October 17, 2006, Raffles Convention Centre, Singapore
delivered during the ASIA Water Summit
No time in history have we become so environmentally conscious than we are now. people today have come to the realization that concerted efforts must be done to reverse the tide of destruction that continues to inflict harm on the environment, particularly ON our water resources.
Where i came from, people, especially at the community level, are involving themselves in a rather ambitious undertaking as rehabilitating a watershed primarily because of a greater awareness on its implications to the environment.
The seeds of this heightened sense of environmental concern were among those that were sowed two decades ago when Community development experienced a rebirth in the philippines.
At that time, government organizations joined forces with the private sectors, particularly non-government organizations (NGOs) and cause-oriented groups, in attempting to do something that would improve the quality of life in many parts of the country.
Enlightened political, social and business leaders began to see the opportunities for partnership among themselves and with the communities, channeling their resources to selected areas and embarked on programs and projects that did not only have people as beneficiaries but also participants in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of community-based collaborations.
Soon, the participation of people, who are most affected by the development efforts, became both a strategy and a prerequisite for these community endeavors.
Watershed management was one of the different areas of community development where GOs and NGOs focused their efforts. AS YOU ALL KNOW, Watersheds portray a crucial role in ensuring the availability of abundant water supply. These catchment areas hold and store runoff water before it flows to rivers and other bodies of water, making them very important to national survival.
Because of deforestation, however, many watersheds have been proclaimed by presidential edicts as watershed forest reserves.
To protect them, philippine congress passed Republic Act 7586 otherwise known as the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992. the law provided that all areas declared as watershed forest reserves may not be destroyed, exploited or opened for settlement. Despite its passage, there has been, in general, little mitigation in the process of environmental decay.
In the early 1990s, a water crisis brought about global climatic changes such as the el niÑo phenomenon threatened to affect many parts of the PHILIPPINES. The grim scenario led the government to pursue more initiatives that would protect the remaining watersheds.
For its part, the Philippine Association of Water Districts (PAWD) decided to go into partnership with the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in launching Project Evergreen, which was designed to alleviate forest denudation. several utilities soon embarked on their own watershed rehabilitation projects.
One of them was Davao City Water District.
Since its creation, DCWD has been serving the needs of Davao City, a highly-urbanized metropolis in Mindanao.
Formed on November 3, 1973 pursuant to the provisions of Presidential Decree 198 or the Provincial Water Utilities Act of 1973, the utility originally functioned as a quasi-public corporation. Starting 1992, however, it operated as a full-fledged government utility by virtue of a Supreme Court decision.
DCWD runs and maintains a water system that distributes and supplies water coming from forty-eight (48) pump wells and two (2) surface water sources that serve 151,630 active service connections found in 105 villages, or 57.69 percent of the city’s 182 barangays, THE smallest political unitS in the Philippines.
Davao City is blessed with abundant ground and surface water resources. These water resources, however, face serious threats brought about by rapid population growth, unregulated development, saline intrusion, forest degradation, and climate change.
In light of this, DCWD has vowed to protect davao’s water resources, a posture that is not only in keeping with its corporate social responsibility but also an exercise of one of its legal rights.
About 98 percent of the water that DCWD supplies to the city comes from underground sources while the remaining 2 percent are taken from surface water sources. The utility knows, however, that groundwater is finite and must be utilized wisely and managed carefully.
Considering this, DCWD came up WITH an ambitious plan to rehabilitate a critically endangered area within the Mt. Talomo-Lipadas Watershed.
COMMUNITY-BASED PARTICIPATORY APPROACH IN WATERSHED REHABILITATION
The area covered by the community-based project lies inside the Mt. Apo National Park, which is considered the headwater of the Lipadas River.
This national park is a natural habitat to the country’s national bird, the Philippine Eagle.
The project sought to attain the following objectives:
1. Rehabilitate 5.36 sq. km (530 ha.) of open
2. Minimize environmental degradation through soil
and water conservation measures;
3. Establish basic infrastructures;
4. Facilitate the creation of sectoral
organizations in the project sites;
5. Establish a relevant and effective educational
6. Establish the Ecology and Capital Build-up
funds for the sustainability of economic
Right from the start, dcwd knew that the people’s participation was very critical in the rehabilitative effort. Thus, IT adopted community participation as its core strategy to prepare the people in the uplands for the challenging tasks that lay ahead
SITE SELECTION. Selecting the communities that would BECOME dcwd’s partners was no easy task. since funds for the project were quite limited, the utility needed to come up with a set of criteria for prioritizing the project sites.
