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La Liga calls for timely release of fund for Marikina Watershed rehab

PHILIPPINES - Budget activists lauded the declaration of the Marikina watershed as a protected landscape and called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to give premium for its immediate rehabilitation to prevent disasters similar to that of “Ondoy” in the last quarter of 2009

Roland Cabigas, managing director of the La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) said the DENR should ensure that the fund for the rehabilitation of the important watershed is fully utilized starting with its timely release, to enhance the natural protection the watershed provides to low-lying areas along the Marikina River.

Cabigas made the call as tragedy struck Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City, with close to 1000 people being killed by flashflood and landslide triggered by the typhoon Sendong, on November last year.

Under the 2012 General Appropriations Act, the government’s budget for soil conservation and watershed management is P378 million.  La Liga, a development policy research and advocacy nongovernment organization is pushing for a budget of P250 million, specifically for the rehabilitation of the Marikina Watershed, as part of its alternative budget proposal to make the annual National budget more climate sensitive.

According to Cabigas, Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje should see to it that the rehabilitation of the Marikina watershed will be given premium this time around, now that the Marikina watershed is already a protected landscape, known as the Upper Marikina River Basin Protected Landscape (UMRBPL).

The UMRBPL covers a total area of 26,125.64 hectares in the city of Antipolo and in the municipalities of Baras, Rodriquez, San Mateo and Tanay, all in the province of Rizal.

These areas were severely affected by the massive flashfloods triggered by typhoon Ondoy on September 26, 2009.

UMRBPL’s proclamation came barely two months following a recommendation by various stakeholders, including the Alliance of Seven LGUs or A7 on the occasion of the second anniversary of “Ondoy” tragedy held last September 26, 2011 at the DENR Social Hall in Quezon City.

La Liga, which acts as the convening organization of the Environment Cluster of the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) provided technical support to A7 in coming up with its disaster risk reduction plan, which recommended among others, the immediate rehabilitation of the watershed.

Through the cluster approach, members of A7 have formulated disaster risk reduction plan and agreed to share resources to minimize the loss of lives and property in the event of yet another super typhoon that could trigger flashflood.

“The DENR chief should make sure that its rehabilitation will not end up as just another unfunded mandate of the government,” he said.

“With the proclamation of the Marikina watershed as a protected landscape, the government is compelled to give premium to its much-needed rehabilitation.  Funding is very important in any program,” Cabigas added.

Earlier, Paje said in a statement that the proclamation of the Marikina watershed into a protected landscape will not only boost the country’s greening efforts but also enhance the water absorptive capacity of the watershed.

“With its proclamation as a protected area, the Marikina watershed will now be placed under a regime of management where all native species of plants and animals, including its unique features, are protected for perpetuity, but also its forest cover shall be rehabilitated to enhance its capacity to absorb water ,” Paje said.

The Alliance of Seven or A7 representing Marikina, Quezon City, Antipolo, Pasig, Cainta, San Mateo and Rodriguez, signed a Statement of Commitment along with other stakeholders to coordinate their actions to prevent another “Ondoy” tragedy and save the Marikina Watershed Reservation by working for its inclusion in the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS).

Included in the list of endangered wildlife species found in the Marikina watershed are forest trees like narra, red and white lauan, bagtikan, kamagong, and molave; while the wild fauna include birds like the Philippine bulbul, black-naped oriole and jungle fowl; mammals like the Philippine deer, wild pig and the Philippine monkey; and reptile such as the monitor lizard. (La Liga Policy Institute)

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