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Confronting the challenge of env’tal governance
by Michael Umaming

The Cordillera Regional Development Council, the region’s highest policy-making body, organized a Committee on Watershed and Environmental Management (CWEM) in response to the various concerns threatening the region as a critical watershed as well as in keeping with development goals of maintaining CAR’s ecosystem sustainable.

The Cordillera hosts 13 major rivers that provide water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, and power generation needs of the country. Whatever the people do to the rivers will have impact to the people relying on the waters that flow downstream. Thus, it was no surprise that in 2008, RDC-CAR received a letter from its counterpart in Region 1 expressing alarm over reports of continuing encroachment of agriculture into the forest covers.

Some RDC members said it was not just the farmers that should be blamed. They said uncontrolled urban development, mining, and even tourism should also be considered.

In 2012, the RDC commissioned the University of the Philippines-Baguio to study the formulation of principles and policy guides on environmental governance. Funded through the Capability Building Component of the 2012 Special Autonomy Fund, the project had to review various literatures and conduct provincial and regional consultations and other policy dialogues.

The result was first presented to the CWEM, which pushed for its approval by the RDC Executive Committee last June. The ExCom endorsed the declaration for approval by the RDC Full Council. It wants the principles and policy guides to be considered in the formulation of development plans, policies, and programs of local government units, government agencies, the academe, private sector, and other stakeholders.

Principles for environmental governance

The declaration identified four principles on environmental governance. These are conditions that would make environmental governance go beyond rhetoric. Under each principle, the declaration recommended strategies and activities.

The need for strong institutions. This means policies are strictly enforced and leaders exercise political will; institutions involved, especially those in government, should continue upgrading and strengthening their management capabilities; make sure there is institutional transparency and accountability; and inter-agency coordination is improved. Under this principle, the declaration also mentioned the pursuit of regional autonomy as a necessary requirement.

The need for a planning process that is sensitive to local conditions and conforms to sound management practices. This means adoption of the ancestral domain planning as an integrated planning approach; sharing of site-specific data and research outputs; adoption of management practices where visions are shared and plans, and results are owned by the locals; there is periodic accounting and assessment of the environment; and there is regular monitoring and evaluation of policies.

The need for a quality and meaningful citizen participation. This means avenues for participations by the private sector and the indigenous cultural communities should be broadened; there should be transparency and public scrutiny of government performance; and the situation provides conditions for information sharing.

The need to uphold rights-based environmental governance. This means there should be compensation for environmental services; prejudicial natural resource laws and policies should be amended; and relevant strategies like the free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous cultural communities and the ancestral domain sustainable development protection plan should be upheld.

Guide for policy directions

Part of the declaration was the guide for policy directions particularly on mining, upland agriculture, water resources, urban growth, and tourism.


The policy guide states that mining is an extractive activity that directly impacts on the environment, yet there seems to be neither official consensus on how exactly the industry can pose a challenge to the watersheds, nor consensus on its environmental effects that must be addressed. It lays down the following policy options:

For LGUs and stakeholders to make use of safeguard mechanisms provided for to assert their position on issues concerning mining;

For LGUs and line agencies to establish environmental data on the impact of mining on host communities and other affected areas so that tracking of changes in the state of the environment becomes clearer, to clarify the meaning of responsible mining, and to ensure the security and welfare of mine workers;

For LGUs to declare local protected areas and put the ideas of conservation or protected areas into action; and

For line agencies to assist in clarifying mandates and help in strengthening capabilities of LGUs and assist them to complete their land use plans where zoning is done and areas for watershed, mining, and other land uses are identified.

The policy guide also emphasizes the strengthening of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board; the need to generate data for planning, program identification, and monitoring of environmental impacts; and the need to hold revenue-generating activities such as ecotourism or public-private partnership and budgeting for environmental programs.

It also provides that agencies should ensure the transparency of environmental compliance certificate and FPIC; and

For research institutions to provide scientific data needed by planners and implementers to address mining issues.

