Protecting Liguasan Delta tough mission for state agencies, public officials

COTABATO CITY (John Unson, October 1, 2023) — Efforts to protect the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta from environmental hazards got a boost with pledges of support from the chairperson of the Regional Development Council 12 and agencies that can protect the wetlands from overfishing and encroachment by wildlife poachers.

Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño Mendoza, chairperson of the, multi-sector RDC-12, said Sunday she will task experts in their provincial government and request the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-12 to provide inputs as basis for comprehensive approaches in protecting the delta for possible adoption by the council.

“There is no problem with us helping save the ecosystem of this very symbolic and important wetlands. A big portion of it, the northern part, is inside the territory of Cotabato province, near towns that are under my administration, “Mendoza said.

Fossil fuels

The Liguasan Delta, surrounded by the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur, both in the Bangsamoro region, and Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato under Region 12, had been proven by experts in the DENR central office and foreign geologists to have vast deposits of fossil fuels that can be used to generate electricity and for other industrial purposes.

Officials of the DENR-12 said Saturday they are ready to cooperate with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in enforcing measures meant to protect the Liguasan Delta.

“A big challenge”

“A big challenge lies ahead of us in furthering that objective. The Liguasan Marsh had become so heavily silted and that is the reason why farming villages around it easily gets flooded because it immediately overflows if there are heavy downpours in upland areas in provinces in Mindanao,” BARMM Natural Resources Minister Akmad Brahim said.

Dredging the Liguasan Delta, a catch basin for a dozen rivers that spring from watersheds in Bukidnon, Cotabato, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces is very costly, but can be profitable, according to lawyer-entrepreneur Ronald Hallid Dimacisil Torres, chairman of the Bangsamoro Business Council.

“Just imagine scooping out from the marsh, possibly millions or even billions of tons of the much sought after organic pit soil, which is a very good organic fertilizer. There are markets for that abroad and even here in the Philippines,” Dimacisil said.

Overfishing and use of car batteries to electrocute fish in the Liguasan Delta for more catch are also two serious concerns that the DENR-12, the MENRE-BARMM and the Cotabato provincial government have promised to help address.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front that has enclaves in the Liguasan Delta had punished in the past four years more than 200 people caught using electrical devices in catching fishes in swamps and rivers that connect to it.

Military intervention sought

A member of the 80-seat Bangsamoro parliament, Susana S. Anayatin, authored last week a resolution, for adoption by the regional law-making bloc, urging the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao del Norte to organize a special marshland protection unit that can help stop the wanton encroachment of abusive fishermen and wildlife poachers into the Liguasan Delta.

“I am optimistic that my colleagues will give their nod to my effort,” Anayatin, a former senior staff member of the trade and industry department of the now defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said.

About three-fourth of the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta is inside the core territories of BARMM’s adjoining Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte provinces.

Harris M. Sinolinding, vice president for academic affairs of the state-run Cotabato Foundation College of Science and Technology in Arakan town in Cotabato, who, in summer of 2000, had documented the endemic fish and bird species in the Liguasan Delta, has recommended the crafting of regulations that can prevent extinction of both due to environmental degradation and poaching.

“One problem that we also also need to focus attention on is the thickening surface vegetation in this wetland, the rapid growth of water hyacinths. Why? The commercial fertilizers that corn farmers in upland areas use mixes with the waters that flow downstream to the marsh, fertilizing water hyacinths that slows down the flow of water from the delta to the seas in the coasts of Cotabato City,” Sinolinding said. (JF UNSON, IN COTABATO CITY)

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