The Agno River Basin Management Council (RBMC) conducted its Inter-regional Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting last March 17-18, 2022 in Alaminos City, Pangasinan. The meeting was under a face-to-face set-up with the Opening Program attended by RBCO Executive Director Nelson V. Gorospe; DENR I Regional Executive Director Crizaldy M. Barcelo; Assistant Regional Director for Technical Services Felix C. Taguba; PENRO Pangasinan Cezar Manuel A. Cabansag, Jr.; PENRO Tarlac Celia D. Esteban; Representatives and Focal Persons from DENR Regions I, II, CAR, and III and RBCO staff.
The objectives of the meeting were: to discuss and assess the activities undertaken relative to the implementation of the Master Plans and the status of the River Basin Organizations; to be updated on recent policies and directions on River Basin Management; to discuss operational issues and concerns; and to synchronize the conduct of RBCO activities.
Hon. Art Bryan Celeste, City Mayor of Alaminos, welcomed the guests and participants to the meeting virtually. He stressed the importance of the Agno River to the people of Pangasinan. PENRO Cezar Cabansag then acknowledged all the participants that joined the meeting. He emphasized that collaborative efforts of the TWGs with other agencies should be enhanced for better execution and implementation of the Integrated River Basin Management and Development Master Plan (IRBMDMP).
DENR I Regional Executive Director Crizaldy M. Barcelo delivered the inspirational message. He stated that the key to success for the betterment of the Agno River Basin is through the joint initiatives and teamwork of the concerned regions in coming up with solutions and strategies to address the issues and concerns within the river basin.
RBCO Executive Director, Nelson V. Gorospe gave a brief message and stated that the TWG meeting was very timely as it coincides with the World Water Week celebration.
On the second day, the profile and activity milestones for the Agno and Pampanga River Basins were presented by DENR Region 3 participants. The profiles and milestones of Cluster 1 River Basin, Abra and Apayao-Abulug River Basins, and Cagayan River Basin were presented by Region I, CAR, and Region II participants, respectively. The protocols under DAO 2021-41 or the Guidelines in the Creation of Watershed Management Councils was presented by For. Gladys Jade Palberas of DENR-CAR.
RBCO Executive Director Nelson V. Gorospe discussed recent policy issuances related to river basin management, the proposal for the Installation of Additional Hydrometeorological Instruments in the Marikina River Basin, and ways forward for RBCO and River Basin Organizations as follow through to the National River Basin Summit 2022. Ms. Angela Elline S. Radam, GIS Specialist of RBCO, shared the updates on the implementation of the River Basin Integrated Information Management System (RBIIMS).
The River Basin Focal Persons from DENR Regions 1, 2, 3, and CAR presented their respective Work and Financial Plans (WFP) for CY 2022 including the tentative schedules of their activities particularly the conduct of TWG and Council meetings for each River Basin organization.
During the open forum, one of the issues tackled was the issue on which office should manage the watersheds. Executive Director Gorospe stated that there is an agreement between the RBCO and the Forest Management Bureau (FMB) that there is no need to create Watershed Management Councils (WMCs) in watersheds where there are already existing River Basin Management Councils (RBMCs).
Another issue/concern tackled was the Draft Manual of Operations which was agreed upon for further review. For Watershed Characterization and Vulnerability Assessment of Agno River Basin, CAR will provide the needed data to Region 3 which will be used during the conduct of the activity.
In closing, Executive Director Gorospe shared the message of Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro, Jr. during the National River Basin Summit 2022: “I cite the administrative issuance that came out last year which became effective in February, that is the creation of Watershed Management Councils and I personally note with interest the reaction of our Cagayan de Oro champion. That of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council and Office if I’m not mistaken on the reactions to the specific provision guidelines. Of course, it was meant to address those that are not yet existing (River Basin Organizations). For those that have operated successfully even without the guidelines or government intervention, I guess it is only proper to take that these be replicated and perhaps we come up with amended guidelines as soon as we are able. So, I think in the policy development aspect in the Government, particularly in the DENR, nothing is cast in stone. We have to adjust to the emerging developments as far as whatever subject matter that we are trying to address and no less is the Watershed Management different”. (Lorraine Anne E. Quiñones/Angela Elline S. Radam)