The DENR-River Basin Control Office (RBCO) in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) organized the 1st National River Basin Summit as the kick-off activity of the 2022 World Water Day Celebration. With the theme “Groundwater: Making the Invisible, Visible”, the event highlighted the best practices on river basin management in the Philippines. The event was a hybrid activity with in-person participants attending the event in La Breza Hotel, Quezon City. A total of 220 stakeholders including NGAs, LGUs, students, and World Water Day Partners joined the event via Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube Live platforms. The Summit was held last March 15-16, 2022.
DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs and RBCO supervising Undersecretary, Atty. Jonas R. Leones delivered the welcome message. He emphasized that addressing the problems of our river basins is important in providing solutions to issues besetting the water sector. He also mentioned that we have found more ways to properly manage our river basins by using them as sources of hydroelectric power, irrigation, and additional water supply for domestic use, among others.
DENR Secretary Jim O. Sampulna stressed during his Keynote Message that we must continue to strive harder and contribute actions to address environmental challenges that may come in the future. He stated that we can address the evolving needs of our river basins and formulate specific actions using a comprehensive framework, the Integrated Water Resources Management Approach and implementation of the Integrated River Basin Management and Development Master Plans.
There were six (6) topics presented during the Summit. National Water Resources Board (NWRB) Executive Director Dr. Sevillo D. David, Jr., shared that the assessment of groundwater is essential for its protection and sustainable use to meet the basic needs of the people and adapt to the changing environment. DENR-Climate Change Service Director, Dir. Elenida Basug presented the Build Back Better Task Force: Updates and Initiatives. Lessons from the Build Back Better Task Force show that we need a coordinated mechanism in the implementation of development measures to ensure that we address the needs of different sectors in risk reduction and management. Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council (CDORBMC) Chairperson, Dr. Hilly Ann Roa-Quiaoit, presented the Best Practices in River Basin Governance: The Cagayan de Oro River Basin Experience. Dr. Roa-Quiaoit demonstrated that partnership/collaboration is vital in effective river basin management. She emphasized that having a good mix of experts and active involvement of the community are important in designing models for river basin governance. CDORBMC is an NGO-led river basin organization.
Pampanga River Basin Committee Vice-Chairperson and NEDA 3 Regional Director Gina T. Gacusan presented the topic, Best Practices in River Basin Governance: The Pampanga River Basin Experience. She stressed that responsible governance through multi-sectoral planning, stakeholder participation, transparency, and accountability in decision-making are requisites of effective river basin management. PRBC is a Regional Development Council-led river basin organization. Meanwhile, the Water Security Advisor of the USAID Safe Water Project, Ms. Rachel Beja, presented the Integrated and Inclusive Water Security Framework. Ms. Beja shared that integrated and inclusive water security framework develops strategies based on the problems in water supply and sanitation, and water resources management. Finally, Dr. Klaus Schmitt, Senior Advisor of the “Ecosystem-based Management and Ecosystem Services Valuation in Two River Basins in the Philippines” or the E2RB Project, shared examples of ecosystem-based adaptation measures for flood prevention and water provision.
Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning, and Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects, Asec. Marcial C. Amaro, Jr. gave the Summit’s closing message. He mentioned that we have come a long way in terms of trying to understand the ecosystems that are contained within the river basin. He stressed that we need to identify the appropriate measures on how we can best provide for conservation, and development that are people-centered with effective governance in place.
RBCO Executive Director Nelson V. Gorospe summarized the major learnings during the 2-day Summit, as follows: (1) attention to science and evidence-based knowledge, (2) support/strengthen institutional arrangements of river basin organizations in the management of the river basins, and (3) recognize the interlinkages of ecosystems and communities. Thus, responses and strategies should not be fragmented. These should be well-coordinated, inclusive, and consistent, by promoting nature-based solutions, particularly ecosystem-based adaptation, as low-cost, effective responses in addressing our water resources’ problems and encouraging the exchange of knowledge and experiences. (Lorraine Anne E. Quiñones)