Meet Davao’s Watershed Warriors

Vol. VII, No. 12 April 29-May 5, 2007

DAVAO CITY — They’re young, intelligent, committed — and they have the world on their shoulders.

Meet Davao City’s “Watershed Warriors.”

They are select students from different schools in the city. They are members of the Watershed Management Youth Council (WMYC), a group founded six years ago that aims to protect the city’s watershed, which produces what some said is the best tap water in the country and one of the best tasting in the world.

Early this month, they participated in commemorating Earth Month through a youth camp, which was organized by the group and sponsored by the Davao City Water District. The theme was “A Call for Action on Climate Change.”

One of the activities was an orientation for the youth on how to protect the watershed, which is suffering from abuse by human and industrial activities.

“I learned so much and became more mature because I participated in this important mission,” said Jeremiah Caballero, a WMYC member.

“Wherever I go, I try to impart to my fellow youths the importance of the watershed,” said Shenna Maranguit, 20, a WMYC facilitator.

The youth environmentalists also tackled the issue of banana plantations and their aerial spraying of pesticides near the Lipada

Watershed. Residents and other environmentalists have likewise complained about these sprayings. The WMYC says it is committed to fight aerial spraying and determined to work for changes at the environment department.

“Davao’s water is the second cleanest water all over the country,” said Betty Cabazares, executive director of the Kinaiyahan Foundation, an environment NGO. “There must be an aggressive learning about the watershed because only few knows about it.”

As part of te WMYC’s Earth Month activity, members visited the Tamayong area of the watershed and saw for themselves the consequences of human activities that disturb the balance of nature, such as the indiscriminate throwing of garbage and littering.

The WMYC has earned recognitions for its advocacy. Last year, they were chosen as one of the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO) in the country, an award given by the National Youth Commission, for its campaign titled “Youth Working Towards Saving Davao Drinking Water, the Source of Life.”

The campaign, according to a statement from the Davao City Water District, “summarizes the youth’s constant pressure and lobbying efforts to institutionalize their concern on watershed issues stipulated in their open letter which calls on the government to strengthen laws, enact appropriate and useful forestry laws, enforce current policies on illegal logging and protected areas, provide young and healthy forest guards, to prosecute errant government personnel who violate forestry laws and to stop immediately the banana and pineapple plantation expansions in the third congressional district.”

The campaign successfully lobbied for the declaration by the City Councol of theTamugan-Panigan and other watershed areas as “Environmentally Critical Areas.”

In 2004, the WMYC also received the TAYO award for its campaign, “Saving Davao City’s Drinking Water.” This initiative, the DCWD said, “was cited for their vigilant action in pressuring the City Council to issue a resolution for the immediate stoppage of the banana plantation operating within Mt. Apo Natural Park last July 10, 2003 after two years of lobbying and mobilizing efforts.”

At their early age, the WMYC environmentalists are very much aware of the big issues concerning the environment. “I would like to encourage all the youths out there to please join us,” said Patrick Pag-ong, WMYC’s president. “The next generation will benefit from what we do now.

For WMYC member Daniel Arpafo, the group’s president last year, his contribution to helping the environment does not end with his tenure. “I will continue what I have begun,” he said. “I will protect nature. I will protect the watershed.” (Alberto P. Egot Jr./

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