MALOLOS CITY: Local residents are starting forest fires every year at the Ipo Watershed in Bulacan to take advantage of reforestation funds.
This was revealed by Bro. Martin Francisco, chairman of the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmentalists Society Inc. (SSMESI), who said that the latest incident occurred at around 11 a.m. on April 2 while members of the National Power Corporation were monitoring the area.
“Every year na lang sinusunog ang Ipo watershed e hindi lang dahil nag uuling ang mga tao kundi nagpapalawak ng areas hindi lang upang taniman o kainginin kundi higit sa lahat lumawak ang opportunities nila sa alternative livelihood ng National Greening Program. Mas malawak ang sira ng kagubatan mas malaki ang pondo para sa reforestation at mas malaki ang tsansa nila maipasok ito sa kontrata [Every year, forest fires are deliberately being started at the Ipo Watershed not only for the charcoal-making business but to take advantage of the alternative livelihood opportunities of the National Greening Program. The bigger the forest destruction, the bigger the funds that can be availed of from the reforestation contract],” Francisco lamented.
Because of this, the forest cover of the said watershed is already thin and mostly composed of “buho,” a variety of bamboo. However, Francisco said that reforestation efforts by different schools and non-governmental organizations are enough to save the area.
“Isang maling pagkakamali nila na isiping kakulangan ng puno ang problema ng ating kabundukan. Hindi kakulangan ng puno kundi madaming nagtatanim at nakikinabang sa perang pondo sa pagtatanim kaya wala ng gustong umalis ng Ipo dahil me pera [It’s a big mistake to assume that there are only a few trees in the mountains. Our mountains don’t lack trees but a lot of people benefit from the funds they get to plant trees—the reason why no one wants to leave Ipo],” he added.
Instead of providing funds for reforestation projects, why not give cash incentives for the community that protects the watershed which some say is more realistic rather than the“greening” programs being implemented.
A recent independent report by the UP Mountaineers Environment Committee said that the Dumagats, the indigenous peoples in the area, are engaged in the “deliberate cutting and burning of trees, young and old, to make way for new reforestation projects that are a source of income for some unscrupulous personalities operating inside the watershed.”
The report said “privately funded reforestation drives have become a source of livelihood for some settlers. Laborers charge a fee for assisting private groups in their reforestation activities, while at the same time unscrupulously clearing new areas to encourage more reforestation activities which will ensure their future income – not to mention the extra income they get from selling illegally cut logs in the open market.”
The Ipo Dam is a gravity concrete dam located about 7.5 kilometres downstream of the Angat Dam near the Ipo River in Bulacan. It was completed in January 1984 and has a maximum storage capacity of 7.5 million cubic metres.
Water from the dam is diverted to the Novaliches Portal and the La Mesa Dam through three intake structures going to three connecting tunnels into five connecting aqueducts.