Arceo: Shared responsibility

Wangari Muta Maathai, an environmental activist and the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, once said that “until you dig a hole, plant a tree, water it and make it survive, you haven't done a thing, you are just talking.”

Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of Mother Nature since we all use natural resources to survive. And among all the natural resources, water is one element that is equivalent to life. We will not survive without water. We cannot produce food without water.

In my recent talk to high school students of Holy Family Academy (HFA), I was so moved and literally cried after receiving their reactions on the watershed talk. As executive director of the Abacan River and Angeles Watershed Advocacy Council, Inc. (ARAW-ACI), one of my responsibilities is to spread the good news about water security, watershed conservation and reforestation. Indeed, it is quite surprising to hear young people who understand the substance of issues that are actually intended to protect their future. For people my age, let us not fear the unknown and avoid stereotyping, especially these days. Little that we know that millenials are more intelligent than we expect them to be. It seems like they care less of their environment but I was taken aback when I learned that a lot of them truly understand climate change issues. I guess Greta Thunberg has that much influence on them.

It is ARAW-ACI’s dream to see all Angelenos and Pampanguenos for that matter, informed and involved in rehabilitating our watersheds and in advocating for water security.

One of the ongoing projects of ARAW-ACI and the Angeles City LGU dubbed as Adopt-A-Watershed Reforestation Program (AWRP) continuously gained momentum after one of the biggest water distributors in Angeles City - the Balibago Waterworks System, Inc. (BWSI) - signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the adoption of 10 hectares of land inside the 527-hectare Angeles Watershed in Sapangbato.

BWSI is the 12th among the private sector groups or companies that have adopted planting sites in support of the city reforestation program. The list includes Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., Pampanga Press Club, Holy Family Academy Batch ‘80, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians Pampanga Chapter, Dela Salle Alumni Association Pampanga Chapter, Edithe Arceo and Family, Jocson College, Rotary Club of Angeles Kuliat, Porac Bank, Scrubbed.Net, and Central Luzon Media Association. Soon the roster will include the Angeles City Water District.

During the MOA signing with BWSI held at Oasis Restaurant on October 11, BWSI Criselle P. Alejandro said that their company has first-hand experience of the changes occurring in nature. “Our deepwells that once produced crystal clear water are now spouting out water tinged with iron and manganese and the volume of water that we once used to extract has been dwindling and lessening year after year, requiring us to shut down some of our pumping stations,” Alejandro said. She added that was “overjoyed” when she learned about what ARAW-ACI is doing and that joy was even elevated when she learned that the reforestation work is done with the Aeta community of Sapangbato.

She is actually giving a testimonial to the study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 1987 and in 2011 in 76 municipalities and cities in Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, and Nueva Ecija. JICA concluded that in 2025, several cities including Angeles and City of San Fernando are among those that will be at high risk of losing water. And because of this pronouncement, Angelenos rallied together led by ARAW-ACi to ensure that we reforest our watershed, re-charge our water sources and ensure that we will have enough water in the future.

The journey for this shared responsibility and the realization of the importance to rehabilitate our watershed is indeed challenging, not only for ARAW-ACI but for the city government as well. Informing others about the cause is one thing - but asking them to be involved is another challenge.

But there are thighs we cannot simply take for granted. So, no matter how difficult the barriers are, still we work hard to overcome those barriers. For the advocacy to protect and rehabilitate the Angeles Watershed, ARAW-ACI is working almost 10 hours a day to accommodate invitations for watershed talks, tours at the watershed, tree-planting activities, and coordination with various government agencies.

Somebody or at least one group must be there in the core to hold the foundation in a cause. ARAW-ACI is there exactly doing that if only to revive our forests. In 2023, the group will launch a huge and integrated green campaign dubbed as SUBLI or Subli ing Upaya, Biyaya, at Lugud king Indung Gabun. The SUBLI green campaign will roll-out a school caravan from February to August 2023. The school caravan will cover 30 public schools and 20 private schools. There will be documentary film showing, watershed talk, and student engagements that aims to create awareness for the protection of the environment.


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