FEATURE : Sustainability of Watersheds Critical

PIA Press Release Wednesday, March 02, 2011

FEATURE : Sustainability of Watersheds Critical

by Elsa S. Subong

In the past, watersheds were seldom part of the talks about politics, economy, reproductive health or even the environment. But now, local executives have looked upwards to their watershed and they have started to talk about the situation.

Iloilo Mayor Juanito Alipao of Alimodian, the current chairperson of the Tigum-Aganan Watershed Management Board (TAWMB), even connected the necessity of improving the state of the Maasin Watershed with the situation of the OFWs in war-torn Middle East countries by saying that one day, the number of displaced OFWs would increase, and the country will turn to its resources to support them.

“And then we will realize that our watersheds will be so important because the life of our biodiversity, the quality of our waters sources and the amount of our forest products, are factors for livelihood for our OFWs who will return to the country,” Alipao said.

In the recent workshop on Planning for the Health of the Tigum-Aganan Watershed, participated by the mayors and watershed point persons of the nine municipalities covered, the mayors realized that on top of all the activities and programs they are implementing, is the concern for sustainability as a critical factor.

Based on the statement of Mayor Alipao, the mayors, with the help of partners from the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI), said there is a need to look at first how “healthy” is the Tigum-Aganan Watershed, to guide them how to face the challenges of keeping water supply support system strong.

The Tigum-Aganan Watershed

The watershed is one of the Philippines’ critical watersheds, the water supply support system for a large downstream community, covering approximately 412 square kilometers, with 127 barangays and a population of 328,369 or 27 per cent of watershed population.

The Tigum and the Aganan Rivers supply domestic and irrigation water needs of Iloilo province. The former is used to irrigate the municipalities of Pavia, Leganes and part of Jaro and Iloilo City through the river services of the National Irrigation Administration. The latter is primarily used for irrigation and river services for the towns of Sta. Barbara, Oton, Pavia, San Miguel.

The TAWMB is considered the official steward of the Watershed, created through a memorandum of agreement signed by the LGU members, namely, Maasin, Alimodian, leon, Cabatuan, Sta. Barbara, San Miguel, Oton, Pavia, and Iloilo City, that share the river basin.

The member municipalities and the TAWMB partner agencies that include the DENR, DPWH, MIWD, NIA, the Philippine Information Agency, and NGO like the Kahublagan sang Panimalay, peoples’ organization like the KAPAWA and the academe represented by Central Philippine University, and the Iloilo Province, noted that together they are facing a big challenge with the current state of the watershed.

There is the challenge of maintaining water quality from the headwaters of the watershed down to the lowlands and the major urban area where the river meets a dense population.

There is also the destruction of forest and vegetative land by uncontrolled farming practices and squatter settlements threaten the health of the watershed. Further, there is also human, animal and other pollutants that contaminate the water, while unmonitored deforestation is stripping the forest of its ability to retain water and perform valuable natural functions. Likewise, the heavy siltation of Tigum River is also deteriorating the water quality. It can be recalled that the watershed suffered much from the wrath of Typhoon Frank.

Mayor Victor Saclauso of San Miguel said quality water and efficient supply is their main concern and this can be addressed through active involvement of the TAWMB and its partners.

Mayor Rolito Cajilig of Leon, said the process of working together to come up with a plan for the watershed is something new to him but he is willing to journey.

The State of the Watershed Report

These reactions brought to fore the need for a well-documented and reflective of the concerns of member municipalities and partners.

Jay Presaldo, Project Manager of the CUI, said so far there is no solid document to really tell what the Tigum-Aganan Watershed is, that can lead the board to embark into broader perspective like operating into a bio-region to tackle environmental issues.

As such the members went into a workshop of determining the contents of a State of the Watershed Report that they themselves will be preparing as a team, involving the participation of their communities, to come up with inputs on watershed characterization, water governance, demographic, social, economic framework, and even already existing best practices on environmental management, among others.

Mayor Alipao said now that they have started in-depth talks about the Tigum-Aganan Watershed, they are also starting on a deeper commitment and hard work to come up with a broader view of the “health” of their watershed. (JCM/ESS/PIA-Iloilo)

Cabatuan.com - Timeline 2011