NEDA USec Adoracion M. Navarro, Chairperson of the Technical Board of the National Land Use Committee and the Technical Management Group for Rehabilitation and Recovery of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, oversaw the re-convening of the Bicol River Basin Management Committee (BRBMC) on January 22, 2019 at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Office 5, Arimbay, Legazpi City, after the Committee’s three-year hiatus. Chaired by the DENR-Region 5 and co-chaired by the DILG-Region 5, the BRBMC is mandated to: formulate a Bicol River Strategic Management Plan; review and monitor the strategic action plans of the local government units (LGUs); facilitate the implementation of the management strategies and action plans and resolve implementation issues; coordinate the implementation of activities between the different agencies and LGUs; and enhance the capacity of stakeholders in promoting good practices in river basin and watershed management.
NEDA USec Adoracion Navarro (third from left) joins the BRBMC in discussing flood control and mitigation measures during its meeting on January 22, 2019 at NEDA Region 5, Arimbay, Legazpi City.
The regional offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways, National Irrigation Authority, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, Mines and Geosciences Bureau and Environmental Management Bureau presented ongoing and proposed programs, activities and projects in the Bicol River Basin area. These include: (1) consulting services for the feasibility study and
detailed engineering design for proposed flood control projects in the Bicol River Basin; (2) habitation protection at the upper and central basin; (3) Lake Buhi and Lake Bato flood control structures; (4) Bula embankment; (5) Rinconada Integrated Irrigation System; (6) Sagip-Ilog Program; (7) Geohazard Map Distribution and Seminar, and (8) Strengthening of Flood Forecasting and Warning System in Bicol River Basin.
The BRBMC agreed that a holistic approach should be applied rather than fragmented solutions in dealing with problems related to flooding. Dir. Antonio M. Daño of the DENR-River Basin Control Office encouraged the agencies to shift from flood mitigation approach to flood risk management. The same recommendation was raised by the NIA representative as it referred to the siltation in the canal structures of irrigation projects.
As part of her guidance, USec Navarro said that in the succeeding meetings of the BRBMC, agencies should not only report the accomplishments but also monitor the remaining gaps in the context of the 2015 Bicol River Basin Management and Development Master Plan. “To ensure that the secretariat support to this body will be sustained, the next step is to reconstitute the secretariat created in 2012, that is, the Bicol River Basin Coordinating Office, into a Bicol River Basin coordinating unit that shall be manned by existing positions in the DENR-Region 5. The interim secretariat can be NEDA-Region 5, which can hand-hold the DENR secretariat. The proposed governance structure in the 2015 Bicol River Basin master plan of having eight sub-basin management councils is not an immediate priority but can be considered in the work plan,” said USec Navarro
She reiterated to the agencies some of the proposed interventions in the immediate term, such as: minimize incidences of flooding through improved storage capacity of rivers and lakes by constructing flood control structures in strategic locations; provide sufficient irrigation facilities through rehabilitation and upgrading of existing irrigation facilities; rehabilitate at least 18,000 hectares of degraded forest lands; improve waste disposal by developing sanitary landfill facilities in different LGUs; resettle at least 6,000 families in high disaster risk areas particularly the informal settlements in river easements; and comprehensively identify vulnerabilities and corresponding adaptation actions for communities.
The inventory of projects included in the master plan but not yet funded shall be reviewed for possible funding and implementation. The next meeting of the body is set in July, after the national election to get commitments from newly elected local government leaders.