These are as follows:
1. People in the barangays have little or no
objection/resistance to the project or to DCWD;
2. An influential group or person has expressed
initial support for the undertaking;
3. There are few or no ongoing development
projects in the upland areas; and
4. No serious peace and order problems are
obtaining in the villages.
DCWD found the collection of baseline data about the communities the most critical activity during the pre-implementation stage. Information from the said survey, which was completed in 1994, was later used in the preparation of community profiles, development and management plans and strategies, decision-making, monitoring and evaluation, process documentation, and problem identification and solving.
COMMUNITY ENTRY, IMMERSION AND INTEGRATION. because of unpleasant past experiences, upland villagers generally treated government agencies with distrust. hence, It was necessary that an outsider whom the people can trust be sent to immerse and study the three barangays.
To gain entry into the areas, DCWD sought the assistance of the Community Organizing-Davao Experience (CODE) Foundation, one of the more established NGOs operating in Davao City. CODE then dispatched a community organizer (CO) to the sites.
Aside from studying and gathering data, the CO also acted as an intermediary between the communities and DCWD. He stayed and worked with the villagers until they felt that assistance on a daily basis was no longer needed.
FORMATION OF CORE GROUPS. Creating the core group was an equally crucial phase in community organizing as this body was the basic building block for a people’s organization. Upon the CO’s departure from the barangay, DCWD expected this group to take over the responsibilities that he will leave behind.
In choosing the members who will compose the core group, the CO considered those who have displayed leadership potentials and have extensive interpersonal relations with other community members. He also selected those who are well respected by the villagers, are open-minded and can clearly verbalize the community’s problems and aspirations.
CONDUCT OF CAPABILITY-BUILDING PROGRAMS. DCWD through the CO, conducted information, education and communication (IEC) activities to keep people updated on the developments relative to the project. The utility also organized an exposure trip and conducted a number of seminars for them.
mobilization and networking. Most of the problems facing their respective barangays required the villagers to go beyond the narrow confines of their communities to search for lasting solutions and to forge strategic alliances with other organizations with similar interests who can help boost their efforts at community development. thus, the CO exposed them to mobilization and networking activities to boost their confidence and readiness to take action on whatever problems they encounter.
Formation of people’s organizations. after the prerequisites were done, the formation of the three people’s organizations was formalized. Thus, the Lipadas Watershed Tungkalan Association (LIPWATA), the Daliaon Plantation Lipadas Watershed Association (DAPLIWATA) and the Sarro Lipadas Watershed People’s Organization (SALIWAPO) came into being.
CONVERSION TO COOPERATIVES. In less than five years after their creation, the POs were registered as cooperative enterprises. As cooperatives, they engaged in money lending, charging the loans with minimal monthly interest. They also entered into service contracts with DCWD wherein it was stipulated that the fruit-bearing trees planted in the project areas will be owned by the occupants after five years. with this, the utility hopes that the people’s desire in keeping the watershed areas protected from encroachment and degradation would be sustained.
ESTABLISHMENT OF NURSERIES/PLANTATIONS. A year after the project took off, nurseries and plantations were established and managed by caretakers paid by the utility. PO members participated actively in soil gathering and polybagging, establishment of seedbed, sowing of seeds, and installation of nets and dried leaves that served as partial shades of the seedlings.
Monitoring and evaluation. these mechanisms were also created to address two key concerns: first, whether or not the project is proceeding as scheduled/planned; and second, whether or not the targets/outputs in terms of number of hectares replanted/rehabilitated, seedlings distributed, community meetings conducted, among others, are being met.
LESSONS LEARNED AND INSIGHTS GAINED
Several valuable gains in the form of lessons and insights can be derived from the project. these may be summed up as follows:
Put premium on people development and empowerment.
DCWD saw to it that the financial needs of the communities are addressed first and foremost. Engaging their services as partners in the planting, replanting and maintenance of trees enabled the utility help them financially by compensating their efforts. Through the project, the grassroots were empowered to do something about their plight, which eventually led to the formation of cooperatives.
Involve community members every step of the way
This meant giving them priority and listening to what they have to say. Their opinions on how the project should proceed must be respected and, if possible, woven into the decision-making process out of genuine concern for their well-being and not mere lip service.
Know and respect the community’s social beliefs, customs and traditions.
Understanding the way the decision-making structures of community members, some of whom are indigenous peoples, operate has enabled the utility’s project implementers better handle certain situations. Knowledge of the socio-cultural, economic and political conditions of people affected by the project has gone a long way in helping dcwd SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE THE PROJECT.
Build and sustain a climate of trust, fairness and understanding among the stakeholders.
To foster goodwill and sustain community interest, involvement and commitment throughout THE WHOLE process, the utility sent its people on a periodic basis to sit and discuss relevant issues, concerns and possible solutions with the stakeholders. These visits, which served as bridges of interpersonal trust and confidence, helped the parties involved voice their perceptions, sentiments and opinions and arrive at a consensus.
