Philippine Standard Time:

(The 2023 National River Basin Summit participants at Microtel, UP Technohub)

            Quezon City, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – River Basin Control Office (DENR-RBCO), in cooperation with Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), spearheaded the second National River Basin Summit (NRBS) at Microtel, U.P. Technohub last March 20-21, 2023 with this year’s event theme, “Accelerating Change through Partnership and Cooperation”. By doing so, the event aspires to encourage long-term collaborations between various organizations in the public and private sectors,to contribute to policy-making, strengthen public knowledge of water resource protection and conservation, make it readily available and accessible for the shareholders and the public ensuring water sustainability.

            The Summit was conducted through a hybrid format of both face-to-face and virtual participation. Similar to the arrangement from the previous year, three physical venues were assigned to the respective group of attendees. On both days, there were over 98 attendees in person, while 241 people watched the broadcast online on RBCO’s official Facebook page and on Zoom.

(Assistant Secretary Marcial C. Amaro, Jr. conveying his welcoming remarks)

            The Summit officially started with welcome remarks and keynote message delivered by the Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Foreign Assisted and Special Projects and Chair, Marcial C. Amaro, Jr. and Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs, Jonas R. Leones and, respectively. ASec. Amaro Jr. conveyed to the participants that the Summit was part of the Philippines’ celebration of the UN World Water Day 2023, a significant day to reflect on the shared responsibility in the protection and preservation one of the world’s most valuable resources, water. USec. Leones, in his video message, highlighted the significance of collaboration in ensuring the sustainability of water resources, noting that the National River Basin Summit platform provides a venue for the exchange of knowledge and information expertise on groundwater management and river basins.

(In photo: Dr. Richard Williams, Undersecretary Carlos Primo C. David, Ms. Pamela Louise M. Tolentino, Dr. Klaus Schmitt and Executive Director Nelson V. Gorospe)

            In the overall plenary sessions, seven key topics were presented by experts and resource persons from the government, international development partners of DENR, academe, and river basin councils. The presentations were comprised of updates and initiatives discussed by the resource persons in the following topics:

            The first session discussed was about the Catchment Scale Approach to Support River Basin Management presented by Ms. Pamela Louise M. Tolentino, a PhD student and Professor Dr. Richard Williams, bothfrom the University of Glasgow, Scotland in the United Kingdom. They outlined six different technologies that they have applied to the implementation of their river basin management catchment project and provided corresponding policy recommendations for each, offering that organizations can use their project data. However, they also emphasized that technology is only one of the ways to address the issue as nature can adapt to the changes over time through the natural process.  

            The second session was the Impact of Present and Future Climate on Water Resources and Demands for Agriculture, Domestic and Industry using the Water Evaluation and Planning (WEAP) Model in Cagayan River Basin by Dr. Orlando Balderama, a professor of Isabela State University.  He discussed how the outputs of the WEAP modelling they have tested locally can be employed as key inputs in developing water security index for the Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) in the Cagayan River Basin and Magat Sub-basin for planning and policy development.

            The third session was about the Climate Change Adaptation through Agro-ecological Adaptation: The Case of Manupali Watershed by Dr. Enrique Tolentino, Jr., a professor from University of the Philippines Los Baños. He emphasized the importance of taking a comprehensive and integrated approach—one that considers social, environmental, and economic goals and it should take into account both the present and the future. In addition, to properly organize sustainable restoration initiatives, we need also to take into account the farmers’ visions and aspirations for their own lands. It would then create several pathways for complex agro-forestry system development in order to have more stable land-use systems in the future.

            The fourth session was the Use of Open Data Kit” (ODK)/KoBo Toolbox: “The Sky is the limit” presented by Dr. Klaus Schmitt, the Principal Adviser of GIZ E2RB Project. Dr. Schmitt concluded in his presentation that ODK makes data collection, analysis and mapping easy, fast, and efficient. It will continue to grow further, with the help of the open-source community, and adapt in order to satisfy user needs in the world of technology.

            The fifth session was the Ilog-Hilabangan River Basin: Exploring EbA solutions for Water Resources Management presentationby For. Wilfredo Canto, OIC-CENRO Kabankalan. He stated that addressing the issues and concern lies on multi-sectoral cooperation among the members of the community through multi-sectoral approaches like private sector agreements, mobilizing the local partners, policy interventions, multi-stakeholders’ consultation and science-based technology solutions.

            The sixth session was about the Framework for Water Resources Management (WRM) Financing presented by Ms. Doreen Erfe, the Resource Mobilization Specialist of the Safe Water Project. She emphasized that WRM Financing is supported by data, involving a stakeholder approach, from the national to the local level. Additionally, she explained how inadequate management of a watershed has a direct effect on the constituents of local governments, which is why LGUs are considered as the primary duty bearers for WRM financing, bearing in mind that watershed management is a shared responsibility.

            Lastly, the presentation Water versus Development Possibility of Reconciliation by the Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz was the seventh session that concluded the Summit. According to Dr. Cruz, water demand has grown faster than the capacity of available water resources throughout time. He also added that criteria and indicators must be established while designing projects or programs and that water demand data should always be updated.

            Following each presentation, the assigned panelists provided their feedbacks, insights and assessments on the topic discussed.

(The resource speakers, panelists, moderators, river basin focal persons, and organizers of the 2023 NRBS Summit)

            DENR-RBCO Executive Director, Nelson V. Gorospe and OIC Country Director of GIZ Philippines, Dr. Björn Surborg concluded the Summit with their respective closing remarks. Mr. Gorospe expressed gratitude to the participants, resource speakers, panelists, moderators, river basin focal persons, private sectors, and organizers of the Summit for the two-day fruitful discussion of seven, diverse yet interrelated, topics. In addition, the OIC Country Director Mr. Surborg also emphasized that the theme of this year’s Summit is timely and appropriate and this information campaign disseminates academic and scientific knowledge to the general public and to decision-makers in an effort to improve the policies. Furthermore, Mr. Gorospe also provided a synthesis of the key points from the presentations and the ways forward:

  • Promote science and technology in river basin management through efficient data gathering, dissemination of models, and frameworks, and tools, and operationalization of the River Basin Integrated Information Management System.
  • Integrate ecosystem-based adaptation principles in river basin master plans and ecosystem financing framework in investment plans.
  • Support the finalization and roll-out of the Draft PES DAO and toolkit for water use.
  • Strengthen partnerships and cooperation to accelerate response on water resources management issues, and restoration of ecosystems.

            In retrospect, the first National River Basin Summit, which took place on March 15–16, 2022, primarily centered on groundwater efforts, with the theme “Groundwater: Making the Invisible, Visible”. There were also seven key topics discussed by well-known resource persons from different organizations.

            Should you be interested of the first National River Basin Summit proceedings, kindly email RBCO at For the most up-to-date information, you can also visit the official Facebook page (Nikka Lalaine L. Quirino)