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Lake Voices: Mr. Richmond P. Samson, The Philippines

Mr. Richmond P. Samson, Pangil River Eco Park

The establishment of Green Filters at the Pangil River Eco Park is one of the two Frontrunner Initiatives of the Living Lakes Biodiversity and Climate Project (LLBCP) in The Philippines. The Green Filters facility, which is expected to be operational in early 2024 and is being implemented by the Society for the Conservation of Philippine Wetlands, Inc. (SCPW), will showcase solutions to solving water pollution issues and promote ecosystem restoration in the Panguil River Eco Park in Pangil, Laguna.

 

Constructed wetland (or Green Filters) is a good example of Nature-based Solution (NbS). It is a “natural” way of treating sewage. Constructed wetland is an appropriate technology for areas where land is available or inexpensive, population density is very low, and skilled labor is missing. Green Filters are typically artificial, plant-based wastewater treatment systems that can be described as water channels whose surface is covered with aquatic plants or a natural system of floating macrophytes. It is characterized by low initial investment costs as well as low operation and maintenance costs.

This interview is part of “Lake Voices”, a series of interviews with lake managers from around the world that are regularly published in “Lakes Letter”, the Living Lakes newsletter. Click here to sign up.

 

Q: Introduce yourself and what is your relation to Panguil River Eco Park?

 

I am Richmond P. Samson, the current General Manager of the Panguil River Eco Park here in Pangil, Laguna. I started working at the Eco Park in 2015 as an Administrative Aide IV, then became the Administrative and Financial Officer in 2016. In October 2022, I was appointed as the Acting General Manager of the park.

 

Panguil River Eco Park is a 14-hectare park located at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains and is set along the Panguil River which is one of the major tributaries of Laguna de Bay, the largest inland water body in the country. Established in 2009, it is one of the major tourist destinations not only in the municipality but in the province of Laguna. Aside from being a conservation area for natural resources and wildlife habitat, it also provides an essential connection of local communities to nature, and serves as venue for other social gatherings. Through recreation and tourism, the eco- park plays an important role in people’s physical health, well-being, and development.

Q: Why do you think the Panguil River and Laguna de Bay need to be protected and restored?

 

Being one of the municipalities around Laguna de Bay, the lakeshore communities derive many benefits from the lake as well as from Pangil River. Laguna de Bay provides fish, water for domestic use including drinking water and for irrigation, among others. The eco-park features a combination of a river ecosystem, waterfalls, lush, forested areas, and rich biodiversity. It offers amenities and facilities including a pavilion, hanging bridge, camping grounds huts and guest rooms, and offers activities such as river tubing, camping, swimming, and others.

 

Annually, the average number of park visitors is around 70, 000 persons. This 12.5 kilometer-long Panguil River is the centerpiece attraction in the park where locals and tourists alike enjoy swimming or just dipping in its cool waters. In order for these benefits to be sustained, it is imperative that the river ecosystem is protected and some areas restored.

 

This is one of the major reasons why the Local Government of Pangil, through our Mayor, the Hon. Gerald Aritao, did not hesitate to support and agree to partner with the SCPW and the Living Lakes Network. The Green Filters is envisioned help address water pollution from untreated wastewater from the toilets and other facilities in the park.

 

Q: What future do you imagine for Panguil River Eco Park and Laguna de Bay?

 

At the Inception Meeting with SCPW early this year, we were briefed that LLBCP envisions that the conservation and restoration of wetlands and the protection of related biodiversity is improved in the long term. We are already beneficiaries of several training and capacity-building activities for the community and stakeholders under this project. We were also able to visit the Constructed Wetlands Facility in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental, and we were able to appreciate the importance of NbS and having our own constructed wetlands here at the Ecopark.

 

Through LLBCP, I am very optimistic that people will notice the physical and ecological improvements in the Eco Park and the Panguil River. I can also foresee the behavioral changes and skills improvements of the park staff and the community as a whole with their increased awareness and appreciation of wetlands in the area. As the Eco Park manager, I will continue to actively support the Project and learn more about wetland conservation and NbS. I am very thankful to all the partners and I can’t wait for the Panguil River Eco Park constructed wetlands to be a showcase and a model for other parks and communities not only in Laguna but in the Philippines.

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