Employ various methods to encourage and maintain community participation.
There are several techniques that can BE utilizeD to encourage and sustain community participation. Each technique has its pros and cons. EFFECTIVE COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION MEANS EMPLOYING THESE BASED ON CERTAIN SITUATIONS.
SUSTAINING THE GAINS OF WATERSHED REHABILITATION
To sustain the REHABILITATION project’s gains, dcwd LAUNCHED the “Adopt-a-Site” Project, WHICH sought to:
1. Ensure continuity and sustainability of the
watershed rehabilitation project;
2. Encourage direct and/or indirect involvement of
government agencies, NGOs,private corporations,
civil society and individuals in managing and
developing watershed protection and conservation
3. Provide a venue for interested individuals
taking their family and friends to an “eco-
camp” in the area and enjoy nature through
the eco-friendly “mountain trek”.
WHAT LIES AHEAD: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
Inspired by the success of its watershed rehabilitation project, the utility is now girding up for the next level: employing its core strategy in other aspects of water supply and development.
Preparing the groundwork for surface water development. For two years now, the utility has been organizing and empowering the indigenous peoples living around ANOTHER WATERSHED AREA, THE Mt. Tipolog-Tamugan watershed, THE drainage basin of Tamugan River. this river is one of those BEING EYED AS POSSIBLE SOURCE for dcwd’s surface water development and utilization project.
The project INVOLVEs WATERSHED REHABILITATION and riverbank protection within the ancestral domain OF the Obo-Manobo tribe, one of the many ethnic groups in Davao City.
These indigenous peoples will be organized into POs that will serve as DCWD’s project partners.
Promoting Rainwater HARVESTING in Remote Communities.
Using community participation as its core strategy, DCWD intends to pursue a massive information campaign that would increase public awareness about the benefits of collecting and utilizing rainwater, to complement piped water service, particularly in periurban communities which have no individual household connections yet.
By promoting this, DCWD looks forward to the possibility of being freeD from the burden of building and maintaining too many facilities such as wells, pipelines, reservoirs and chlorinating stations, in its existing service areas, thereby enabling it to expand its services to other waterless areas.
Improving the Access to Sewerage Systems.
Most households in DAVAO city discharge their wastewater directly into septic tanks that do not get cleaned or undergo treatment for years. The poor state of sewerage in the city may be attributed to the people’s LACK OF INTEREST IN AVAILING such service. as shown in one study, the willingness to pay for sewerage was very low.
With the passage of the Clean Water Act of 2004, HOWEVER, the utility INTENDS TO ORGANIZE people into robust organizations that will co-manage and later on manage their respective community-based sewerage systems. The challenge lies on how to convince THEM that the price of agreeing to pay for sewerage will prove to be a cheaper option in the long run compared to the price of disagreeing to pay for it.
CONCLUSIONS AND SUMMARY
Community participation as a flexible approach to local development has, to a great extent, enabled the utility to realize that it can also become a “big brother”, a social reformer, a change agent at the community level by supporting and allowing ordinary villagers being affected by its undertakings to identify their problems, propose and implement solutions and monitor and evaluate the outcomes of those solutions.
In summary, dcwd’s experience has shown that an entity wanting to pursue a community-based watershed rehabilitation project must be prepared to go through a painstakingly complicated but rewarding process that involves the following:
1. Site selection based on a sound prioritization
2. Pre-implementation activities including
establishment of baseline data ;
3. Community entry, immersion and integration;
4. Formation of core groups;
5. Conduct of capability-building programs;
6. Mobilization and networking of the project
7. Formation of people’s organizations;
8. Conversion of these pos to cooperatives;
9. Establishment of nurseries and plantations; and
10.Periodic monitoring and evaluation at the
In return, such experience yields several valuable lessons and insights.
Hence, it can now be told that in a watershed rehabilitation project it is important to:
1. Put premium on people development and
2. Involve community members every step of the way;
3. Know and respect the community’s social
beliefs, customs and traditions;
4. Build and sustain a climate of trust, fairness
and understanding among the stakeholders; and
5. Employ various methods to encourage and
maintain community participation.
The many milestones dcwd has achieved in working with communities, however, does not mean that what needs to be done has been done. That is why, it is now girding to employ its core strategy in the following:
1. Preparing the groundwork for surface water
2. Promoting rainwater harvesting in remote
waterless communities of davao city; and
3. Improving access of urban communities to
In closing, i would like to thank the organizers of the asia water summit, on behalf of davao city water district, for making us a part of this gathering.
Good day to everyone!