An Act for the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of watersheds supporting the national irrigation system (NIS) to ensure continuous supply of water for agricultural production and self-sufficiency in food and providing funds for the purpose.
Watersheds are known to support life in all forms in the habitats that are found
within them from the lush vegetation in forests to the microorganisms that belong in
the narrowest of streams all the way to bigger bodies of water which the collected
water channels into. The critical benefits that human beings derive from watersheds
are undeniable especially in an agricultural country with abundant river systems like
The water may be redirected to irrigate farmlands or be accessed through
more modern urban waterworks for consumption and various other forms of
utilization. For example, the Magat Watershed in Isabela plays an important role in
supplying water for irrigation requirements of vast areas of rice lands in Luzon and
the hydropower supply for this region as well. Another example would be the
Manupali Watershed that traverses the upper part of the Pulangui River Basin that
drains water to the Pulangui River that is a source of irrigation water and hydro-
electricity for Bukidnon residents.
Right now, the Philippines has 143 watersheds supporting 165 components of
the National Irrigation System with a total area of about 4,318,172 hectares. The
water that comes from these watershed areas and flows to the river systems
provides irrigation water to rice lands and other agricultural lands planted to different
There are only about 483,820 hectares, more or less, being serviced by the
143 River Watersheds, but based on NIA data, 868,509 hectares of agricultural land
are being irrigated and roughly 368,000 hectares of these have existing facilities but
need restoration and rehabilitation. There seems to be a conflict on the actual
figures, but what is important is to ensure that water will flow in these facilities once
they have been rehabilitated, taking into account the denudation of the watersheds
supporting the National Irrigation System.
In the Philippines, the agricultural sector has suffered a lot due to the
devastation caused by flash floods and rising levels of waters due to excessive
surface run-offs from forests and other watersheds that can no longer be contained
by the river systems. The damages wrought by the rampaging waters to agriculture
and livelihood are immeasurable. The changing weather patterns that bring damages
to livelihood and agriculture are being attributed to global warming and climate
change is the simplest answer being given every time there is havoc brought about
by the increasing volume of rainfall.
However, it cannot be denied that our groundwater resources are facing
serious threats from unregulated development and forest degradation in watershed
areas. There are man-made actions that are directly contributory to the devastations
brought about by flooding, e.g., man’s insensitivity to his environment, the
uncontrolled use of our forests and watersheds resources and the indiscriminate use
of land resources that should have been reserved for forest use only.
“Deforestation and the large scale transformation of the original
vegetation of the country’s forest to non-forestry purposes, coupled
with inappropriate land use practices, have in effect disrupted the
hydrological conditions of watersheds. These have brought about to
some extent, flash floods and prolonged drought. Other adverse
consequences are accelerated soil erosion, siltation of water bodies
and reservoirs, and poor water quality. Sedimentation has likewise
reduced the storage capacity of the country’s major reservoirs. These
situations caused considerable reduction in the productivity of forests,
agricultural lands and fisheries and decreased returns from major
investments in domestic, hydroelectric power generation and irrigation
systems.” (Occasional Paper prepared by FMB-Watershed Division)
The forest cover of the Philippines declined vastly in span of almost half a
century. Watersheds in the Philippines used to be characterized by abundant
rainforests which reached an estimated 17 million hectares in 1934. 1 In 1969, after
the completion of the first nationwide forest inventory, the forest cover had declined
to 10.4 million hectares. The second National Forest Inventory which was done in
1988 revealed that forest cover had further decreased to 6.461 million hectares.
Out of the estimated 30 million hectares of land area of the Philippines,
15,805,325 hectares were classified as forestland and 14,194,675 hectares were
declared alienable and disposable and were subjected to private ownership. Of the
15,805,325 hectares classified as forestland, only 3,270,146 hectares were declared
as Established Forest Reserves. Out of this, only 1,561,128 million hectares have
been proclaimed as watershed forest reserves. There are 135 proclaimed watershed
forest reserves scattered all over the country which cannot be touched by logging or
The difference or the remainder which is about 1,709,018 hectares, are the
watersheds which are neither proclaimed, designated or set aside, pursuant to a law,
presidential proclamation, decree or executive order. Most of these areashave been
classified by the Forest Management Bureau as permanent forest or forest lands in
the course of establishing specific limits of lands of the public domain especially
forestlands and national parks pursuant to the provision of Section 4 of the
Constitution, which states (Source-2008 Phil forestry Statistics):
Section 4. The Congress shall, as soon as possible
determine by law the specific limits of forest lands and national
parks, marking clearly their boundaries on the ground.
Thereafter, such forest lands and national parks shall be
conserved and may not be increased nor diminished except by
law. The congress shall provide, for such period as it may
determine measures to prohibit logging in endangered forests
and watershed areas.
The 143 watersheds supporting the National Irrigation System form part of
these unprotected 1,709,018 million hectares and these watershed areas are the
ones providing water to irrigate farms and other uses which ultimately redound in
sustaining our life support system and ensuring continuous food supply.
This measure is therefore crafted to ensure the protection, conservation and
rehabilitation of the watersheds supporting the National Irrigation System. It is only
through an enactment of a law that will protect, preserve and rehabilitate these
watersheds that we can be assured that these areas cannot be touched by man’s
insensitivity to nature and his environment.
The foregoing premises considered, the immediate passage of this bill is
LUIS RAYMUND F. VILLAFUERTE, JR.