THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) targets to reforest more than 400,000 hectares of land to protect and rehabilitate major river basins in Mindanao.

Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) chief-of-staff Abul Khayr Amalon Alonto II said the watersheds and ecosystems in Mindanao are extremely endangered.

According to Alonto, this can be attributed to the increasing exploration and mining activities in northern and eastern Mindanao in line with the country's strategy to designate mineral mining as one of the major development sectors.

The current situation of watersheds and ecosystem is aggravated by climate change specifically of El Niño, which was recently experienced last year, and currently La Niña or excessive rainfall.

"Week-long moderate to heavy rains experienced resulted to various flashflood and landslide incidents in almost all parts of Mindanao. The populace’s vulnerability to floods and other water-induced disasters is further aggravated by the unregulated development of flood plains, settlement in hazard areas, reduction of flow capacity of rivers/waterways due to sedimentation and garbage accumulation, lack of infrastructures in flood mitigation, lack of awareness and disaster preparedness of the populace, inadequate warning and evacuation system and the lack of understanding of disaster," Alonto said.

He also said that with only 21 percent of the remaining forest cover in Mindanao, the reforestation and watershed rehabilitation in the island needed to be fast-tracked.

DENR has also partnered with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) for future programs in support for Minda's Mindanao Nurturing Our Waters (Mindanow), a program that aims to provide an environment to facilitate sustainable economic development and environmental integrity.

It also aims to "enhance the policy environment for harmonized policies, plans, programs, and structures in the pursuit of sustainable economic development and ecological integrity". It also targets the integration of plans and programs and to rationalize resources programs, projects, and mechanisms for the development and management of water basins and watersheds in Mindanao.

"Mindanao is a major source of agricultural products in the country as well as in the Brunei Darussalam lndonesia Malaysia Philippines areas. To help sustain its strategic role in the region, Minda, through its Mindanow Program is working with partner LGUs, government agencies, and development partners in setting Mindanao’s future direction with consideration of the dynamic changes in the regional, national and global landscape," Alonto said.