Experts: ‘Water quality needs local effort’

During “Start a Ripple,” the first water conference in Negros Oriental, water experts and environmentalists said that it takes local effort to protecting the environment efficiently.

The conference was held last August 14 at the Silliman Hall. The speakers in the water conference talked to local leaders about the impact of water sustainability to sectors, such as agribusiness and forestry, environment and tourism, and business and investments.

Dr. Angel Alcala, Chairman of the Silliman University-Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management, said that communities will benefit from improved coastal area conditions.

“If we want to be excellent in our aim to really champion water sustainability, let us all commit ourselves to protecting our environment, our biodiversity, and our coastal areas,” said Alcala.

Meanwhile, Dr. Isabelo Montejo, the Department of Environment and National Resources Regional Director for Region VII, said that communities are important partners in promoting sustainable environmental programs.

“Once the community is engaged, they come to develop a sense of ownership. And once it happens, we can almost certainly expect sustainability,” said Montejo.

Water-Excellence Philippines Director Amor Maclang said that Water-Excellence Philippines and Integrated Water Resources Management Council (IWRMC) partnered to inform the local government that Negros Oriental is becoming the Philippine center of excellence for water management.

Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo said that the province can show progress through its water programs.

Degamo added that water crisis is a serious threat to the sustainable development of the province, which is why the local government is determined to advocate the water sustainability campaign.

“We need the support of the entire province—from the locals, the farmers, the entrepreneurs, to the government officials and other relevant stakeholders—to contribute and empower this initiative to make the difference,” said Degamo.

According to Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, a known watershed management expert, reforestation and watersheds have big impacts in nation building because water is the base for major sectors in Philippine society and economy.

Although many places in the province have succeeded in water sustainability, there are still 455 municipalities in the country that do not have access to safe water.

Jaime Antonio Jr., national coordinator for Department of Interior and Local Government’s Joint Programme on Pro-“WATER” with the UN Development Programme, said that most of the areas in the municipalities still practice open defecation.

“Sadly, it has become a way of life for the poor and the less privileged, people who don’t have the proper knowledge about water and proper sanitation practices,” said Antonio.

Marlo Mendoza, a forester and a University of the Philippines professor, also said that a country’s native species are global assets.

“Endemic species that are here in the country—flora and fauna species that cannot be found nowhere in the world—are global assets. Once these species are gone, it’s not only Negros or the Philippines that loses these treasures; the entire world loses them too, forever,” said Mendoza.

Since 2008, the IWRMC, a Negros Oriental policy advisory board, has started programs and projects on water sustainability and development of shared water, land, and related resources. It has also raised awareness to local communities on the importance of water.


By Leslie Batallones

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