Mangatarem, Pangasinan - To boost and uplift the economic activity and tourism within the towns along the Daang Kalikasan (Nature Road) linking the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales, a stakeholders consultative meeting spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Region- I (DENR- I) was held at the Manleluag Spring Protected Landscape (MSPL), Mangatarem, Pangasinan last September 18 ,2020. The stakeholders’ consultative meeting is to conceptualize the Master Plan for the Daang Kalikasan Developmental Framework in the region I portion, an environmental vision and pet project of then Pangasinan 2nd Disrtrict congressman and now Lingayen, Pangasinan Mayor Leopoldo Bataoil.

The scenic Daang Kalikasan road is a 54- kilometer stretch old abandoned logging road used by illegal loggers widened and improved, of which the construction of the Mangatarem, Pangasinan side started in 2017 linking Sta. Cruz, Zambales which was later spruced up to provide the fastest and directly linking the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales winding road over the breath taking crest of hills and pristine mountains. The proposed development area of Daang Kalikasan is 19 kilometers covering the jurisdiction of Region- I, which was initially initiated in 2012 by then Pangasinan 2nd District Rep. Bataoil. The road has a width of concreted 20 meters from the road center line and another 10 meters is reserved as a “No Build Zone” area. However, even in its partially reopened state and already drawing tourists, is expected to spur more economic activity and tourism in the two provinces. This will also enhance environmental resuscitation, tourist attraction and people will indulged in authorized livelihood activities and corridor for economic activities. This road linking the two provinces will hasten not only travel but also trade and tourism since it passes through mountains and its construction will also ensure the protection and preservation of the remaining forest cover in the area.

Present during the consultative meeting were DENR- I key officials headed by Atty. Crizaldy M. Barcelo, and  DENR- I field offices, representatives from Environmental Management Bureau, Region- I (EMB- I) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Region- I (MGB- I), the main proponent of the Daang Kalikasan, Municipal Mayor of Lingayen, Pangasinan Leopoldo Bataoil, Congressman Jumel Espino of the 2nd District of Pangasinan, representatives from Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH),  representatives from the Office of Presidential Adviser for Northern Luzon, and concurrent Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA), Secretary Raul Lambino, people’s organization, local government units (LGUs) and among others.

The Daang Kalikasan Master Plan was initially presented by RED Barcelo to Secretary Lambino during the latter’s visit in San Quintin, Pangasinan last September 4, 2020 of which he lauded the “DENR- Ilocos Region leadership for being proactive in advancing development.” RED Barcelo emphasized during the meeting that “DENR- I is apolitical and simply delivering public service to the people for the good of the environment and all are duly represented by different government line agencies who are involved in the development initiative of the Daang Kalikasan within the jurisdiction of the municipality of Mangatarem.” RED Barcelo stressed that there will be first a Master Development Plan, Geohazard Assessment and Vulnerability Risk Assessment of the area after which all principal stakeholders will ink a derivative memorandum of agreement in order to implement the developmental initiatives. Congressman Jumel Espino of the 2nd District of Pangasinan was also present to give his full support to the Daang Kalikasan initiatives stressing the eco- tourism impact to the province of Pangasinan which will create additional funds.

DENR- I ARD for Special Concerns and representing the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) –Region- I, Engr. Socrates Gaerlan presented the Geohazard Mapping and Hydrological Survey along Daang Kalikasan area of which only 10 kilometers was then accessible for survey mapping. The MGB mapping and surveys is needed for the developmental purposes and environmental hazards of the area particularly on the susceptibility to erosion. The planned 20 meters road for development include the beaches and the canals, parallel to it the 10 metersin both sides of the road which is the “No Build Zone” that belongs to the DPWH, as additional area for protection.

 For planning purposes, the proposed Daang Kalikasan development was presented and discussed in details by DENR- I Conservation and Development Division (CDD) Chief Barbara Pernia by segment. Segment No. 1 is a 3 -kms. portion that indicate plant able for buenavista and ilang- ilang and other flowering  plants. The entry point of the 3km. portion of the road is the “Information Center or Pasalubong Center” structure along with People’s Organization (PO) bunk house and these POs will assist the DENR in managing the Information Center. Segment No.2 is a long 2-kms. stretch suitable for planting and replanting tree species, a manned ranger station with firefighting equipment, view deck, a long Small Water Impounding System (SWIS) is also needed in this area because the water source will be used for the planting Bougainvillea which are beautiful during summer and required less maintenance and Acacia Mangium because of the soil condition is suitable including hardwood species. Segment No. 3 is a 3-kms. stretch and an area planned for the establishment of a model nursery, a visitor’s center, kiosks while Sunflower plants  and Agoho tree species and there are remnants of Pine  trees in this area. The Segment No. 4 – is the 4-kms. end of the 10- km. road and a part of the area has been awarded to CS First Green Agri- Industrial Devt. Inc.as Integrated Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) purposely for bamboo production. A proposed bird watch tower is suited in this area since Mangatarem is also listed as International Birdwatch Area (IBA). Santan is also suitable and be planted in the No Build Zone area including Eucalyptus species then eventually Pyrograph planting.

The Municipality of Mangatarem has an existing approved Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) and an active steering committee thus, the FLUP should be updated to incorporate whatever development plans that DENR- I and other agencies have proposed in the Daang Kalikasan area. Government line agencies like the Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), LGU- Mangatarem, non- government organizations (NGOs) and DENR- I involved in the Daang Kalikasan development will have their respective roles in advancing eco- tourism and mobile communications in the area. So the vital structures and radar stations maybe allowed subject to permits while DENR- I on its part is designated to take care of the 40 meters ‘development zone” and it will adopt a portion as its model segment. Power convergence was also defined, ideally, converge together between two or three entities that will integrate their  platform that will result to optimal benefits and through a MOA, contributions will be defined in terms of shared resources or activities  that will have to be contributed in a certain area. The involvement of road users’ fee or probably “environmental fee” will be used to generate funds was also suggested.

The Daang Kalikasan area is also suitable site for social mobilization, to raise advocacies and awareness campaign for environmental protection and conservation. There is also a plan to adopt a segment as National Greening Program (NGP) site with corresponding guidelines from the DENR of which the agency also wanted to maintain the environmental sanitation in the long stretch of the road. As conclusion of the presentation, CDD chief Pernia showed a prepared rough Work and Financial Plan as sample indicating the cost estimates, infrastructure and vegetative measures and the contribution of each stakeholder is identified.

In his closing statement, RED Barcelo said “Daang Kalikasan will be a model development project to be replicated in other areas” as instructed to him by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu. The DENR led by Secretary Cimatu made the impossible rehabilitation of the famous Boracay Island and the latest is the Manila Bay enhanced by introducing the Dolomite bringing life and nature closer to the Manilenos. Manila Bay is the “show window” of the Philippines to the world. Green Infrastructure Combined with Development just like the Daang Kalikasan, is possible and can be realize with the collective efforts of all stakeholders. RED Barcelo stated, “We in the DENR cannot do it alone, we need your help, cooperation and intervention from all stakeholders, the government and private sectors, LGUs to finalize this plan.” Without any doubt, our collective and collaborative efforts will reap a fruitful harvest. (RPAO)