They don’t pack high-tech gear nor high-caliber weapons, but the Dumagat rangers of Ipo Watershed patrol Bulacan’s forests like it was their home. Because it is.
Sporting simple tools and gear donated by mountaineers, the rangers work day and night to protect the Sierra Madre mountain range against illegal loggers, slash-and-burn farmers and charcoal collectors. With little gear and basic pay, they’ve had a tough run, but they finally got help.
Last 10 January, the watershed’s rangers received solar lamps and mobile chargers from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-Philippines) and AVolution, a digital signage solutions company whose core business is to supply and install LED screens across the Philippines. A total of 52 lamps were made available to the rangers to augment their capacity to patrol at night, while allowing them to charge their mobile phones and other communications gear, increasing the range of foot patrols.
“Our LED There be Light initiative illuminates distant communities and helps locals do their jobs without relying on dangerous, dirty and expensive kerosene or carbide lamps,” explains AVolution's President and General Manager Lani Kimber Campos. AVolution also gave 200 solar lamps to farmers in Brgy. Tiniguiban, Gumaca, Quezon Province last year.
Ipo Watershed, together with the Angat and Umiray watersheds, supply 98% of the water consumed by Metro Manila. Situated northeast of the sprawling Metropolis, it covers 7161 hectares in Norzagaray and San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan, plus Rodriguez in Rizal.
Sadly, the watershed’s forests are in full retreat. Though protected by several proclamations including a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title for the Indigenous Dumagat tribes of the watershed, the area is pockmarked by patches of bare soil. From 85%, forest cover plummeted to 40% in recent years. The government and groups like the UP Mountaineers have been helping locals protect the watershed.
WWF and its allies, which include Banco de Oro, Samsung and the Sunlife Foundation, recently joined the fray. “The deployment of solar lamps is just part of a larger initiative to protect the entire watershed,” explains WWF-Philippines Project Manager Paolo Pagaduan, who formerly oversaw a watershed conservation project in Rizal.
“We’re now working to develop a sustainable watershed management plan, form an effective management body for all micro-watersheds, aid groundwater recharge, minimize erosion and siltation, mitigate pollution through waste management, conduct regular monitoring and the evaluation of interventions and replant denuded areas to provide livelihood opportunities and maximize forest recovery. Simply put, we’re going beyond tree-planting,” he explains.
But the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and the rangers were visibly excited to try out their new solar lamps and chargers at the turnover ceremonies.
“Sometimes we spend up to three days patrolling these mountains,” gestures veteran ranger Bayani Cruz to the distant mountains east of Ipo Dam, already scarred by kaingin or slash-and burn farmers. “Conditions are rough, especially during the monsoon season, when rivers swell and trails turn to streams – but we always do our duty. We earn only one hundred Pesos per day – but we don’t do this just for money. We are Dumagat. We were born in the forest and we are just protecting our homes.”
Through the efforts of the aptly-named Bayani, plus the rest of the rangers protecting the Ipo Watershed, Metro Manila’s 12 million residents can rest easy, knowing there will always be water to drink.
AVolution representatives Lani Campos (President and General Manager) and Maria Lea Bermudez (VP for Sales and Marketing) join WWF-Philippines representatives Paolo Pagaduan (Project Manager), Dr. Ria Lambino (VP for Sustainable Production) and Joel Palma (CEO). (Gregg Yan / WWF)
For more information:
Mr. Paolo Pagaduan
Ipo Watershed Project Manager, WWF-Philippines
Mr. Gregg Yan
Communications and Media Manager, WWF-Philippines