RIDGE TO REEF. The Magat Dam reservoir in Ramon, Isabela, shown in this 2021 photo, is supported by the forest management and preservation effort of the Cordillera Administrative Region in Ifugao province. The Cordillera Regional Development Council Committee on Watershed and Environmental Management on Wednesday (July 7, 2022) expressed hope that a law will be passed adopting the concept of a "ridge to reef" approach, where provinces that reap the benefits of the forest conservation effort at the upland areas like Cordillera will also help fund efforts to protect forests in the north. (PNA file photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAGUIO CITY – The Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera on Wednesday asked that a law requiring lowland provinces to help in the preservation of the watersheds in the Cordillera be passed as a contribution to environmental preservation efforts of upland provinces.

“This is the ridge-to-reef law concept where we all give a share to the conservation effort at the upland because the benefits of the effort are also reaped by those in the lowland,” said Ralph Pablo, regional director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the chairman of the Cordillera RDC Committee on Watershed and Environmental Management (CWEM), in a press conference.

He reiterated the importance of preserving the forests in the Cordillera, which is the watershed cradle of the north.

“If they will give financial support to our forest management efforts, the budget that we have will be used for other purposes to widen the scope of the programs and to even improve the national greening implementation and the hiring of forest protection guards to prevent poaching,” Pablo said.

The director said that the CWEM of the Cordillera RDC is a unique body that RDCs of the other regions do not have.

“This alone will show how important the environment is to us because we have to protect it not just for us but the provinces that also benefit from the environmental protection and preservation efforts in the Cordillera,” the director said.

Pablo said efforts to preserve Ifugao's forests have led to the revival of some 300 hectares of forest cover that benefitted the rice production industry of Isabela, the rice granary of the north. Preservation efforts have also led to electricity production at the Magat hydroelectric power plant in Ramon, Isabela for the Luzon grid.

In an earlier interview, Pablo said water from Cordillera flows down to Ilocos, Cagayan, Pangasinan, La Union, and even as far as Tarlac through 13 rivers and is used for domestic, irrigation and hydroelectricity production.

Based on the Cordillera water accounts study of the Philippine Statistics Authority in 2018, at least 88 percent of the water in the Cordillera is used for irrigation, followed by 11 percent for electricity generation, and percent for aquaculture, not just for the Cordillera, but also for lowland provinces in Regions 1, 2, and 3.

In an interview on the sidelines of the launching of the Cordillera month celebration in Sagada on July 1, Pablo said that the RDCs of Regions 1, 2, 3, and CAR will come up with a scheme to paym for environmental services to protect and preserve the watershed in Cordillera.

He cited as an example the efforts of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Cagayan Valley to allocate funds for the management of forests in Ifugao, which sustain the rice production of Isabela.

“If we have more funds that will come from other regions more areas of the watershed will be rehabilitated, restored and that will lead to a bigger water yield that will eventually benefit the also the other regions,” Pablo said.

He said the PSA study showed that the water utilized in the lowlands could help ensure food sustainability and higher food production yield. (PNA)