Laguna de Bay
Laguna de Bay is the largest inland wetland in the Philippines, located beside the country’s capital –Metro Manila-, and it is considered a major lifeline for the more than 15 million people living in its basin. The lake is an indispensable source of water for fishing, irrigation, power supply, recreation, navigation and domestic use. However, is in a critical condition. Development activities in its vast watershed continue to exert pressure on the ecological integrity of the Lake, which is also largely affected by the water quality of the rivers and streams that drain into it.
One of the major river tributaries of Laguna de Bay is the Pangil River, where the 14-hectare Panguil River Eco-Tourism Park is located. Managed by the Local Government Unit of the Municipality of Pangil, it was established in 2009 through funding from the World Bank in partnership with the Municipal Development Fund Office of the Department of Finance and the Laguna Lake Development Authority, under its Laguna de Bay Institutional Strengthening and Community Participation (LISCOP) Project.
The eco-park features a combination of a river ecosystem, waterfalls, lush forested areas and rich biodiversity, and offers amenities and activities to visitors – 70,000 every year (pre-pandemic numbers).
The Laguna de Bay, and particularly Pangil River basin, host a rich array of biodiversity and provide notable ecosystem services. It provides freshwater, food and genetic resources; it regulates air and water quality; helps adapt to climate impacts, such as floods and storms; and provides habitats for wildlife.
The eco-park features a variety of ecosystems within its 14-hectare land area. During one of the activities of the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. (SCPW), the Wetlands BioBlitz, the participants were able to identify several species of flora and fauna (avifauna, entomofauna, etc.). The participants recorded a total of 16 bird species, 19 flora species, several species of insects belonging to 8 orders, phytoplankton, and other benthic fauna.
Philippine Serpent Eagle
Philippine Magpie Robin
The eco-park has become a major tourist destination in the province of Laguna, providing not only a refuge for wildlife but also for people – it serves as a hub for local communities to connect with nature and foster social ties.
The park’s contributions extend beyond its ecological value, as it supports people’s physical and mental health, and their overall wellbeing. The park serves as a source of pride for the community and enhances the spirit of the place. Furthermore, in terms of economic value, the eco-park generates income for the municipality through tourism. By balancing conservation and sustainable tourism, the Pangil Eco-Tourism Park serves as a model for successful community-based eco-tourism initiatives.
The eco-park faces various threatening processes that can adversely affect its ecosystems. Among the significant threats is the improper solid waste management that not only affects the eco-park but the whole municipality. To counteract this issue, the SCPW initiated the “Sachet Recovery Project” (SRP) prior to the Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project. The SRP aims to decrease the volume of plastic sachets and single-use plastics that are incorrectly disposed of in water bodies.
Moreover, water pollution from the untreated wastewater discharged from the eco-park’s restrooms and facilities is another important concern. A wastewater treatment facility, or the use of nature based solutions –green filters- would help to mitigate this problem.
The SCPW has implemented several environmental activities in the municipality of Pangil in Laguna, including the CEPA (Communication, Capacity Building, Education, Participation and Awareness) events and activities such as Youth Ecological Camps, Youth Network Congresses, and Wetland BioBlitz.
The Youth Ecological Camp is a three-day event that targets high school students in the area. It is composed of learning sessions, group dynamics, field work, action planning workshops for a school- or community- based activity that they will implement and present it to their school head and local government for endorsement and support. The Youth Network Congress is an annual gathering of eco-camp graduates, where accomplishments from the past year are reported and activities for the ensuing year are planned. The Youth Network has over a thousand members across more than 120 high schools in the Laguna de Bay area.
The other activity is the Wetlands BioBlitz – an informal and fun way to get stakeholders and community together, to create a profile of the variety of living and non-living attributes of the ecosystem in a wetland area. The participants collect data on water quality, hydrology, fauna and flora, and they also conduct a Rapid Assessment on Wetland Ecosystems Services (RAWES).
As part of the Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project, the SCPW will showcase nature-based solutions to solve water pollution and promote ecosystem restoration, through the creation of Green Filters in the Pangil River Eco Park. Green filters are inspired by nature, using aquatic plants that remove nutrients (pollutants) from the wastewater, preventing the pollution of rivers and freshwater ecosystems.