Declare Cagayan de Oro river basin protected watershed area, Aquino urged

The Cagayan de Oro River watershed

CAGAYAN DE ORO City, Dec. 20, 2011—Civil society groups and local government units of Cagayan de Oro City and nearby towns called on President Benigno Aquino III to declare Cagayan de Oro river basin a protected watershed area to shield it from further exploitation.

The multi sectoral groups said the devastation brought by Typhoon Sendong was “the result of irresponsible and wanton exploitation of our watershed forests, leading to river siltation which reduced the city’s capacity to hold enormous water load.”

Led by Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, the multi sectoral groups, in a resolution, has petitioned the President to create the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council that will oversee the protection of the city’s watershed area.

The resolution urged Aquino to prioritize the completion of the River Basin plan and to mandate the immediate coordination among responsible agencies and officials for its finalization.

“We also encourage the President to certify as urgent the pending legislative measures in Congress regarding the creation of the said River Basin Management Council and to implore the members of Congress to hasten the passage of such bill into law, which is tied to the adaptation strategy which is embodied in the national climate change action plan which the President signed last November 24, 2011,” the resolution further read.

The groups said residents of affected communities, non government organizations and national government should work together “to prevent further deterioration of the river basin and to reduce future risks of disasters in the affected areas.”

Typhoon Sendong brought devastation in Cagayan de Oro City and nearby towns when rampaging floodwaters engulfed houses along river banks that killed and injured hundreds and displaced thousands of families.

The resolution stressed the need to inform the people on “the real situation of [the] river basin and educate them on the effects of small-scale and large-scale mining, deforestation, and poorly-planned urbanization on the environment and on the communities.”

It also called for coordination among local government units and the national government “in carefully tracing and purposively analyzing the causes, both primary and contributory, of the siltation of the Cagayan and Iponan rivers and the flooding in the surrounding areas.”

“We are hopeful that together with our leaders, we shall never again be caught unaware and that, henceforth, we will protect our rivers so that these will continuously help sustain and not curtail lives,” the groups said.

The petitioners also pointed out that Aquino’s action should go beyond helping the victims; instead address the root causes of the catastrophe and make accountable the persons and entities that contributed to it. (CBCPNews)