THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has approved P175 million for the protection of the Quirino province watershed areas that is on the verge of being degraded as a result of upland farmers’ use of chemical compounds against perennial weeds, among others.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has approved the implementation and funding of two priority environment protection programs of the province, which include the Quirino Protection of Watersheds, Ecosystems and Rivers (QPOWER) with P155 million, and the Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP) with P20 million.
Gov. Junie Cua of Quirino said the provincial government had adopted a massive watershed rehabilitation program, utilizing high-value crops, among others, as an effective forest cover.
“This is to prevent soil degradation and river siltation, which are disastrous effects of soil erosion,” he said.
It is believed the introduction of glyphosate in eradicating weeds to make way for corn cultivation along the slopes of the mountains. However, this has resulted in soil erosion and river siltation.
Quirino province is made up of about 70 percent mountainous and about 20 percent of its population live in the uplands. Its topography is dominated by the rugged and forested Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
It has a total area of 305,718 hectares with only 23 percent or 70,258 hectares of the total area, being alienable and disposable lands while 77 percent or 235,460 hectares are classified as forestlands.
Cua said the province of Quirino, being the headwaters of the Cagayan River system, plays a great role on watershed rehabilitation and protection, so flooding and river siltation in the whole Cagayan Valley must be avoided.
“The degraded watershed areas can still be developed into a sustainable agroforestry industry if properly rehabilitated and managed by upland farmers with full support from the government,” Cua said.
In the recently held 46th Quirino Day celebration, Cimatu lauded the initiative of the provincial government saying, “I am impressed by the provincial leaders’ progressive mindset that propels greater development for the province.”
Cimatu said he plans to make the provincial QPOWER and ENGP programs as model for the country’s forest protection programs.
“We thanked the provincial leaders for implementing the watershed rehabilitation programs which are very much needed to save the watersheds that give livelihood to the people,” Cimatu said.
QPOWER is a watershed rehabi-litation program that covers 16 barangays (villages) while the ENGP is a reforestation program covering three villages with 260 hectares.
Also formerly known as Quirino Forest Protection Program, Cua said QPOWER started last year.
“Our Forest Protection team has already visited 30 villages for Comprehensive Land Use Planning and hiring of Bantay Gubat or the forest protection officers,” Cua said.
He said a conservation agreement was likewise forged among the village leaders, concerned national and local offices, and non-government organizations.