Keeping the Water Flowing: WWF and Coca-Cola Launch Water Resource Atlas for Laguna Lake

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 Press Announcement:

There’s an old British proverb: ‘You don’t miss the water until the well runs dry.’

Scientists have warned that the Philippines will reach crisis point by 2025 if the current wastage of water is not halted. Metro Manila needs 1068 million cubic meters of water a year, yet groundwater resources can only produce up to 191 million cubic meters. By 2025 Metro Manila will need up to 4000 million cubic meters of water annually. Eight other major cities face the same situation – Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Bacolod, Angeles, Zamboanga, Baguio and Cagayan de Oro.

Urbanizing landscapes south of Manila in the CALABARZON region are confronted with the same problem. In the Santa Rosa Watershed for example, ground water studies show that the rate of extraction will exceed the rate of groundwater recharge by 2023.  Envisioned as the ‘new’ Makati, this rapidly urbanizing river basin will demand more freshwater than what the watershed may be able to supply.

“Rapid population growth, intensive land development and landscape changes are happening at a dramatic pace,” says World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) Senior Water Resources Manager Ed Tongson. “These will impose significant demands on food, fresh water resources, plus waste and wastewater disposal facilities – intensifying flooding and pollution in downstream areas.”

Many shallow wells in lakeside Laguna communities are reported to be depleted, polluted and unfit for human consumption. Septage and untreated wastes are currently polluting shallow aquifers and canals feeding the Laguna Lake.

Pressing issues are overshadowed by the bigger questions on where and how the new developments will draw freshwater. How and where will they dispose of waste? What needs to be done by LGUs, locators and subdivisions? How can the private sector contribute to solutions? What are the institutional arrangements that need to be put in place? How can we ensure holistic and integrated management of freshwater resources?

“While solutions to these problems are not new, the lack of accountable, decentralized management structures is at the core of the problem. There are over 30 agencies involved in the management of one or more aspects of the water cycle, where planning is uncoordinated and fragmented. Yet, not one of them is responsible for coordinating and orchestrating water resource development, conjunctive use, treatment and proper disposal,” says Tongson.

On 29 November 2012, a stakeholder summit entitled ‘Instituting Water Resources Management for the Santa Rosa Sub-Watershed’ was convened. The summit presented the results of the five-year watershed program implemented by WWF-Philippines together with the Laguna Lake Development Authority and the City Governments of Santa Rosa, Binan, Cabuyao and the Municipality of Silang. Watershed issues and actions, contained in the draft Framework Plan for Water Quality and Integrated Water Resources Management for the Sta. Rosa watershed, and next steps for implementation were presented.

This was followed by a presentation by LLDA on the Hydrologic Atlas for Laguna De Bay 2012. The atlas is designed to be a source of hydrologic data for environmental assessments made by flood engineers, water suppliers, irrigation managers and environmental consultants working in the basin.  The practical application of the Atlas on flood and water balance modelling in adjacent San Cristobal was presented.

The five-year program was implemented by WWF-Philippines through a generous grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation.

“As a company that produces the world’s best beverages, part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to sustainability – especially for its 100th year in the country – is water stewardship,” says Coca-Cola Philippines President and General Manager Guillermo Aponte. “This means safely returning to both Filipino communities and to the environment the amount of water equivalent to what the company uses for its operations. As Laguna de Bay is such a vital source of water and life for the country, it was natural for us to support the production of WWF’s Hydrologic Atlas Study. Only with a better understanding of the water resources that we use and enjoy today will we be able to better conserve and safeguard tomorrow’s sources of water. With everyone’s help, we can keep the water flowing.”

Oceans are Not Toilets; Tighten Oceanic Waste Dumping Measures

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Press Announcement:

Would you eat fish from your toilet? Probably not – but maritime vessels might soon make it so.

Last 15 October the M/T Glenn Guardian, a tanker contracted to service moored US Navy ships, allegedly dumped 189,500 liters of domestic waste and 760 liters of bilge water (residual water, oil plus grease) 37 kilometers from the coast of Subic Bay. This is not unique – it simply underscores the larger problem of oceanic waste dumping.

“For over two centuries, military and commercial vessels have been throwing all sorts of waste overboard,” explains World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) Conservation Programmes Vice-president Joel Palma.

“Large vessels such as cruise ships can generate daily over 110,000 liters of raw sewage and 750,000 liters of gray water (less pollutive water from showers, kitchens and household operations). This excludes solid waste like plastic bags and bottles. All this can come from a single vessel. Cargo ships alone exceed 50,000 globally. Imagine just how much waste enters our oceans daily and you’ll realize how our seas are slowly turning into toilets.”
Republic Act 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990 expressly prohibits the disposal of toxics, while Section 27 of the Philippine Clean Water Act prohibits the dumping of sewage and organic wastes into Philippine waters.

“Even if the M/V Glenn Guardian wasn’t dumping toxic substances, domestic waste such as feces and organic pollutants can cause substantial eutrophication – algal blooms which obscure sunlight to limit oceanic productivity,” adds Palma.

All organic wastes eventually break down into phosphates and nitrates, which fuel the growth of free-floating algae. Algal blooms limit the sunlight available to bottom-dwelling creatures and eventually reduce the dissolved oxygen of water – causing fish kills.

