Japan welcomes DENR'S climate change, disaster resiliency campaign

Published July 19, 2021, 2:00 PM

by Roy Mabasa

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has welcomed the call of the Philippine government to save the country’s watershed resources saying this could help reduce poverty, mitigate the effect of climate change, and boost disaster resiliency.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu (center), DENR Assistant Secretary and Forest Management Bureau Director Marcial Amaro, Jr. (left), and JICA Philippines Chief Representative Azukizawa Eigo (right) during the recent launch of the Save the Watershed campaign at the DENR main office in Quezon City. (JICA)

JICA and the Forestland Management Project (FMP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have partnered to promote community-based management of forestlands in the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Ifugao, Nueva Ecija, and Iloilo under the Save Our Watershed campaign.

The FMP covers 24 sub-watersheds in three river basins, namely Upper Magat and Cagayan River Basin, Pampanga River Basin, and Jalaur River Basin in Iloilo.

Save Our Watershed Campaign will help sustain the gains of the FMP in terms of sustainable forestland management.

Watersheds help prevent floods and landslides and store water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and other productive uses. There are more than 130 critical watersheds in the Philippines. Conservation of these watersheds is backed by a government policy on community-based forest management involving people’s organizations in sustainably managing the country’s forest resources.

The Japanese funding agency recalled that the massive flooding in Cagayan Valley brought by Typhoon Ulysses in 2020 and the 2019 water shortage in Metro Manila became wake-up calls to tackle watershed management. Flood-related disasters and depletion of water reserves have been linked to the degradation and destruction of watersheds and forests.

JICA Chief Representative to the Philippines Azukizawa Eigo noted the importance of watershed conservation in mitigating climate change and reducing poverty in the Philippines, a country being hit by an average of 20 typhoons annually.

“We hope that the Save Our Watershed campaign will pave the way for intensified and countrywide action involving more stakeholders, including partnerships with local government units, private sector, civil society, academe, and media. This complements JICA-DENR partnerships with some 149 people’s organizations through FMP,” he said.

To date, the Save the Watershed initiative helped establish 71,300 hectares of tree and agroforestry plantations, provided seed capital to people’s organizations to finance their livelihood and micro enterprises, and implemented training and organizational strengthening activities in project sites. Agroforestry support facilities such as farm-to-market roads and irrigation pipelines have also been provided.

Even community organizations have acknowledged the benefits of the project to their communities especially in uplifting their living conditions.

“We have accumulated experiences in forestland management through holistic, comprehensive, and collaborative strategies,” shared James Bantasan, president of the People’s Organization Federation of Nueva Vizcaya.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu said they envision other regions and provinces across the country to emulate and replicate the campaign.

“We hope that the spirit of this Save Our Watershed campaign ripples through our DENR regional offices, foreign-assisted projects, and LGUs with initiatives on watershed conservation,” Cimatu said during the recent launching of the nationwide campaign at the DENR Central Office.