ANY advocacy project is assured of longevity and sustainability when supported by legislation. Institutionalizing the advocacy by setting-up the legal frameworks for its continuous implementation is one of the end goals of organizations championing a specific cause.
As for the Angeles Watershed Rehabilitation Project (AWRP), an advocacy project jointly campaigned by the Angeles City local government and the Abacan River and Angeles Watershed Advocacy Council, Inc. (ARAW-ACI), delivering three major local legislations is part of the end game. The institutionalization of the green map is Phase 2 of the AWRP.
First, it is important to secure the Angeles watershed by declaring it as a local protected area and a forest park. The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Angeles City already completed this task.
The people of Angeles thank Vice Mayor Vicky Vega-Cabigting and the former city council for the existing resolution. For the year 2023, the green advocates in Angeles led by ARAW-ACI will be lobbying for restrictions of infrastructure and commercial developments inside the Angeles watershed.
ARAW-ACI President Renato S. Tayag, Jr. says that it is important to protect the trees inside the watershed. Their protection will only be guaranteed should there be restrictions in commercial and industrial development in the area. Several investors, local and foreign, have been continuously buying land “rights” from indigenous peoples (IPs) living in the area. Most of these speculators are seeing the land at the watershed as potential tourism destinations. ARAW-ACI has called on the local government to pass an ordinance restricting possible developments in the area so as to preserve the forest park. The group says only eco-tourism investments should be considered in the area so as not to disrupt or destroy the environs.
Another legislation that is being championed by the group is the mandatory participation of every business owner or investor in Angeles City in replenishing or recharging water resources. Every Angeleno, especially the ones consuming much water for business, must take part in the shared responsibility of recharging the water resources.
They must join the carbon sink programs of the government and the rehabilitation of the watershed.
At present, there is a standing city ordinance – Ordinance 456 – sponsored by Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin Jr in 2018 which requires small, medium and large businesses to donate a number of seedlings as requisite for the renewal of their permits.
There is a moratorium for this ordinance in due consideration to the businesses affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. But now that the national and local economy is bouncing back and businesses were re-opened, the green advocates ask the LGU to implement the ordinance with some amendments.
According to ARAW-ACI, many businesses like condominiums, residential apartments, fast food chains, hospitals, schools and manufacturing plants are using huge volumes of water. So instead of a fixed number of seedlings for donations, these businesses should be donating the number of seedlings commensurate with the volume of their water consumption. In 2019, a group of students from the Angeles City Science High School (ACSci) presented a paper at the Philippine National Climate Change Conference at SM Mall of Asia. The paper included a matrix they designed showing computations of water consumption and the corresponding seedlings for a particular business. They were able to show how many seedlings should be required from a fast food, for example. The paper is a proposal to amend Ordinance No. 456. This young group became the pioneer members of ARAW Youth. In November 2021, ARAW Youth joined the non-government Philippine youth observers in Glasgow, Scotland at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26).
The above-cited legislations must be put in place to ensure that the watershed will be protected. The legislations will also compel all people inhabiting and doing business in Angeles City to contribute in the wide implementation of the AWRP.
Phase 1 of the AWRP is the reforestation program dubbed as “Adopt-A-Watershed”, which is now in full swing through the support of the private sector. Several private entities like Converge ICT Solutions, Pampanga Press Club and De La Salle Alumni Association-Pampanga Chapter have already joined the green wagon. ARAW-ACI, the lead advocate for water security and rehabilitation of the watershed, has been encouraging private groups to adopt one or two hectares of planting sites inside the 527-hectare watershed in Barangay Sapangbato. Each planting site is sponsored by the private entity for three years in partnership with ARAW-ACI and the Aeta community in Sapangbato. The maintenance fees are received by the Aeta gamekeepers. The gamekeepers clean, water and put fertilizers on the plants twice a year. They are also the beneficiaries of the expected harvests from the fruit-bearing trees. To date, Converge ICT Solutions lead the line of sponsors. By the last quarter of 2022, ARAW-ACI says Porac Bank will adopt a one-hectare plantation. Kudos to all the green companies who strongly support the advocacy.