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Background

 Chico River Basin was established by virtue of Proclamation No. 573, signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos on June 26, 1969. Part of Proclamation 573 is Parcel No. 2, which comprises the Chico Forest Reserve. It covers areas extending from Mt. Province down to Ifugao, Kalinga and Apayao. The basin lies between 16°49'28" to 17°57'58" north latitude and 120°50'37" to 120°33'14" east longitude.

      Chico River Basin has vast potentials for development. Being one of the major river systems in CAR, it has potentials for electric power, irrigation and domestic purposes, recreation, and other varied uses. The river harnesses the major irrigation systems to water its vast rice lands. As a result, Kalinga has been promoted as a rice granary of the region on account of its fertile plains and valleys. On the other hand, Mt. Province being the upper catchment area of the watershed, has become the home to high value crops yielding legumes/beans, carrots, root crops and other cash crops. White water rafting along the Chico River is another potential attracting local as well as foreign tourists. As regards mineral resources, these are still untapped with prospects that include gold, sulfur, copper, gypsum, clay and gravel and other quarry resources. While some of these have been extensively assessed particularly in the Kalinga side, the volume of deposits cannot be quantified since no actual drilling has ever been conducted.

Issues and concerns surrounding the watershed include: (i) land use conversion to inappropriate uses such as the conversion of mossy forest in Mt. Data to vegetable gardens; (ii) decreasing water discharge as a result of drying up of water sources; (iii) diminishing biodiversity that may be attributed to anthropogenic activities of man such as kaingin making, illegal cutting, forest fires and chemical pollution; (iv) river siltation due to soil erosion and landslides in upstream areas; (v) water pollution attributed to household and industrial wastes from municipalities in Mt Province dumped into the main river or its main tributaries. The watershed is thus beset with various problems such as decreasing water discharge, diminishing biodiversity, river siltation, and river pollution. Built-up areas lined along headwaters increased solid waste concerns. Potability is highly reduced in some areas. Soil cover is depleted which impacts on water-holding capacity.

Coverage Area and Demographic Characteristics

  An initial site assessment of the Chico River Basin was conducted which builds on data generated through the CAR Regional Development Council (RDC)-TWG. To facilitate the assessment process, the whole river basin was divided into inherent sub-watersheds (SWS) as shown in the table below for a total of eight SWS management units.

SUBWATERSHED AREA (km2) % FROM TOTAL URB MUNICIPALITIES NO. OF BARANGAYS
Tabuk 60,539 13.32 Pinukpuk
Tabuk
Tanudan
Balbalan
6
33
1
1
Conner 56,848 12.51 Pinukpuk
Conner
Kabugao
2
17
1
Tuao 79,681 17.53 Pinukpuk
Rizal (Liwan)
Conner
4
1
3
Balbalan 77,675 17.09 Balbalan
Pasil
Pinukpuk
Tabuk
Conner
14
1
11
1
15
Lubuagan 72,924 16.04 Bontoc
Sadanga
Balbalan
Lubuagan
Pasil
Tinglayan
1
5
1
9
14
20
Bontoc 41,188 9.06 Barlig
Bontoc
Sandanga
Banaue
Hungduan
Lubuagan
Tanudan
Tinglayan
3
12
3
1
1
1
1
1
Barlig-Tanudan 35,586 7.83/td> Barlig
Bontoc
Natonin
Banaue
7
1
1
1
Bauko 30,111 6.62 Bauko
Bontoc
Sabangan
Sagada
Hungduan
Tinoc
15
3
15
19
1
1
TOTAL 454,552 100.00 45 / 20* 259

* Avoided double counting of covered municipalities and barangays

Biophysical Characteristics

 Climate and Rainfall. The Chico River basin has two types of climate based on the modified Coronas' classification of climate for the Philippines. The headwaters in Mt. Province and the southwestern part of the Kalinga area have Type I Climate. The remaining parts of the watershed are Type II. Type I climate has two pronounced seasons, namely dry from November to April and wet for the rest of the year while for Type II climate, the seasons are not very pronounced; relatively dry from November to April and wet for the rest of the year. The mean annual rainfall in the area is 2,390 mm and the mean surface run-off is 7,237 million cum11 (mcm). The highest rainfall on record at the DENR for a given year and month is 6,693.7 mm in 1974.

