The Steering Committee for the Lower Magat Forest Reserve (LMFR) in Cagayan Valley has pushed for the renewal of the co-management agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the provincial government of Nueva Vizcaya.
In 1998, the DENR and the provincial government entered into a 25-year co-management agreement to jointly allocate, protect, develop, and manage the forest reserve. Amended in 2004, the memorandum of agreement (MOA) is valid until 2023 and renewable for another 25 years.
During its meeting on July 9, the Steering Committee (SC) unanimously recommended the renewal of the MOA and adopted the proposed amendment by the DENR.
The committee is chaired by Gov. Carlos Padilla and co-chaired by DENR Regional Executive Director Gwendoyn Bambalan.
Director Bambalan in her message thanked the provincial government for its efforts in conserving and protecting the area citing that the sustainability of partnership will generate higher level of success.
She recommended for the committee to work for the declaration of the Lower Magat Forest Reserve as a national park to preserve the biodiversity in the area.
In the proposed amendments presented by DENR Region 2 legal chief Richard Garan, the SC is tasked to review applications of occupants, if there be any, inside the Lower Magat Forest Reserve for the stewardship of any portion of the project area as indorsed by the Lower Magat Forest Management Office (LMFMO).
The LMFMO shall endorse to DENR through the SC the issuance of appropriate tenure instruments to people’s organizations and qualified private sector consistent with the approved management plan. It shall also ensure the maximum participation of tenure holders and indigenous peoples in the development and management of the forestlands and to ensure as well the protection of the rights in connection therewith, subject to DENR policies, rules and regulations.
“We would like the provisions enhanced considering that there are new developments and new policies that we must conform and comply to,” the DENR Region 2 top official said.
The LMFR is the downstream portion of the Magat Forest Reserve which was established in 1969 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 573.
This 24,251-hectare forestland is located in the northernmost part of Nueva Vizcaya province covering the entire municipality of Diadi, and Barangays Baretbet and Villaros of Bagabag town.
Within the forest reserve are catchment areas or sub-watersheds that drain into the Magat River which is a major source of water for the Magat Dam in Ramon, Isabela. It supports irrigation, power generation and domestic water supply, among others.
The joint memorandum circular issued in 2003 by the DENR and the Department of the Interior and Local Government authorizes the DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations to enter into a MOA with local government units to co-manage a forest area of more than 15,000 ha up to 30,000 ha.#