Tell it to SunStar: Protecting Central Cebu watersheds

WATER is a vital resource of Cebu, especially Metro Cebu. The area’s topography features long, narrow, steep mountains and short rivers that supply fresh water to its one million-plus population.

Watershed management is crucial, if Metro Cebu wants to envision a livable community in the next twenty years. The pressing issues of Metro Cebu are:

1. A scarcity of water during the dry months (April and May).

2. A saltwater intrusion of almost five kilometers landward in the aquifer.

3. An aquifer level (at Capitol site) of -8 meters, that is 8 meters below sea level.

4. Heavy flooding during the rainy season that causes property damage and loss of income.

The agency tasked to manage the watershed resources is applying short-term solutions to situations generated in the four major watersheds in Central Cebu critical to Metro Cebu’s water supply.

To address the problems, there must be a consensus and conscious effort from DENR, LGUs and other stakeholders to convene and commit to a management plan that will conserve and protect the watershed and prosecute the violators who misuse or degrade the watersheds’ natural resources.

The watersheds of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape (CCPL) comprise an area of 28,083 hectares. The protected landscape was formalized by Republic Act 9487 in 2007.

Besides major sources of water, the watersheds contain critical habitat for at least 144 endemic plant species and approximately 188 species of birds, reptiles and mammals. Several of these species are critically endangered, including the Cebu cinnamon tree, Cebu flower pecker and Cebu goby.

The critically diminished forest habitat of CCPL has approximately .05 percent of good forest cover in the 28,083 hectares. Most forests are actually fragments rather than a contiguous area.

If the challenges facing CCPL are left unabated, the damage that occurs to its valuable resources may be irreversible. Although most residents know about the concept of watersheds, approximately half of the one million Metro Cebu residents are unaware.

The institution tasked to protect the environment is the Department of Enjvironment and Natural Resources. The chairperson of the CCPL Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) is the DENR regional director. It is supervised by a protected area superintendent which is the Provincial Environment Natural Resource Officer and is administered and managed directly by the Assistant Protected Area Supervisor.

All these positions are specifically maintained to mange and operate a protected area. The 29,080 hectares are supported by one supervising supervising staff, four forest guards, contractual employees, a biologist, a forester and a clerk. (to be continued) --William Granert, executive director, Soil and Water Conservation Foundation Inc.