In 2002, an algal bloom practically wiped out Bolinao’s Bangus (milkfish) industry, causing PHP400 million in lost revenues.

Leading environmental solutions-provider WWF-Philippines calls for tighter measures against oceanic waste dumping. Discharging untreated wastewater into a water body currently incurs penalties ranging from PHP10,000 to PHP3 million  for each day of violation.

“It is time for all ships to be held legally-accountable for the wastes they discharge at sea,” says WWF-Philippines Vice-chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan. “Oceans make up 71% of the planet.  More than 95% of our oceans remain unprotected and poorly regulated.  It is time to change that.”

The installation of modern onboard waste treatment systems plus closer monitoring of discharge practices should be mandatory for all local and visiting vessels – as would be more severe violation penalties.

Concludes Tan, “Unchecked vessel discharges – whether toxic or organic – degrades not just water quality, but oceanic productivity. Given the need to feed our ballooning population, this is a far larger issue than the VFA. Beyond health and biodiversity, the impacts of this will be largely economic. No one wants to eat from a toilet. Would you?”

DENR, FEU and WWF join forces to Double Tamaraw Numbers by 2020

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October, a month of Halloween activities, is also a month that brings attention to the plight of the Philippine Tamaraws.  DENR, WWF, and FEU, a college symbolized by these endangered species came together for this year’s celebration to help prevent its further diminishing numbers.

In a presscon and seminar held at FEU campus grounds, where students had a chance to interact with the speakers, numerous topics and corresponding discussions came up about security, monitoring procedures, and  maintenance issues.  The panel of speakers included WWF-Philippines Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan President, TCP Head and Mts. Iglit-Baco Protect Area Superintendent Rodel Boyles, and WWF Consultant from Hubbs Seaworld Research Institute, Dr. Brent Stewart. FEU  Chief Financial Officer Juan Miguel Montinola gave the opening remarks.

Below is a brief history and situationer:

Ten thousand tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) once grazed and bred throughout the island of Mindoro. Sadly, the population has taken severe blows – from a crippling outbreak of cattle-killing Rinderpest in the 1930s to incessant land clearing and poaching. It is thought that only a few hundred hold out atop the grassy slopes and forest patches of Mts. Iglit, Baco, Aruyan, Bongabong, Calavite and Halcon in Mindoro.

Differentiated from the larger and more docile carabao (Bubalus bubalis carabanesis), the stocky tamaraw bears distinctive V-shaped horns, a shorter tail and a shaggy coat of chocolate to ebony fur. Adults stand four feet tall and average 300 kilograms.

Today the tamaraw is classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered – the highest risk rating for any animal species. Four national laws protect it from poaching – Commonwealth Act 73 plus Republic Acts 1086, 7586 and 9147.

Under RA 9147 or the Wildlife Act, violators can incur from six to 12 years of imprisonment plus a fine ranging from PHP100,000 (USD2440) to PHP1M (USD24,390).

Since 1979, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has been working tirelessly through the Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP) to manage and protect tamaraw core habitats, while engaging local communities to partake in conservation efforts. Among it initiatives are the establishment of a 280-hectare Gene Pool farm coupled with continued research and habitat protection.

To support these existing TCP and government initiatives, WWF-Philippines partnered with the Far Eastern University (FEU) for an ambitious goal – to double wild tamaraw numbers from 300 to 600 by 2020.

Dubbed ‘Tams 2’ (Tamaraw Times Two by 2020), the campaign synthesizes satellite-tagging, DNA analysis and other science-based research initiatives with improved park management practices. These upland efforts shall in turn be tied in with WWF’s ongoing work to conserve the rich coasts of Occidental Mindoro in a holistic ‘Ridge-to-Reef’ conservation plan.

With its gold and green tamaraw icon, FEU has since 2005 provided support for a tamaraw management and research-oriented program by participating in annual tamaraw counts each April. FEU has additionally extended health and livelihood services for communities residing in and around the Mts. Iglit-Baco range as a component of its ‘Save the Tamaraws’ project. Says FEU Chief Financial Officer Juan Miguel Montinola, “The tamaraw is no mere FEU mascot – it is a charismatic Filipino icon. This alliance is not just about the tamaraw. It is about connecting people with the environment.”

 

“Yes, I believe that we can double the number of wild tamaraw before 2020,” says TCP Head and Mts. Iglit-Baco Protect Area Superintendent Rodel Boyles. “This April, we counted 327 heads – the highest ever posted since we began our annual surveys in 2001. There were many calves and yearlings, a sure sign that the population is breeding. Finally, the count is conducted in a 16,000 hectare portion of a 75,000 hectare park. If we can find 327 heads in this small area – than there should be many more.”

“Our engagement will revitalize logged-over mountain habitats, with the tamaraw as its conservation icon. Healthy peaks and forests translate to a better-managed source of water so essential for the vast rice-lands of this island’s western floodplains, while healthy reefs generate vast amounts of protein. Together with FEU, TCP and the DENR, our goal is to bring conservation results to the groups that need them the most.”  says WWF-Philippines Vice-Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan.

“No forests, no water, no rice.  We are all interconnected.  By saving the Tams, we save ourselves. By saving the future, we save ours’” adds Mr. Tan.