Upland agriculture

The policy guide affirms that conversion of forestland to agricultural use is one of the major causes of watershed denudation in the region. The policy options are:

For LGUs and stakeholders to stop encroachment on forest lands and enforce regulations on land conversion;

For LGUs and line agencies to provide incentives for farmers to adopt new technologies that improve production while ensuring sustainable resource management;

For LGUs to formulate and implement local agricultural program and upgrade farmers information technology services; and

For line agencies to train LGUs and their communities and help them in establishing watershed protection mechanisms including local anti-illegal logging task forces or watershed management councils, community-based biodiversity monitoring, preparing local development plans, promoting organic farming, and processing of agricultural products.

Water resources

The policy guide states that due to urbanization and changing land uses, several issues beset the water resources of CAR. Foremost are watershed degradation and intensive water use resulting in scarcity.  The following are the policy options:

For LGUs to complete and implement their comprehensive land use plans, which should clarify zoning for the communities specifically identifying the watershed or forest area and the agricultural or commercial area and rehabilitate watersheds and river systems by addressing the watershed deterioration and reforesting denuded areas while protecting or preserving existing green areas;

For LGUs and line agencies to share common baseline data to assess the status of watersheds and specify relevant targets;

For line agencies to operationalize a structure of compensation, benefits, and incentives for environmental services such as adopting the payment for environmental services scheme; support legislation for compensation for environmental services; and provide technical support to LGUs in natural resource accounting, inventory of stocks and resource pricing, and establishment of water quality management areas, river basin planning, and establishment of river basin management council; and

For research institutions to address issues in water resource use and share research findings with other stakeholders especially government.

Urban growth

The policy guide recognizes cities as drivers of economic growth but can also breed a host of economic, social, and environmental problems. It states that increased population associated with urbanization challenges LGUs to address citizens’ need with minimal impact on the environment. The policy options are:

For LGUs and line agencies to agree and implement a plan for spatial and population diffusion. They should explore ways to spread investment and employment opportunities in the other areas of CAR. The migration to Baguio for employment, education, and services should be reduced;

For LGUs to address pressures on land resources and problems on air quality and establish disaster response mechanism;

For line agencies to assist LGUs in improving their air and water quality, their solid waste management, and to strengthen their local disaster risk reduction management councils. They should also sustain their state of the environment monitoring activities and sharing the resulting database with LGUs; and

For research institutions to share their scientific data to address problems in urban development.

Tourism and culture

The policy guide states that tourism’s negative effects include overcrowding, traffic, air pollution, water scarcity and pollution, and increased garbage. It states that tourism also promotes commercialization of indigenous culture. The policy options are:

For LGUs and stakeholders to agree on what kind of tourism is desirable and to find balance between tourism and cultural integrity;

For LGUs to establish data on tourism practices, clarify their own standards of ecotourism, explore the possibility of incorporating in Tourism courses the importance of appreciating and understanding the culture of host communities, and establish local tourism councils;

For LGUs and communities to systematically plan programs for cultural appreciation and tourism education, decide on tourism products and services that promote cultural heritage, set limits to tourist traffic to heritage sites and forests;

For communities to achieve consensus as to the areas, the time, and the specific rituals and ceremonies that will be shared and opened to the public, and what sorts of behavior by tourists will be allowed or discouraged when visiting sites; and

For research institutions to share findings regarding the implications of tourism on culture and development and for those conducting anthropological researches to share insights with LGUs and line agencies the challenge of balancing tourism as a tool for economic development and tourism as a tool to protect cultural integrity.

The RDC membership includes all governors, mayors of chartered cities, regional directors of government agencies, mayors of capital towns as well as heads of provincial mayors’ leagues and representatives of the private sector.

With the regional National Economic and Development Authority as its secretariat, the RDC coordinates development efforts of agencies and local government units and formulates regional policy recommendations.

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