture, and most of all in the case of Cagayan de Oro city, for their safety,” said Raul Geollegue, local organizing committee member.
Geollegue said that this summit is a way for local stakeholders to be aware of the threats and social issues that are tied with the issues surrounding the city's river basin.
With the devastation of Sendong in 2011, Geollegue said that such calamities can be avoided in the future if only more people, especially Kagayanons will be aware on how to take care of rivers and the forests surrounding them.
“Of the P15-billion fund that was handed out by the government for the recovery after Sendong, only .6 percent or P97 million was only given for agriculture. That actually barely touched the issue on the rehabilitation of the forests around the rivers. That is why we are inviting participants from this city so that awareness of this issue can be more disseminated,” Geollegue said.
Mayor Oscar Moreno said the holding of the summit here is a bold move of the organizers and the local government unit to gather the participants to tackle a huge environmental issue and take the challenge to protect river basins in the country.
“Mindanao, for the last five years, has experienced severe flooding, including that which devastated this city where more than a thousand died and up to the present countless bodies have yet to be found during the flood brought by Typhoon ‘Washi’, local name Sendong, thus the decision to hold this summit,” Moreno said.
The first International River Summit was held in Iloilo City in 2012 followed by the second summit in Marikina City in 2014.