By ROGER M. BALANZA
The author of the Davao City Watershed Conservation, Protection, Management Ordinance said plans are afoot to amend the landmark legislation as two companies battle over rights to use a major river here.
The ordinance also known as the Watershed Code has declared the Talomo-Panigan-Tamugan watershed area as conservation area that bans introduction of any development projects.
Davao City councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, author of the code, said that the city council needs more data and information on threat to the conservation area by the projects of the Aboitiz-owned Hedcor Inc. and the state-owned Davao City Water District (DCWD).
Hedcor is building a hydropower facility in Tamugan River that is also being eyed by DCWD for its surface water development project.
DCWD does not want the Hedcor project in Tamugan as it would affect the viability of its gravity-type water system, while the Aboitiz-owned power firm is seeking a compromise to have the two projects pushed through.
If both or any one of the project is to be implemented, there is need to amend the Watershed Code, said Cabling, who authored the code while chair of the council environment committee.
Cabling said the amendment could tilt towards the mixed-use concept, where development aggression could be allowed into conservation areas like Tamugan.
He noted that the city’s need for growing water demand requires DCWD to find alternative sources to ease pressure on the Talomo aquifer where it presently pumps out water for the city’s 1.4 million people.
Cabling also said the power crisis in Mindanao demands more sources of electricity which could be responded to by the Hedcor hydropower project.
But we should be careful in coming out with the final decision, he said.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte wanted to break the deadlock between Hedcor and DCWD and has told the companies to come into agreement by March 20.
Cabling said, the Talomo-Panigan-Tamugan (TPT) watershed area is one of 8 watershed areas in Davao City and possesses the highest recharge capacity rate and comprises the main tributary to Davao River.
Environmentalists here are opposing the twin projects, but some sectors say they could be allowed if studies show they would not be posing threats to the environment and communities.
Cabling himself is deep into his own study to support the amendment and would be attending a major conference on watershed protection this week in Malaysia where he would discuss the threats faced by local watersheds.
He would also seek data and information from international agencies like the United Nations Educational, Educational and Scientific Organization (Unesco) to assist the local government in its final decision.
In the conference, Cabling would read before foreign watershed experts a paper titled “STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE USE AND COLLABORATIVE MANAGEMENT IN THE TALOMO-PANIGAN-TAMUGAN (TPT) WATERSHEDS.”
The present debates over use of Tamugan River would be at the center of the presentation, said Cabling.
We need the vital information from experts because stakeholders in Davao City are still weighing the physical, environmental, biological, ecological, social and economic impact of the projects and the communities, he said.
The Malaysian watershed protection conference is organized by Unesco and its water conservation agency Hydrology for Life, Environment and Policy (HELP) chaired by Dr. Shabaz Kahn, who helped form HELP Network-Davao which is chaired by Cabling.