Through its research arm – Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) holds simultaneous Trainors’ Training on Vulnerability Assessment (VA) of Watersheds to Climate Change for a total of 45 regional VA focal on February 19-23, 2018 in Baguio City, Cebu City, and Davao City and on February 26 - March 2, 2018 in Laguna and Cagayan de Oro City. This activity is an offshoot of the recently concluded VA Technology Transfer Workshop and Strategic Planning last January 16-19, 2018 at the Bayview Park Hotel, Manila.

“With the instruction and the direction of DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu to delegate the conduct of VA in the remaining priority watersheds to regional offices, we have this activity for us to determine the level of capability of our personnel to accomplish VA in their regions,” ERDB Director Henry A. Adornado had discussed the basis for the holding of VA Technology Transfer Workshop and Strategic Planning and simultaneous trainings on VA.

The DENR Sec. Cimatu is determined in ensuring that watersheds are protected and managed for sustainable water resources. Experts said that the country will experience water supply shortage in the coming 15 years based on United Nations study.

Currently, the country has 143 priority critical watersheds as declared by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). These watersheds must be managed properly to guarantee water supply in the future. For this purpose, the VA tool serves as an instrument in defining the risk brought about by climate change and providing information in identifying coping means to climate change impacts. It is also a significant input to the Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IWMP), the guideline for sustainably managing our watersheds.

According to the ERDB – Forest Ecosystem Research Division (ERDB-FERD) OIC-Chief Florita E. Siapno, the five-day activity will help regional focal to be familiarized with and appreciate concepts and methodology used in conducting VA. Specifically, they will be oriented on using the ERDB Manual on VA of watersheds 2nd edition. The manual, a work in progress, covers four subparts: 1) scope, purpose and conceptual framework of the VA for watersheds; 2a) general approach and determination of watershed vulnerability; 2b) methodology on assessing exposure, watershed sensitivity and adaptive capacity, and evaluating vulnerability; 3) guide in scaling factors affecting the adaptive capacity and vulnerability of watershed to hazards; and 4) GIS application using MANIFOLD software.

Watersheds not only serve as vital habitat for plants and wildlife but also perform a critical water quality function and provide natural aesthetics and various environmental benefits. However, the state of watersheds in the country are vulnerable to various hazards because of our country’s steep topography, poor vegetation cover, earthquake faults, effects of climate change. Among the major vulnerabilities and concern in the Asia-Pacific region are adverse changes in seasonal river flows, floods, droughts and loss of biodiversity. Through VA, we hope to determine and measure the extent of these hazards and offer scientifically sound solutions, explained Dr. Antonio M. Daño, one of the primary authors of the ERDB VA Manual.

After the training, regional focal are expected to complete VA of the priority watersheds in their regions as a prerequisite in the preparation of their IWMP. Furthermore, VA results can be used by policy and decision-makers in coming up with rehabilitation, conservation and development plans and climate change planning and adaptation programs. Along this process, ERBD will continue to provide technical assistance to the regional focal and guide them in their VA activities.