TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Rep. Allen Jesse C. Mangaoang is pushing for the creation of the Chico River Basin Development Authority (CRBDA) to ensure the sustainable preservation and protection of the longest river system in the Cordillera.
House Bill (HB) 2741 authored by Congress representative Mangaoang states that it is the declared policy of the State to promote the integrated management and development of resources in the country’s river basins within the context of a river basin approach to optimize economic and social welfare without compromising the sustainability of environmental system and to ensure a fair sharing of the national patrimony between the highland and lowland people.
Among the objectives of the proposed law include to establish the legal framework and mechanisms for the creation of the Chico River Basin Development Authority; consolidate and harmonize all development initiatives within the river basin under the overall framework of a unified river basin management and development approach; maximize the participation of all stakeholders in the area, establishing the most effective approach to effect an active and sustainable collaboration among stakeholders from government agencies; non-government agencies or peoples organizations and the private sector; promote equitable sharing of costs and benefits from the basin’s natural resources across sectors, group of communities, across space and time and negotiate local and external investment in the area, thereby increasing livelihood opportunities for the people within the basin.
Mangaoang pointed out that the authority, which will be under the Office of the President, shall be the primary government agency mandated to coordinate all development activities in coordination with the appropriate government agencies and peoples organizations within the Chico River Basin. It shall ensure an integrated approach to the planning and management of resources utilization and development on a basin-wide scale, utilizing indigenous systems of environmental management with due regard to the rights of indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities over their ancestral lands and ancestral domains under the Indigenous Peoples rights Act of 1997 and its attendant rules and regulations.
The Chico River is one of the major river systems in the Cordillera where its length is more or less 200 kilometers originating from its headwaters located in the tri-boundary of Ifugao, Benguet and mountain Province. It traverses 4 municipalities in Mountain Province, namely, Bauko, Sabangan, Bontoc and Sadanga, going down to the municipalities of Tinglayan, Lubuagan, Tabuk city and Pinukpuk in Kalinga, and to the municipalities of Tuao, Piat, Rizal and Sto. Nino in Cagayan with its tail end joining the Cagayan river.
Further, the Chiro River has an estimated watershed area of 404,685 hectares. At present, the river is irrigating more or less 11,000 hectares of agricultural lands in the Tabuk city valley, more than 10,000 hectares of irrigated lands in Quezon, Isabela, Kalinga and Cagayan and various rice terraces in Mountain Province and in Upper Kalinga.
Mangaoang claimed that the rice lands currently irrigated by the Chico River is producing more than 250,000 tons of palay annually.
The authority shall have jurisdiction over all the areas within the watershed of the river originating from its headwaters in Mount Data in Bauko, Mountain Province up to its joining the Cagayan river in Sto. Nino, Cagayan. It shall maintain its principal office in Tabuk City, Kalinga. However, it may establish such branch offices in other places necessary for the proper conduct of its business.
The Board of Directors shall be composed of a general manager; reginal directors of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) of Cordillera and Region 2; regional directors of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of Cordillera and Region 2; regional directors of the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH) in Cordillera and Region 2; regional directors of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Cordillera and Region 2; regional directors of the Department of Tourism (DOT) of the Cordillera and Region 2, and 2 representatives from the private sector who are stakeholders in the said basin.
Under the bill, the authority shall have a capitalization of P500 million which shall be entirely funded by the national government. For the operating expenses of the authority, a sum of P100 million will be earmarked annually from the general fund of the national government not otherwise appropriated.
The Chico River Development Authority shall be exempt from all taxes, licenses, fees and fines, incidental to its operations. All notes, bonds, divestures and other obligations issued by the authority shall be exempt from all taxes both s to principal and interest.
The bill declares unlawful to dump solid and hazardous waste and untreated sewage into the Chico River Basin; to dump or throw garbage in other Chico River Basin or on its banks; to squat on or appropriate portions of the banks of the river for private use or gain, except for such reasonable augment of public use in the interest of recreation, navigation, floatage and fishing and to fence off and encroach upon the said river basin or any portion by any means whatsoever, and converting the same into fish pens for their private and materials gains or have the same titled in his or her name.
Any person who violates any of the prohibited acts shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than 6 years and 1 day nor more than 8 years and a fine of not less than P10,000 nor more than P100,000; provided, however, that in case of violation of the said law by an association, club, partnership, corporations, or any entity, the incumbent officers who have knowingly participated in the violation shall be held liable; provided further, that if the offender is an alien, he or she shall be immediately deported without further proceedings in the Bureau of Immigration and barred forever from entering the country after serving his sentence and paying his or her fine.