I would like to thank all of you for taking the time to participate in this cleanup activity and convergence meeting for Magat dam assessment and rehabilitation.

       These twin undertakings are actually the offshoot of our meeting with Mayor Jesus Laddaran last October 27 because I personally felt the need to look into the several issues besetting the Magat watershed. In that meeting, our good mayor and my team talked about the increasing number of settlements within the watershed and fish cages within the Magat dam, the water quality of the Magat river, and the need to assess the situation of the communities living within and adjacent the dam. There are a number of issues and so we decided to organize and convene a convergence meeting to involve the different stakeholders not just to discuss the present situation of Magat watershed and Magat dam but more so to tackle our institutional mechanism to ensure holistic partnership toward sustainable watershed and reservoir management. Through this meeting, we would like to have committed actors and key players who will support us in our endeavors.

       Our first engagement with our partners from the National Irrigation Administration – Magat river integrated irrigation system was on march 3 of last year. Barely a month after we launched the Cagayan river rehabilitation project in Lal-lo, Cagayan, I personally initiated the meeting with them and the local government unit of Ramon and discussed the status of the Magat watershed. We also recommended in that meeting to identify a convergence area to be prioritized for watershed development to somehow minimize the effect and to lessen the damage during calamities.

       With the new administrator, sir Benny Antiporda, who was our undersecretary for solid waste management and local government units concerns in the DENR for several years, we hope for a stronger partnership with the National Irrigation Administration.

       As the lead agency responsible for the conservation, management, development, and proper use of the country’s environment and natural resources, we in the DENR are implementing various watershed rehabilitation programs and projects. We have the National Greening Program where we already planted over a hundred thousand-hectare plantation in Cagayan Valley region. We also implement particularly in the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya the forestland management project where some of our projects are located within the tributaries of Magat watershed. And of course, our forest and watershed rehabilitation program under the build back better initiatives.

       Along with these conservation and development programs, we have also intensified our forest protection efforts with the help of the Regional and provincial Environmental Law Enforcement Councils which we organized in 2020.

       However, we accept, much still has to be done especially so that we are now experiencing first-hand the ill effects of climate change. Again, our agency cannot do it alone. And therefore, we thank the Local Government Units, the NIA, the DILG and other stakeholders for doing your share. We only need to integrate our efforts and weave together our interventions in order to have a sound management and governance for sustainable watersheds.

       In our meeting today, key staff of the DENR will present for discussion the state of Magat watershed, land cover change analysis of the watershed, water quality monitoring and assessment of Magat reservoir, and institutional arrangement and governance with fisherfolks and other stakeholders within the Magat dam. These are necessary as our take off point in identifying our convergence initiatives.

       On the part of the DENR, we renew our commitment to working with all of you because we believe that if we all together save our watersheds, we save lives.

       Thank you and good morning.