LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Horacio Ramos is putting the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at the top of his list.

Ramos said upland development is the priority for the region, especially for the municipalities.

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“Reforestation is now a priority here, with forests denuded because of recent fires,” he said.

Ramos is the first Ibaloi secretary of the department. He is also a mining economist who became director of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) for 14 years.

Ramos is the founding father of the Baguio Regreening Movement and championed indigenous peoples rights by piloting the issuance of ancestral domain claims that later became the foundation for the Indigenous Peoples Right Act or Ipra.

“Geo-hazard mapping for the region is also one of the areas I would like to emphasize,” he said.

Ramos said the DENR-MGB has already completed the geo-hazard assessment and mapping in most of the country and the CAR was among the first regions to be completed.

Geo-hazard maps identify areas susceptible to landslides, flooding, ground subsidence, and other geological hazards, and are intended to help local government units in their land use planning.

“In fact, I was still director of MGB then when I personally led the posting of signages warning residents of landslide prone areas in Puguis,” he said.

Ramos admitted he is only a transition secretary, with his term ending in June 2010. He, however, vowed to also address the water problem in the region.

“The DENR has intensified its groundwater assessment program. Our experts came to a conclusion the excessive rains during Typhoon Pepeng and Ondoy, have become groundwater resource which we can now tap to help irrigate farms affected by El Nino. We are now doing this in coordination with the Department of Agriculture. This is perhaps where we can be of help to our strawberry farmers,” Ramos said.