DARAGA, Albay, May 1 (PNA) -- A Bicol-based private contractor awarded by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) with a PHP2.67-million contract to restore the forest cover of a watershed area in Camarines Sur has been readying implementation of the project, according to an official source.
An official of the Napocor Bicol Operations Division (BOD) based here, who requested anonymity being unauthorized to talk on the matter, on Sunday said the office is monitoring the progress of the project implementation and so far, preparations are within schedule.
The contract was awarded last October by the Napocor central office to the Bicol Upland Resources Development Foundation Inc. (BURDFI), a Camarines Sur-based entity officially registered as a non-profit organization that facilitates projects concerning natural resources and environmental protection.
The project covers the rehabilitation through reforestation of 30 hectares of open and denuded areas of the Buhi-Barit River Watershed in Barangay Cabatuan, Buhi, Camarines Sur, which is one of the various watershed reservations in the country under the jurisdiction of the state-owned energy firm, being source of hydro power.
Under Executive Order (EO) 224 issued in 1987 by then President Corazon Aquino, the Napocor has administrative management control over the 8,317-hectare watershed area of Buhi, including Lake Buhi, from where the energy firm draws water for its 2.8-megawatt hydroelectric plant.
The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) also uses the lake’s water to irrigate at least 18,000 hectares of rice farms located downstream up to the City of Iriga.
Lake Buhi is considered as a national treasure, being home to the world’s smallest fish locally called sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis).
The EO provides the energy firm the responsibility for the management, protection, development and rehabilitation of the area’s resources that include the forest, which is home to at least 25 rare and endangered bird species -- including the black-naped monarch, Philippine pygmy woodpecker, white-eared brown dove, elegant tit and the Philippine hanging parrot.
The Philippine Cynomolgus monkey (Macaca fasicularis) also makes its abode in the forests surrounding the lake, which showcases an enchanting beauty with its undulating mountain slopes and long stretches of shoreline as it rests in the valley formed by two ancient volcanoes -- Mount Iriga and Mount Malimas.
This formation, according to historical accounts, was created in 1641 when an earthquake caused a side of Mount Iriga to collapse, resulting in the creation of a natural dam that blocked the flow of nearby streams. Aside from the sinarapan, the lake is also home to seven other native fish species--irin-irin (Goby, Redigobius dispar), dalag (Snakehead murrel, Channa striata), atas (Climbing perch) and puyo (Anabas testudines), among others.
At least four fish species have been introduced to the lake in order to boost inland fisheries production -- Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), carpa (Cyprinus carpio) and Bangkok hito or catfish (Clarias sp.) that are now source of livelihood for thousands of families living around the area.
The Buhi-Barit reforestation project, according to an earlier statement from Napocor president Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita, is designed to bring back the forest cover of the area to improve its water-holding capacity, carbon sequestration and support to power generating plants.
Timber poaching and illegal cutting of trees for commercial and domestic uses are reported as major concerns in the watershed.
The Php2.67 funding for the reforestation project, according to Napocor is sourced through the Universal Charge (UC)-Environmental Charge (EC) as approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), NAPOCOR is authorized to file a petition to avail from the UC of the EC of Php0.0025 per-kilowatt-hour sales to be used for the rehabilitation and management of watershed areas, to be approved by ERC.
The UC refers to the charge imposed for the recovery of the stranded debts and stranded contract costs of Napocor, missionary electrification, stranded contract costs of eligible contracts of distribution utilities, environmental charge and other mandated purposes.
The contract with BURDFI, which has a duration of three years, it said, includes perimeter survey and mapping of the covered area; production or acquisition of some 55,000 planting materials of forest trees like narra (Pterocarpus indicus), pili (Canarium ovatum) and lamog (Planchonia spectabilis); plantation establishment; maintenance and operation; and plantation protection.
So far, the BOD source said, the preparatory stages of the project implementation like survey and mapping have already been initiated while production of the planting materials is underway as learned from the contractor’s president Renante Cano.
When completed, the project is hoped to revitalize the forest cover of the watershed and restore its lost significance as part of the natural resources of the area that also serves as home to 17 endemic non-dipterocarp species, including pili, a tree whose edible nut is a signature product of Bicol, according to the source.(PNA) BNB/FGS/DOC/CBD/PJN