Endowed with fertile lands and mountain ranges that serve as haven for watersheds, the local government of Natividad in the province of Pangasinan continues to pursue its envisioned facets of development focused on sustainable economic growth and protected ecosystem through the Convergence Area Development Plan (CADP).

CADP is a comprehensive plan to address management of watershed and ecosystem in a holistic and sustainable manner through the implementation of projects which will be spearheaded by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Interior and Local Government, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

This collaborative effort is dubbed as the DA-DAR-DILG-DENR Regional Convergence Initiative for Sustainable Rural Development – a multi-sectoral planning strategy of the government to contribute inclusive growth and poverty reduction, particularly in the countryside, in partnership with the local government units and other government line agencies.

Lipad! Natividad Convergence Area

This is the name for the proposed convergence area of the municipality which was launched on December 2019.

Among the criteria for the selection of Natividad as a convergence area under the NCI-SRD is the community peoples’ need for an environment-friendly enterprise and livelihood to protect the Caraballo Mountains.

Natividad is a fourth class municipality in the easternmost part of Pangasinan bounded by the municipalities of San Nicolas on the north, Tayug on the west, San Quintin on the south and by the rugged Caraballo Mountain ranges bordering Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya on the east. It is home to some 24, 299 individuals as per 2015 data of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

In a 2011 Community Based Monitoring System (CBMS) data, it was reported that out of the 5,123 households, approximately 62.99% are classified as poor. The locality has very limited local employment opportunities besides farming, hunting, and forest products gathering.

Activities of forest dependent families particularly hunters, charcoal makers, firewood gatherers, and illegal wood suppliers to furniture makers and lumber dealers have caused destruction in the Caraballo Mountains.

“These activities have been among the damaging activities of the people specifically those residing near the Caraballo Mountains, depleting forest resources in the area, “said Mr. John Christian M. Sioco, Natividad Municipal Agriculturist.

“Forest fires are also instigated by the residents in order to get these wood resources,” he added.

The Caraballo Mountain ranges is one of the most critical watershed of the province of Pangasinan and Natividad is among the five municipalities which has jurisdiction over this mountain. Big rivers originate from it which includes the municipality’s Viray river and the Karawetan Creek.

These are major water support for drinking and agricultural activities of the locals.

If not protected, Caraballo mountain, will not only affect Natividad and its neighboring areas. Agno River – the main river that affects low-lying areas in Pangasinan also emanates from this mountain.

Development wanted

Focusing on environmental protection and economic growth, LGU Natividad identified two strategic goals to address these issues. One is the need to improve the efficiency of the Caraballo Mountain as a watershed through effective forest protection and restoration and the other is to help uplift the socio-economic well-being of the people within the convergence area particularly those living near the Caraballo Mountain.

Initial support and interventions have been implemented to realize these goals.

For its environment protection and ecosystem management activities, Sioco, has reported that the LGU has already distributed chicken, native pigs, and goat to target recipients. Other beneficiaries had already started planting 2,500 seedlings of high value fruit trees provided by DENR including 10,000 Robusta coffee seedlings from DA alongside cacao, bamboo, and rubber trees.

Furthermore, beneficiaries underwent trainings spearheaded by ATI and DOST. These were on mushroom production and processing, candle making and bamboo weaving. Currently, they are manufacturing their own brand of mushroom-based products such as chips, sisig, chicharon, tocino, and others.

“Ang CADP ay napakalaking tulong sa mamamayan ng Natividad kasi di na sila nag-uuling, nababawasan na ang mga nangangaso sa bundok at konti na ang mga sunog sa bundok dahil nabibigyan po sila ng kabuhayan at may binabantayan na silang fruit trees, rubber trees, at bamboo,” shared Sioco.

For the fisheries sector of the municipality, BFAR has already delivered start-up materials for fish smoking, smokehouse, cool box and established integrated farming on tilapia with vegetable component.

There are still ongoing constructions of farm-to-market roads, irrigation canal, and multi-purpose drying pavement under the physical and infrastructure component of the CADP and much is yet to be done until the end of the project in 2022.

LGU Natividad nevertheless is optimistic in pursuing its programs and activities to preserve and cultivate what remains of the natural flora and fauna of their very own Caraballo Mountains. //

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