Globe Bridging Communities harnesses technology for warnings on Taal Lake water quality, support livelihood of fisher folks

Posted: July 5, 2013 in Tech

The Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) in the Batangas Province—including the Volcano Island, lake water and peripheries which spans thirteen municipalities and three cities—is a source of livelihood and provides for around 2,000 fisherfolk.

“We can’t underscore enough the importance of maintaining the water quality of the lake within Class B,” said Ann Hazel Javier, Executive Director of PUSOD, Inc., an environmental non-profit organization based in Lipa City, actively involved in ensuring that the TVPL Management Plan 2010-2020 is implemented. The TVPL Management Plan, approved by stakeholders in 2009, is the blueprint of what should be done by the TVPL Protected Area Management Board.

PUSOD, with the support from Globe Bridging Communities, the corporate social responsibility arm of Globe Telecom, is blazing trails in environment conservation initiatives by utilizing information and communication technology (ICT) tools in implementing an E-governance plan that hopes to keep the lake and its peripheries solid waste-free.

According to Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Regional Director Remedios Manalang, “In 2010, the total production for the entire lake was 82,489 metric tons. In 2011, when there were incidents of fishkill, the lake only produced 78,077 metric tons.”

Javier shared that many lessons were learned during the fishkill in May 2011: there was no existing mechanism to rapidly disseminate information to fisherfolks on the status of water quality. Similarly, there was no mechanism for update on the status of the implementation of the management plan.

The incidence of fishkill, which occurred between May to September 2011, proved to be a blow to the livelihood of local communities surrounding the lake.

“The partnership with Globe has been helpful in supporting, monitoring and mobilizing human and material resources for the implementation of the TVPL Management Plan” added Javier. The partnership, inked in November 2011, provides PUSOD with computer portals and TXT CONNECT, a short messaging service which offers cost-effective real-time announcements and updates to disseminate information to TVPL’s provincial leaders, fisher folk communities, and fish cage owners.

Added Manalang, “The PUSOD e-governance project contributed to helping keep the water level of Taal Lake within the normal ranges. Through the program, they provided stakeholders with information they needed. At the same time, we could also send messages through PUSOD if we want to make clarifications or corrections on water quality advisories.”

Advisories sent twice a week through the E-governance program informs fisher folk communities and key stakeholders such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) of possible threat of fish kill based on findings from water samples, urging them to schedule early harvests.

“The advisories inform fisher folks and other stakeholders about the water quality and other danger signs to enable them to make the right decisions regarding their harvest and other planned activities” explained Javier.

“The messaging system has also helped push compliance on various regulations related to solid waste or fish cage management in Taal Lake” added Javier. “The technology-led solution or E-governance program also encourages the PAMB and Local Governments to take a second look at decisions which may affect Taal Lake’s water quality. The Unified Rules and Regulations for Fisheries (URRF) of TVPL is currently being revised. PUSOD is a member of the technical drafting committee of the URRF.

According to Yoly Crisanto, Head for Corporate Communications, “More than just reinforcing our commitment to environmental conservation, we are glad that ICT platforms help enhance PUSOD’s conservation activities.” When the partnership was sealed in 2011, Globe collaborated with PUSOD to stage the Globe Adventure Taal Race for Clean Water, a bike, kayak, and run challenge held to raise funds for the establishment of water quality monitoring systems for the lake. “Aside from being a fun event, the challenge also educated Globe employees on vital eco-systems which impact businesses.”

Currently on the priority list is the establishment of additional water quality monitoring systems in various sites surrounding the protected area. Shared Javier, “The DENR, through the Environmental Management Board (EMB), will provide 20 additional water quality monitoring stations and field personnel to widen the area of coverage and get more accurate readings on water quality. The monitoring stations have already been identified and the EMB is currently ironing out details to put systems in place including coordination with Protected Area Superintendent Office.”

Batangas is one of the areas where all of the other advocacies of the company–good governance (i-Lead), excellence in social services delivery (i-Access), entrepreneurship (i-Prosper), and active citizenship through volunteerism (i-Give)–are all implemented, making Batangas a Community of Practice (CoP). Globe continues to support PUSOD’s E-governance plan in 2013 while a Sustainable Tourism Program is set to be launched in the Taal Lake Conservation Center, highlighting leisure activities and tourism offerings which will conform to the TVPL.

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