In an effort to come up with collective action to climate change impacts, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Cagayan Valley has spearheaded a participatory approach convergence meeting on Nov. 11, this year in Ramon, Isabela.
 
In the meeting, the DENR elicited strong management support among environmental stakeholders focusing on the protection of Magat watershed and rehabilitation of Magat Dam.
 
Administrator Benny Antiporda of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) underscored the significance of inter-agency collaboration to ensure not only the protection of Magat Dam but also the stability of the environment and safety of people living in the region's low-lying areas.
 
He proposed the dredging of Magat reservoir to remove the sediments and stabilize water level during heavy rains. He also recommended to develop an ecological park within the said multi-purpose water infrastructure.
 
In a study presented by Dr. Sameh Ahmed Kantoush of Kyoto University, the Dam is silted with about 40-50 percent of its capacity.
 
Regional Executive Director Gwendolyn Bambalan of the DENR who spearheaded the discussion of present state and several issues besetting the Magat watershed thanked the participants for their commitment.
 
“We only need to integrate our efforts and weave together our interventions in order to have sound management and governance for sustainable watersheds. Because we believe that if we all together save watersheds, we save lives,” Director Bambalan said as she urged local officials and communities to practice ecological solid waste management.
 
By virtue of Letter of Instruction 1002 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1980, the NIA was authorized to manage, protect, develop and rehabilitate the 15,000-hectare watershed area where Magat Dam is located, administered by the NIA Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (MARIIS).
 
Meanwhile, the DENR will deploy forest protection officers to monitor illegal forest activities within the watershed.
On the part of the Environmental Management Bureau Region 2, Regional Director Nelson Honrado pledged to regularly conduct water quality monitoring within Magat River where use of its water with approved C classification will be restricted.
 
Mayor Jesus Laddaran of Ramon thanked the participants for heeding their call of a multi-stakeholders’ meeting to check on and provide solutions to the pressing issues of Magat Dam. He vowed to assist the NIA through passing municipal ordinance to prohibit settlements within the Dam and to regulate proliferation of fish cages mostly abandoned within the watershed.
 
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was requested to assist the fisherfolk on proper management of fish cages. The fisherfolk cooperative was tasked to ensure the compliance with restrictions on the establishment of fish cages and to enjoin its members to voluntarily remove their houses within the reservoir.
 
The NIA will revisit the collection of fees regulation for this purpose.
 
Isabela 4th District Representative Joseph Tan vowed to support legislative actions by allocating funds to preserve the Magat watershed.
 
The Isabela State University proposed the creation of a Council to serve as the management body to include representation from downstream communities and water agencies while the SN Aboitiz through their Corporate Social Responsibility program will implement development activities within the Magat tributary.
 
LPGMA Party List Representative Allan Ty recommended the creation of an inter-agency task force that will be responsible in monitoring the commitment of stakeholders. He also committed to provide additional manpower to the DENR and funding support through the Government Internship Program of the Department of Labor and Employment for the conduct of monitoring and inventory of reforestation projects implemented by the NIA within the watershed.
 
The old Memorandum of Agreement between the Bureau of Forest Development (now DENR) and the NIA crafted in 1980 will be revisited and amended to incorporate the stakeholders’ roles and mandates to ensure holistic partnership for sustainability of the reservoir and protection of the watershed.
 
Also joining the meeting were Mines and Geosciences Bureau Regional Director Mario Ancheta, Office of Civil Defense Regional Director Leon Rafael Jr., Department of the Interior and Local Government Regional Director Jonathan Paul Leusen, NIA Department Manager Michael Dimoloy, National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Regional Director Ferdinand Tumaliuan, Dr. Orlando Balderama of Isabela State University, and other officials of government and private sectors.
 
Cleanup drive and joint DENR-NIA monitoring within Magat Dam reservoir were also held prior to the meeting.#