Protection of Watersheds Supporting the NIS Act

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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.

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EXPLANATORY NOTE

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 Philippines.

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

crops.

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

mining.

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

earnestly sought.

LUIS RAYMUND F. VILLAFUERTE, JR.