Conserving Arayat Watershed for the Protection of Candaba Wetlands
The annual celebration of World Wetlands Day is an ideal venue for communicating this year’s theme Forests for Water and Wetlands. The connection between forests, water and wetlands is clearly emphasized in the enrichment plantation/reforestation project of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. (SCPW) – the Rehabilitation of the Arayat Watershed for the Protection of Candaba Wetlands or The TreePreneur Project. This is being implemented through the “tree-preneurship” approach wherein the participating uplanfarmers/families are trained to be tree-prenuers.
The SCPW’s celebration of World Wetlands Day on 02 February 2011 was around the concept of Wetlands Caravan, the evolving CEPA Programme of SCPW for wetland conservation. The celebration had three components: a bird watching activity, a Community Learning Forum, and a visit to the tree-preneurs’ backyard nurseries at Barangay San Juan Baño in Arayat, Pampanga. more about Wetlands Caravan >>
Joining the event were Ms. Jocelyn Esguerra, the National Coordinator of United Nations Development Programme – GEF SGP; Mr. Leovino Ignacio, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer of Pampanga; Mr. Ruel Nucup, President of the Maria Sinukuan Upland Farmers Association; Ms. Joy Isla and Ms. Liza Vengco of Unilever Philippines; Ms. Minerva Martinez of the Protected Wildlife Services of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Region 3; and Mr. Rommel Santiago, the Protected Area Superintendent for the Mount Arayat National Park. Also participating the celebration was Dr. Llewellyn Young, the Ramsar Regional Advisor for Asia and the Pacific.
Bird Watching at Candaba Wetlands
The celebration started very early in the morning of 02 February with a bird watching at the Birds Sanctuary in the wetlands of Candaba, Pampanga.
The Candaba Wetlands is important in the flood control for the downstream Pampanga River. It acts as a natural flood retention basin during rainy season, holding the overflow from the smaller rivers, then drains into the larger Pampanga River. The wetlands is an important staging and wintering area for thousands of migratory birds. Birds, such as seven purple swamphens (Porphyrio porphyrio), Chinese pond herons (Ardeola bacchus), and black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) are among of the species sighted in the area. Because of its biodiversity, to protect the area, the swamp has been declared a bird sanctuary, under close monitoring by the DENR and the local government. Regulations include a permanent ban on hunting and strict management of land use.
Community Learning Forum
Later in the morning, more than a hundred upland farmers/members of the Maria Sinukuan Upland Farmers Association (MSUFA) gathered for the Community Learning Forum held at the MSUFA assembly place. The Forum aimed to increase the awareness and appreciation of the local population on the importance of the Arayat forest cover in the maintenance of the ecosystem integrity of the Arayat-Candaba watershed.
Dr. Simplicia Pasicolan of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (also a Member of the SCPW Board of Trustees), the resource speaker, discussed the topic “Forests and Wetlands: The Wetland-Forest Connection”, specifically the Mount Arayat – Candaba Wetlands connection.
The treepreneurs/upland farmers of Mt. Arayat
Backyard Nurseries Visit
The visit to the backyard nurseries of the tree-preneurs was the third component of the celebration. This was ended by an Open Forum where concerns and problems encountered by tree-preneurs in their backyard nursery development were raised and openly discussed. Mr. Bienvenido Martin of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Ms. Amy Lecciones of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands facilitated the community interaction.