Saturday, September 18, 2021

Groups call for halt of forest clearing in watershed

File photo

ENVIRONMENTAL groups are calling for a stoppage of forest clearing in Panigan-Tamugan Watershed in Davao City.

In a press release forwarded to SunStar Davao, groups Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (Idis), Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), Euro Generics International Philippines (Egip) Foundation, and Bantay Bukid volunteers called for appropriate action to stop the clearing of forested areas in Sitio Kalatong, Barangay Carmen, Baguio District, Davao City.

In a letter submitted to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and City Administrator Zuleika Lopez, vice-chair of Watershed Management Council (WMC), the three environmental groups reported concerns during their monitoring visits to the site.

On August 21-22, 2018, the Egip Foundation, Obo-Manobo Forest Guards, and City Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro) reported forest clearing, illegal cutting of trees, and timber harvesting. They also noted the unauthorized building of structures.

In December 2019, the groups said forest guards also reported that more forested areas were cleared.

Egip Field Biologist Joshua Donato said they reported the incident through a letter to WMC, the City Mayor's Office, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples-Davao (NCIP-Davao), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Davao, and Obu-Manuvu Unified Ancestral Domain Tribal Council of Leaders/Elders as early as 2018.

In response, the Cenro called the concerned parties for a hearing.

Datu Rubin Enangcob said he has several documents proving that they owned the land. He also denied cutting the trees in the area and doing any illegal activities in the area.

On March 16-20, 2019, the clearing of the forested area continued. Bantay Bukid volunteers recorded these incidents while doing their monitoring activity in Sitio Kalatong.

According to Idis, Egip again reported the incident to the same agencies and was given assurance that they will investigate the matter.

Datu Lipatuan Joel A. Unad, chairman of Mindanao Indigenous Peoples Conference for Peace and Development (MIPCPD), confirmed during a virtual presser on June 30 the rampant forest clearing in Kalatong and around 200 establishments have mushroomed in the area since 2018.

Unad added that these new "settlers" are not indigenous peoples.

The MIPCPD also expressed concerns that wastes from these settlements would eventually find their way to our waters.

“Ang Konseho sa Lungsod sa Davao nagmugna og ordinansa sa pagdeklara og mga area nga watershed. Mga uluhan sa mga kasapaan aron dili mahubsan ang katubigan sama sa (The Davao City Council crafted an ordinance declaring watershed areas. These are the above portion of the rivers in order not to drain the waters including) Panigan River, Kalatong River, Kabinuangan River, Laling River, [and] Tamugan River aron adunay mainum ang mga tao sa tibuok (so that there will be water source for the entire) Davao City,” Unad said during the “Hisgutanang Tubig sa Dabaw: Things We Need to Know About Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project” presser.

He added, "Apan pag-abot ug lima ka tuig gikan karon hubas na kining maong mga sapa. Una ang kabukiran, upaw na kay hangtud karon padayon ang mga nagsulod pag galas, pagputol ug mga kahoy. (However, in five years from now, our rivers will be drained. One is that our forest will be wiped out due to continuous cutting of trees)."

Unad said the Bantay Bukid volunteers had been reporting these illegal activities every month to DENR and other concerned agencies, but no actions were made.

The letter also revealed that Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates from the survey of Egip in Kalatong indicate that the area is within the Conservation Zone in the Davao City Zoning Map and Environmental Critical Area of the Watershed Code of Davao City.

With this, clearing of the forested area and constructing structures and facilities in the area are violations of the Watershed Code.

Idis Executive Director Mark Peñalver urge the city government and WMC to activate the Interagency Task Force (IATF) Kalatong.

“Sitio Kalatong is a significant part of Panigan-Tamugan Watershed, and we at IDIS, together with other environmental groups, condemn the environmental violations happening in the area. We urge the City Mayor’s Office and WMC to activate the IATF Kalatong to monitor and investigate the environmental violations in the area and recommend to the concerned agencies the possible actions to address the concerns,” Peñalver said.

The forested area is considered a significant part of Panigan-Tamugan Watershed, the City's future source of drinking water.

Panigan-Tamugan, a conservation area, is the main source of the Davao City Bulk Water Supply Project (DCBWSP).

DCBWSP is a joint water project of Davao City Water District and Apo Agua Infrastructura Inc. that is expected to provide around 300 million liters of water to the consumers.


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