23 March 2023 – As part of the 2023 World Water Day Celebration (WWD), the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Paligui Wetland Center took place at Sitio Macagatal, Brgy. Paligui Candaba, Pampanga, spearheaded by the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc (SCPW), in partnership with the Philippine Water Partnership (PWP), Macagatal Irrigators Association (MIA), Barangay Paligui, and the Municipality of Candaba, Pampanga. This wetland center complex is one of the two frontrunner initiatives of SCPW under the “Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate (LLBC) Project”.
Congresswoman Anna York Bondoc of the 4th District of Pampanga graced the event and delivered a message to mark the occasion. She welcomed the attendees and mentioned that the welfare of farmers is foremost in her priorities as well as the conservation of wetlands, particularly the Candaba wetlands. She emphasized that the Candaba wetlands is one of the most affected agricultural areas in the country by climate change. Thus, she expressed her support to the project and thanked the SCPW for choosing to locate the project in Barangay Paligui.
On this occasion, Ms. Amy M. Lecciones, the Executive Director of SCPW and Project Manager of the LLBCP (Philippines) shared the story on how five years ago in 2017, the SCPW came to do conservation work with the community in the area, particularly the Macagatal Irrigators Association (MIA) and the Barangay LGU of Paligui . She said that the vision of farm tourism had always been the goal, and that for the past five years while actively pitching the proposal to funding agencies and partners, the SCPW was able to secure some resources to prepare the community to embark on this venture. Thus, the area was profiled and monitored, and capacity-building activities such as training for bird watching guides, sustainable farming, and the likes were conducted with support from the Ramsar Regional Center-East Asia as well as the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity, among others. When the Living Lakes Network decided to submit in 2019 a global proposal to the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of Germany, the SCPW included the farm tourism concept as a Frontrunner Initiative. The Paligui Wetland Center will be the hub for learning and practicing wetland conservation and will offer support activities to enhance this important ecosystem while providing additional livelihood for the community.
Mr. Christopher Ilagan, President of Philippine Water Partnership, emphasized that the planned Paligui Wetland Center shall be that tribute to nature’s gift and serve as a homage to the abundance that the wetland offers, while also being a beacon for action towards the conservation and wise use of this wetland through the planned Communication, Capacity-Building, Education, Participation and Awareness activities to be delivered through this facility. Wetland conservation is a fundamental component of Philippine Water Partnership’s own long-standing advocacy of Integrated Water Resources Management, which is “a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital eco-systems”. Moreover, he pointed out the theme of WWD 2023 which is “Accelerating Change”, and cited this project as a prime example of an attempt by the SCPW to accelerate the change in our countrymen’s minds and hearts around wetland conservation, inspiring a new generation which appreciates, preserves and respects nature’s bounty. He ended his message by saying that when we take care of Mother Nature, we can be assured she will take care of us.
Mr. Raul Cacho, President of MIA and Hon. Virgilio Manalili, Barangay Chairman or Paligui read their aspirations for the Paligui Wetlands. Part of their dream is a farm-to-market road, increased biodiversity, successful agro-tourism, increased income for farmers practicing sustainable farming, and the wetlands benefiting people and nature. Chairman Manalili envisions the Paligui Wetland Center as the future “landmark” not just of the of the Municipality of Candaba, but of the larger Candaba Wetlands. The aspirations of the community for this Wetland Center and the LLBC project were recorded on paper and placed inside a time capsule bottle that was buried in the location where the Paligui Wetland Center Complex will be built. It symbolizes that the core foundation that drives the success of the project is built upon the hopes and dreams of the stakeholders.
Present also during the event were officials from LGU Candaba, represented by Hon. Thelma Cuellar-Macapagal, Municipal Councilor and Committee Chair on Agriculture; National Irrigation Administration – Region 3 Mr. Arnel S. Apilio and Mr. Leopoldo Q. Maniego; and Hon. Pol Balingit, Board Member of Pampanga. The participants in the Training of Trainers for the Wetlands BioBlitz coming from various academic institutions, NGO, DENR Regional and PENRO offices, and representatives from selected Ramsar Sites across the country also witnessed the event. Farmers, schools, and other residents from Candaba, Pampanga were also present to witness and celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of the Paligui Wetland Center.
The LLBC Project is part of the umbrella project funded by the Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection under the International Climate Initiative (IKI) with the Global Nature Fund, an NGO based in Germany as the Lead Organization. The main objective of the project is to ensure that the conservation and restoration of wetlands and the protection of related biodiversity are improved in the long term. The SCPW is one of the 12 organizations across 10 countries that will implement national level initiatives for this LLBC Project.
A video walkthrough of the proposed Paligui Wetland Center is shown below: