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Group pushes for creation of task force vs. ecology crimes

An advocacy group has asked the City Council to create a task force that will focus on environmental crimes and the protection of the watersheds.

Based on the proposal, the task force is composed of the Watershed Management Council, City Environment and Natural Resource Office, National Commission in Indigenous People, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the academe.

“It should be able to to respond immediately on reports of environmental crimes and take immediate action concerning apprehending the culprits, assessing the environmental damages, such as water samples and damages to biodiversity, and preparing for their restoration such as fines and filing of cases,” Councilor Pilar Braga said in her privilege speech on Tuesday in Sangguniang Panlungsod.

The Euro Generics International Philippines (EGIP) foundation, an organization known for forest and biodiversity protection, sent a letter addressed to Braga, summarizing their findings and recommendations to protect the Panigan-Tamugan and Talomo-Lipadas watersheds.

In the letter, EGIP cited some pressing problems, such as deforestation and environment destruction. The report was also presented during the conference among government agencies and civil society organizations on Nov. 29, 2019.

“Apparent environmental destruction within the watershed protected areas is permanently happening, e.g. because of the use of fertilizers and pesticides in adjacent banana plantations which pollute the surface and ground waters,” EGIP wrote.

Among the recommendation is for the city to impose fees for environmental services. The money raised will fund projects to restore habitats and ecosystems damaged by man-made activities and natural disasters.

“The city government is mandated to provide clean potable water for its citizens. On the other hand, it has no influence where the payment for services (if any) goes and what it is used for,” Braga said.

“As for the main polluters of the watershed area might not be unknown, the city government may directly address them and ask them to repair the damage in the concerned area or to pay compensation to the city,” she added.

The councilor also said watersheds are crucial as they serve as tributaries where Davao City sources its water from. “It is then proper that we protect our aquifers not only for ourselves, but for the proliferation of the life in the hands of our children and our children’s children,” she said.

Braga referred the proposal to Councilor Diosdado Mahipus, committee chair on environment.

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