GROUP PUSHES FENCING OF BUSOL WATERSHED

BAGUIO CITY — The Baguio Regreening Movement (BRM) is pushing the fencing of the entire Busol Watershed to stop further intrusions by illegal occupants into the vital watershed of Baguio and La Trinidad.

Lawyer Erdolfo Balajadia, chair of the volunteer organization, said Thursday that the fencing project was vital to keep illegal occupants from further encroaching into the watershed, which is already at a critical condition because of deforestation.

“Only 30 percent of the 336 hectare watershed is considered with forest cover,” said Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera (DENR-CAR) Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Augusto Lagon.

“The current state of Busol is very critical that any activity within it will adversely affect the water production of the forest reserve as well as [air] pollution,” he added.

The Busol area, which straddles the city and the capital town of La Trinidad, Benguet, is one of the watersheds which provide underground water sources of Baguio. Through the decades, illegal occupants have set up their abodes in Busol which has endangered the ability of the area to retain water.

The fencing project would cost a total of Php 38 million to complete.

Only over Php 30 million has been raised with funds coming from the local government of Baguio, the DENR and voluntary donations from Baguio residents.

The DENR recently downloaded Php 17 million for the project from its existing budget.

“We are elated that [DENR] Sec. [Ramon] Paje saw the importance of immediately fencing the metes and bounds of the watershed to protect it from further encroachments that would significantly affect its state in the future once informal settlers will freely build their structures in the area,” Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan said of the donation.

Another Php 1.6 million was raised from donors mostly coming from city residents and Php 10 million came from the city government from its 2014 supplemental budget.

Baguio Water District (BWD) General Manager Salvador Royeca said 12 spans of the fence had been started in the southern portion of the watershed.

“This is only to begin the fencing project using BWD funds,” he said.

Each span is four meters long and two meters high and build with six inch concrete hollow blocks with 25.4 centimeter by 25.4 centimeter column reinforcements and will cost Php 33,661.89 to build, Royeca added.

The city side of the project will entail constructing a 3.88 kilometers fence.

“We have learned that a fence will discourage encroachment, at least in the city side of Busol.

La Trinidad appears to have other intentions for its part of the watershed,” Balajadia said.

He added that when the fence had been constructed, the informal settlers already in the watershed would be slowly eased out and reforestation activities would be pursued. PNA/northboundasia.com