      Topography and Slope. The terrain on the Mt. Province side ranges from level on its outlet north, gradually rising to high mountains at its headwaters on the south. Slopes on the southern headwaters reach as high as 70 degrees. Elevation range is from 20 meters above sea level (masl), where the river joins Cagayan River to 2,714 masl. Sharp ridges, deep v-shaped gullies and ravines particularly on the southern and central portion of the watershed and its tributaries characterize the river basin.

      In the province of Kalinga, the topography of the Chico River watershed area is rugged and sloping with mountain peaks ranging from 300 to 2,500 meters above sea level. The feature consist a north-south trending assemblage of mountain chains, which is a prominent regional geographic feature of the Central Cordillera. Sharp crested interlinking peaks and valleys characterize the western part of the province. A peculiar feature in this part is the presence of isolated plateaus and mesas of tuffaceaus rocks. Gradually sloping foothills and rolling terrain characterize the northern portion. Some slopes simulate homoclinal ridges generally trending north-south dipping moderately to the east towards the Cagayan basin.

      Only about 15% fall under 0-18 degrees and the rest are above 18 degrees, which is 85% of the total watershed area. Under the present land classification, areas up to 18 degrees slope are classified as A&D lands and above 18 degrees as forestlands. The figure indicates limited areas intended for agricultural purposes and the larger portion for forestry and agro-forestry.

      The combined steep slopes and high topography of the watershed render it vulnerable to soil erosion and landslides aggravated when there are land use changes such as inappropriate kaingin making and road construction.

      Water Resources. The Chico River Watershed has its headwaters coming from Mt. Data, Bauko, Mt. Province and empties into the Cagayan River. In Mt. Province, the major tributaries include the Bauko/Sabangan River, Betwagan River, Bayudan River, Malanas River, Aguyo River, Agodong River, Malitep River, Tanudan River, Amlosong River and the Talubin River. Main tributaries in the Kalinga Province include the Pasil River, the Tanudan River and the Saltan River.

      The Chico River is rich with aquatic resources with most of the residents dependent on the river for additional income and sustenance. However, the introduction of exotic species like the Golden Kohol, Gurami and others, disturbed the population of endemic species like mudfish, native snails, etc.

      This river is the main source of irrigation for all agricultural areas (both wet and dry) along the river. At Mt. Data, competition exists in regard the use of the water coming from a single small source, either for domestic or agricultural use. On the Mountain Province side, not a single tributary has been tapped for its potential as a power source as it is mainly used to supply agricultural lands, both wet and dry. As regards Kalinga, the river basin is the main source of irrigation water for agricultural lands and partly supplies the irrigation needs of the neighboring province of Isabela.

      Forest and Vegetation Types. A total of 165,524 hectares of forest resources are found in the Chico River Basin. Five vegetative characteristics are noted in the watershed, each occupying a distinct ecozone starting from the riverbanks to the summit of the mountain ranges: (i) Mixed vegetation of grass and scattered shrubs and small or medium sized trees are usually found along or near river/stream banks and on grass ecosystems; (ii) A belt of forest dominated by Benguet pine, between elevations 1,000 to 2,200 masl; (iii) Mixed dipterocarp forests usually are found in the low-lying areas of Kalinga and Apayao, although some are found in Mountain Province, particularly along Tanudan River; (iv) Mossy forests extending from the upper limits of the pine formation to the mountaintops, which have not been invaded by the pine forests; and (v) Grasslands, interspersed in the open canopy pine forests or appearing as islands between forests. Grasslands found in the mossy forests are dominated by the dwarf bamboo (Yushania niitakayamensus).

      The present vegetative cover found in the province, particularly Benguet Pine indicates that most of the pine forest areas are second growth and even aged. These are either established plantations or natural regeneration on logged over areas. These natural regeneration areas are slowly being converted into vegetable gardens as has happened to the mossy forests, particularly in the southern headwaters. It is estimated that as much as 1,500 hectares of pine and mossy forest in the southern headwaters of the watershed have been converted to vegetable gardens starting from 1960.

