Local execs pledge support to Liguasan protection campaign

Climate Change/Environment • Thu Apr 6, 2017 02:05 PM  •  3,601   0
By John Unson
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Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led the planting on Wednesday of tree seedlings in Pandag, Maguindanao. (JOHN UNSON)
Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu led the planting on Wednesday of tree seedlings in Pandag, Maguindanao. (JOHN UNSON)
MAGUINDANAO -- Environment Secretary Gina Lopez and Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on Wednesday planted mangrove tree seedlings together as start of their joint protection of marshes in the province. 

The event capped off a two-hour dialogue between Lopez and mayors led by the governor who all pledged support to efforts of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to protect the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta from ecological hazards and overfishing. 

The activity was held in Buluan town, the capital of Maguindanao, which has 36 towns. 

The Liguasan Delta, touted as Asia’s largest, is surrounded by the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato, both in Region 12, and Maguindanao, a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

Lopez, Mangudadatu and Hadji Kahal Kedtag, who is regional secretary of DENR in the autonomous region, agreed to cooperate in protecting the delta. 

They also reached a consensus to initiate social interventions meant to promote consciousness among marsh dwellers on the importance of preserving its biodiversity. 

Lopez also talked about the need to provide the communities thriving in the delta with livelihood while they help implement environmental protection projects. 

Lopez said socio-economic interventions are needed to ensure the cooperation of ethnic Maguindanaons who dwell in the Liguasan area to help push government environmental-protection initiatives forward. 

“We can bring in development and empowerment to the people there without unwisely taking out whatever wealth there is in the area,” Lopez said. 

The Liguasan Delta is said to have vast deposits of natural gas waiting to be tapped. Lopez, while in Buluan, also awarded the office of Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan of Rajah Buayan with a P21 million special government grant for massive propagation of bamboos near swamps and rivers in the municipality. 

Ampatuan said he would spend the money for nurseries and planting of bamboos along rivers and swamps in Rajah Buayan, located in the second district of Maguindanao. 

The advocacy for planting of bamboos in Maguindanao’s hinterlands and farming enclaves along the Liguasan Delta is not something new to the local Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities. 

The provincial government first embarked on planting of bamboos in wetlands in Maguindanao four years ago as part of a domestic environmental-protection thrust. 

The office of Mangudadatu procured last year a multi-million dredging machine to clear rivers that spring from the Liguasan Delta from silt and other debris preventing the downstream flow of floodwaters to the western seashores of Cotabato City. 

Lopez had also urged the police, the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help the DENR carry out its programs in central Mindanao.

The wetlands in Maguindanao are acknowledged MILF strongholds covered by the group’s July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with Malacañang. 

Lopez wrapped up her official engagement in Buluan with a symbolic tree-planting activity along a river in nearby Pandag town to mark the start of cooperation between her office and the Mangudadatu administration. 

The tree planting activity was assisted by the mayor of Pandag, Jihan Mangelen-Mangudadatu.
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