The representatives of an environmental group have twitted the proposed rehabilitation plan for the besieged Dona Josefa Watershed and Protected Area in the municipality of Ipil as “a tourism plan.”
“Perhaps, we have a different understanding on what a rehabilitation plan is because what we have seen in the presentation was a tourism plan and not a rehabilitation plan,” Pastor Antonio Manaytay, the co-convenor of Dona Josefa Watch, an ad hoc body composed of non-government and civil organizations monitoring the situation of the watershed following its destruction due to the tourism road project, in a reaction after the presentation of the plan.
The group was invited to the 2nd Problem-Solving Session and Facilitation Meeting conducted by the Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC) of the Regional Development Council 9 (RDC 9) on July 3 held in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.
During the 1st Problem-Solving Session of the RPMC last April, it was decided that the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH), through its 2nd District Engineering Office, will hire an environmental architect to formulate a rehabilitation how to “restore and rehabilitate” the damaged watershed area.
Architect Joven de los Reyes, who was hired to develop the proposed rehabilitation plan, had his eyes on tourism development to address the issue of environmental destruction.
During the presentation, the architect outlined the plan, which included the following components: parking area, bridge, viewing deck with souvenir shops, stone for pictorial, one lane for hikers and bike, end of concrete road, and trekking area.
Part of the proposal was the construction of drainage and slope protection to mitigate the danger of soil erosion, and landslides due to massive cutting of mountain soil along the constructed road, inside the watershed, leading to the Busay Falls.
The plan, however, is not addressing the issue of rehabilitation of the watershed.
The issue is not only the destruction of the Busay Falls but has reached the sub-watershed area level that should be addressed by rehabilitating and stabilizing the area, Manaytay said.
Rehabilitating the damaged watershed, he explained, requires more than just a tourism plan but a plan that will “restore the lost vegetation and forest cover by re-introducing the indigenous grasses, bushes, and trees.”
He questioned the wisdom behind the proposal to continue with the concreting of the road as planned to mitigate the weakening of the mountain soil especially at the onset of the rainy season.
To truly mitigate the danger of landslides and soil erosion in the area, according to Manaytay is to restore the vegetation in areas where it is needed by “applying the appropriate bio-engineering technologies.”
He noted that the design of the slope protection was based on the standards of the DPWH.
He urged the RPMC, chaired by Regional Director Phlorita Ridao of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA 9), to ask the DPWH engineers to re-design the proposed slope protection and line canals using the appropriate vegetative and engineering works.
Manaytay also chided the architect when he said that there is not much “we can do to rehabilitate the waterfalls except cleaning out all the debris.”
“I would like to remind this body that the waterfalls and other waterways inside the watershed are mostly devoid of vegetation because they are vulnerable to erosion due to constant changes of water level and velocity,” he told the members of the RPMC.
It is wrong, he said, to say that there is not much we can do when in fact it is important to look at the initial characterization of the area in order to determine what indigenous trees should be planted along the waterways to prevent further erosion.
The RPMC chair assured the group that the suggestions are noted and will be considered in the design of the mitigating measures to address the issue of environmental destruction inside the watershed area. (Mindanao Sun/Featured photo: Thata Manlapaz)