      Biodiversity Assets. There are several faunal species within the Chico River Watershed area of which 28 are considered endemic, nine are resident-species, two are migrants, and one insufficiently known. The skeleton of an eagle in Barlig has been verified to be that of a Philippine Eagle, though no sightings of this bird has been made as of the moment. Seven (7) are listed under CITES II, two under CITES I, two (2) considered endangered - with a population extinction and whose survival is unlikely if the causal factors continue operating. Several fish species are also found in rivers/creek.

      The Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park is rich in faunal species such as deer, wild pig, monkey and bats. Other local wildlife includes parrot, owl, kalaw, labuyo, bolog, saysayapat , takka, ugachiw, tiktik, snakes, eels, motit and others. Some wildlife species found at Mt. Data National Park are shack shrike, pygmy wood pecker, red button quail, wild pigeon, Philippine bulbul, and mountain rats. These wildlife are considered endangered and threatened due to hunting by the local residents for food, pet and sold for additional income. The method of hunting are done through indigenous practices such as silo, lasag, balais, bito and other means.

      Floral species include gymnosperms and other non-dipterocarp species that are dominant in western Mt. Province, while mixed dipterocarp species appear to dominate the eastern and northern part of the watershed. The Balbalasang-Balbalan National Park in Kalinga shows that the area is still thickly forested but there are areas encroached and devoted to kaingin making. Dominant forest species are mossy, dipterocarps and some Benguet Pine stand.

Investment, Trade and Industry

Infrastructure. The Halsema Highway is the main access to the river basin from Baguio City going to the provinces of Ifugao and Mt. Province. On the other hand, on the northeastern side of the basin, the Maharlika Highway provides access to Kalinga, Apayao and Cagayan. Of the total national and provincial road network within the river basin, only about 15% is paved with either concrete or asphalt, while 55% is gravel and the rest are earth roads. Majority of those classified as barangay and farm to market roads are unpaved and are impassable during rainy season.

      There are about 74,250 hectares of potential agricultural areas for irrigation in the Chico River Basin of which only 37% are irrigated largely serviced by the communal type of irrigation facilities (71%).

      Agriculture. CAR has a strong agro-ecological advantage in the production of highland vegetables like cabbage, white potato, pechay, carrot, and cauliflower accounting for 50%-90% of the national production in 2004. In terms of area, 62% is used for paddy, the number one crop produced in CAR in terms of its volume, and 9% are for vegetables. While paddy accounted for the largest production volume among crops and vegetables in CAR, its share accounted for only 2.5% of national paddy production in 2004.

      In 2003, agriculture still accounted for 58% of total employment in CAR, as well as fulfilling subsistence requirements of the rural community. Agriculture development initiatives in CAR focus on strengthening of the existing vegetable production sub-sector. Other high value items such as cutflowers, forest products and organic products are gaining ground.

      Livestock production in the region consists mostly of backyard operations involving a few heads of assorted animals such as hogs, cattle, carabao, goats and poultry, providing a ready source of cash for farmers. Fish production in the region takes the forms of inland and aquaculture fishing, which accounted for 0.6% and 0.1% of national production respectively in 2004.

      Mining. Mountain Province is endowed with the mineral resources such as gold and copper ores extracted through small scale mining and sand and gravel quarrying. Mineralization is confined along the western part of the province. The volume of deposits cannot be quantified since no actual drilling has ever been conducted. Kalinga has vast potentials of mineral deposits still untapped. It has been extensively prospected for gold, copper, and other important metallic and non-metallic minerals.

      Tourism. Chico River Watershed is a land of natural charm blessed with numerous tourist attractions, both natural and man-made. Many of these were validated and documented as potential tourist attractions including the festivals and events that are regularly conducted in the area as part of the tourism industry. In support to these tourism activities and in response to the need of the positively increasing number of tourists arriving in the area, private sectors established accommodations and transport facilities although majority are located in Tabuk and Bontoc. Homestays are also available and maybe arranged in select municipalities.

      The most promising and recent eco-tourism attraction in the area is the white water rafting in Kalinga, managed by a private entity. The hanging coffins and caves in Sagada, Mt. Province is still a primary tourist attraction in the watershed.