Gov’t to develop Liguasan Marsh – Lopez

VIEW FROM THE TOP – Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez (inset) takes a photo of the marshy village in Buluan town, Maguindanao from a helicopter on Wednesday, April 6, 2017. Main photo shows fish cages that look like spider webs across Lake Buluan, Maguindanao. The lake is a major source of freshwater fish, particularly tilapia, in Central Mindanao. (Keith Bacongco | Manila Bulletin)

Buluan, Maguindanao – Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez vowed to fully support the conservation and development of the resource-rich Liguasan Marsh that straddles three provinces in Central Mindanao.

During her visit here on Wednesday, Lopez showed local government officials similar efforts which have been made across the country that can be replicated in the 280,000-hectare marsh. Liguasan Marsh straddles 29 towns in the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

One of the initial projects to be implemented is the putting up of a bamboo nursery.
Rajah Buayan town Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan said the local government will initially develop at least a hectare of bamboo nursery this year.In the next three years, Ampatuan said they are aiming to plant 1,300 hectares of bamboo. “We wanted to make our town a bamboo capital in the next six years. There’s money in bamboo,” he said. Under this project, Ampatuan added, the local government would be mitigating the impacts of flooding at the same time, it is would also provide livelihood the constituents.

Once fully-grown, he said the bamboo poles can be sold to banana plantations to be used as plant support.

Lopez said the P21 million-fund for Rajah Buayan is just an initial effort and it would be replicated soon in other towns.

“Matagal na kasi ito na proposal kaya nauna si Mayor Ampatuan,” Lopez said during the launching of the Sustainable Agriculture Integrated Development (SAID) in Liguawasan Marsh.

Lopez admitted said that a study on the Liguasan Marsh, which was given to her show tremendous biodiversity.

“It is also very rich in agriculture and tons and tons and tons of freshwater fish. Who knows what else they have here?” Lopez said.

Sec. Lopez underscored the need for comprehensive government interventions such as the just-launched bamboo and mangrove planting to stimulate the Maguindanao people, notably the marsh dwellers, into productive cohesion necessary to end local enmities and alleviate high poverty rate in the province.

“The basic foundation of economic growth is love…There can be no progress in an atmosphere of enmity,” she said.

Sec. Lopez, Gov. Mangudadatu and Rajah Buayan town Mayor Zamzamin Ampatuan signed a covenant mandating a cohesive implementation of the SIAD project. The signing rite was witnessed by MILF truce committee chair Butch Malang, OPAPP Usec. Deosita Andot, DENR-ARMM Secretary Kahal Kedtag, the Army’s 601st Brigade commander, 20 other Maguindanao mayors, and heads of participating delegations.

Dr. Abonawas Pendaliday of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College said siltation and land conversion are among the problems that the communities have been facing in recent years.
Pendaliday, who has been involved in the research at the marsh for at least two decades, added that there is a need to adapt the ridges to reef ecosystem approach.

Liguasan Marsh serves as a catch basin of the surrounding provinces and rains to the Illana Bay through the Rio Grande de Mindanao.

Heavy siltation in the marsh has resulted to flooding in the peripheries and sometimes the destruction of agricultural crops.

Decades of conflict have impeded the development of Liguawasan Marsh since it has been a known enclave of different armed groups.

It has been a known hideaway of lawless elements such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Its tributaries have been the escape route of those engaged in extortion and kidnapping.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Khadafi Mangudadatu lauded Lopez for supporting the development efforts in the region.

By Keith Bacongco and Ali Macabalang (