On 16-17 March 2018, the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. (SCPW), in collaboration with the Philippine Water Partnership (PWP) and Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), launched the Active, Clean and Bountiful Rivers: The Wetlands Bioblitz Program at Panguil River Ecotourism Park. The launching event, which is one of the activities lined-up for the celebration of World Water Day 2018, served as a dry-run for the Wetlands BioBlitz activities that will be implemented in other major rivers in Laguna de Bay Region. It underscored the relationship between nature and water, and nature-based solutions for water-related issues which is the theme for this year’s World Water Day celebration dubbed as “Nature for Water”.
At the Opening Ceremonies on Day 1, Mr. Raymund Diaz, the General Manager of the Panguil River Eco-Park welcomed the participants and guests and explained the features and facilities of the Park. Ms. Amy M. Lecciones, Vice-President and Executive Director of the SCPW thanked the participants for attending the event and emphasized the importance of involving the local communities in conservation activities, not just to raise awareness but to give them confidence in taking action for the wise use of wetlands. She stressed that one of the major objectives of this Program is to institutionalize citizen science through the Wetlands BioBlitz. As a Trustee of the PWP, Ms. Lecciones pointed out that this activity is also supported by the PWP since it is consistent with its goal of promoting Integrated Water Resources Management and water security at the global level.
After the presentation on the Wetlands BioBlitz Program, the participants were divided into five teams led by the following experts:
- Avifauna: Dr. Simplicia A. Pasicolan (DENR- Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau)
- Flora: Prof. Ivy Amor Lambio (University of the Philippines – Los Baños)
- Hydrology: Engr. Timothy Dizon (DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau)
- Ecosystem Services: Ms. Joy Navarro (DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau)
- Water Quality: Ms. Jamella de Castro (DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau)
The Team Leaders explained the processes and methods to be employed in the actual field work. The field exercise was carried out for about 2-3 hours and was followed by data consolidation and feedback from each group on how to improve the activity.
About 100 participants attended the 2-day event coming from various wetland stakeholders, including the Youth Eco-Camper graduates and other CLEAR Youth Network (CYN) members, local government units, students, teachers, community volunteers, and interested individuals and organizations around Laguna de Bay. The event was also supported by national government agencies such as the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) and Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); international organizations, including the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the Global Water Partnership-South East Asia; and a private corporation – Unilever Philippines. Scientists and other experts were also present to lead the various Teams during the actual field work.
On the second day of the event, the SCPW facilitated a workshop to plan the next steps for the implementation of this flagship program. Based on the experience of this dry-run, the SCPW will fine-tune the methodology according to the recommendations of the experts present during the field work, ie there should be several tracks running simultaneously for flora identification team. The priority rivers that will host the next Wetlands BioBlitz activity were identified and the timetable set. It was also agreed that funds will be solicited either through sponsorships, grant applications, and other means so that the Program can be implemented in the priority rivers in the Laguna de Bay Region within the next three years. Considering the ecosystem services that are being provided by these wetlands, it is of great importance that communities affecting and are benefitting from these bodies of water are mobilized into action that will help protect them. (Darry Shel Estorba)