It is good news to hear that the Duterte administration is pouring at least P21 million for the planting of bamboo and mangrove in the 288,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh. By modest standard, the money is too small but as a starting point, it is more than enough.
However, its success depends on government, the local government units (LGUs), and the people on the ground. The MILF can extend help in many ways through the mechanisms of the GPH-MILF peace process.
To us, the success of any undertaking is not the amount of money poured in it. The people factor is the most important, followed by correct framing or conceptualization, then the manner of implementation, and support of government and everyone else.
Greening or reforestation programs of government is largely a failure especially provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Hardly seedlings nurtured or grown in nurseries are planted; good if 30 percent go to actual planting; and if planted all, there was no effective maintenance instituted.
Frankly, we do not know exactly where the problem lies, whether in the national level, in the ARMM, or in the LGUs, or the implementers. Government should diagnose the cause; of course, the ARMM under Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman through its DENR is doing their best to improve their delivery capability. But much has been desired especially in the protection of the watersheds of big rivers. Small-scale loggers are cutting trees not only in the periphery but inside protected watersheds especially in South and North Upi, Maguindanao, as well as in Lanao Del Sur.
Secretary Regina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should be congratulated for this initiative. She personally went to the area and planted the first bamboo seedling to signify that it is “go, go” already for this project.
What is more laudable in this project, not to say encouraging anymore, is that this massive greening program is not the one that use the people for selfish ends but they are the direct beneficiaries. They can earn from it and better their communities.
We are referring to so-called development programs that do not only pollute the environment but worse they lead to their dispersal and dispossession of their landholdings. This is what we call development aggression.
Liguasan Marsh is so rich in diversity. It grows medicinal plants, homes to tons and tons of freshwater fish, as well many kinds of birds including migratory ones. Crocodiles also live here. Not only this, it contains oil and gas deposits that forever lure the imaginations of greedy entrepreneurs.
Liguasan Marsh should not only de developed but should also be protected and preserved for the people of the area and the Bangsamoro people in general. The overflowing or flooding of the Cotabato river basin is where the Maguindanao ethnic-tribe gets their name. They are the “people of the flooded plain”.