Key water experts said during the water conference last Aug. 14 at Silliman Hall that making Negros Oriental as the Philippine Center for Water Excellence will push local governments and other provinces in the country to protect their own waters.
“We want Negros Oriental to be the center of excellence for water management in the entire Philippines so we can start educating other provinces about how to preserve and manage our country’s water resources,” said Amor Maclang, the director of Water-Excellence Philippines (WEP).
WEP is considering the promotion of the ridge-to-reef campaign in the province. This campaign aims to restore, rehabilitate, and enhance the ridge part or the mountain slopes up to the sea in coastal areas.
Water experts explained that ridge-to-reef campaign provides better financial understanding of the links between saltwater and freshwater ecosystems.
There are eight projects under the campaign, including the local capacity building to ensure that the community will have the needed skills and capabilities to continue protecting their waters. Many countries around the world managed the campaign well and already have supported livelihoods, with income from fisheries and tourism.
Moreover, Maclang said that when Negros Oriental becomes the country’s center of excellence in water management, it would draw other local government units (LGUs) nationwide to focus on this issue and the province’s system.
Maclang also said that compared to the tourism or environmental advocacies of other places they visited, Negros Oriental has the most number of environmentally conscious LGUs, people, and businesses.
Negros Oriental ranks number one in implementing the National Greening Program of the Philippines, having planted and reforested about 65,000 hectares against its initial target of 62,000 hectares. Also, the province holds the biggest automated and modernized forest nursery in the Philippines, which will be launched this month or September.
In addition, Negros Oriental is the only province in the Philippines that has an almost complete forest land use program (FLUP) implementation, according to Hon. Erwin Macias, Negros Oriental Provincial Board member.
“Out of 25 [FLUP], we have implemented 20 already,” Macias said.
A Department of Environment and Natural Resources official said that FLUP is a model for LGUs in the wise use of forest land resources.
“[Negros Oriental’s] LGUs have initiative to protect the forest and water resources. Compared to other provinces, we have the strongest forest protection,” said Macias.
Governor Roel Degamo noted some of the province’s main tourist attractions that are bodies of water, which are the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao in Sibulan, Apo Island in Dauin, Casaroro Falls in Valencia, White Sandbar in Manjuyod, Bais Bay in Bais City, which is the habitat of dolphins and sperm whale, among others.
Degamo said that the responsibility to promote, conserve, and master the use of water as a needed resource can help ensure wider social, environmental, and economic sustainable development for Negros Oriental.
By:Leslie J. Batallones