Ilog Ko, Bilay Ko (My River, My Life): A River Development Initiative
Dagupan City Local Government

The Problem

Dagupan is a coastal City with seven (7) river tributaries crisscrossing within and across its territory. The City’s primary economic backbone is the aquaculture industry. Milkfish, locally known as Bangus is the prime aquaculture product of Dagupan. Before the implementation of the initiative, the water quality of our rivers is in its poorest state because of various environmental concerns that affected our rivers.

According to a scientific study made by the City on its aquaculture industry, as early as 1985, the rivers and coastal waters of Dagupan City have been declared as overfished. In 1990, the Catch per Unit Effort was reported to have dropped to 1 kilogram per fisher per day. This triggered the fisherfolk to use non-traditional means of fishing that is more yielding. As a result, fish pen operation became the most popular aquaculture practice because it is more economical and more profitable, compared to other traditional means.

However, this practice was found to have negative effects on the environment. Fishpen operation, a major aquaculture practice in the past was identified to be a primary contributor to the downgrade of the quality of our river waters.

Feed waste, a by-product of fish pen operation is a proteinaceous material, which generates a number of metabolic by-products that were harmful if not toxic to aquatic life. These include ammonia, nitrate, sulfide, and methane. While aquaculture farmers pushed further their stocking densities, the use of artificial feeds became necessary throughout the culture period. Aside from this, the number of solid wastes in the City rivers have increased due to the presence of illegal settlers along the area.

The lack of toilet facilities of the informal settlers along the river has brought some health risks due to the bacterial contamination of the rivers. Their source of potable water was also polluted.

Aside from health hazards, uncontrolled fishpen operations aggravated the City’s vulnerability to floods. Fishpens installed in the rivers hamper the free flow of water during rainy season. In effect, river waters overflow causing floods that affects almost all people of Dagupan.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The results of the initiative were gradually noticed by the local fisherfolk after a couple of months of implementation. Aside from the improvement on the physical attributes of the river, further improvements were observed. From a harvest of two kilos of fish per four (4) hours of fishing, catch rate went up to five kilos of fish per 4 hours of fishing. This recorded rate was calculated using the traditional fishing methods such as banwit (hook and line); skylab (fyke net); batikwas (traditional fish net); and sayorsor (scissor net for shrimps). Due to this, the use of traditional fishing method regained its appeal to fisherfolk. This data proved that their livelihood was not jeopardized even if their fishpens were completely dismantled.

Another indicator of the impact of the project is the improved biodiversity in the area. According to initial inventory on Dagupan City’s flora and fauna, the eight (8) hectares of mangrove forests mostly located along the river areas increased into fifteen hectares. The rivers of Dagupan became more conducive for habitat of 21 mangrove species. Because of its improved condition, additional 35,000 propagules were planted.

Aside from the abovementioned statistics, the reach of the impacts of the initiatives can be gauged in terms of the various awards the City has received related to our river rehabilitation initiative. Since the implementation of the river rehabilitation project, Dagupan City has gained various recognition in the area of good environmental governance. The Local Government of Dagupan has been recently adjudged as best LGU (local government unit) which initiated environmental project in river rehabilitation. The recognition was given in the Likas Yaman (Natural Treasures) Awards conferred by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

In addition, Dagupan City was also given exceptional citation by the same environmental award-giving body for its success in the river cleanup project with the inclusion of the river cruise project along the Dawel-Watak River. Recently, Dagupan City’s river rehabilitation initiative won bronze awards in category E (population over 400,000) in the Livable Communities Awards 2011 held in Songpa, Seoul, South Korea. The various awards received by the City because of this initiative became a source of pride and honor for all Dagupeños.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The initiative started with a consultation meeting with every barangay (community) where the heads were encouraged to express their opinions and suggestions on the present condition of our rivers. This consultation meeting which was spearheaded by the City Mayor himself led to series workshops and seminars leading to the implementation of the River Rehabilitation Program. The stakeholders of the project were primarily the local fisherfolk. But as the project expanded, all Dagupeños became its stakeholders. However, the City Mayor could have not done it alone. He had the support of the whole local government in the project implementation. The City Council made the necessary legislative action for the implementation of the initiative with the formulation and passage of the Coastal Fisheries Resources Management Ordinance. The offices of the City Agriculture Office, City Engineer’s Office, City Planning and Development Office and Waste Management Division were the departments that spearheaded the execution of the plans. Same support was given by the Philippine National Police to ensure public order throughout the implementation especially during the dismantling of the fishpens and other illegal structures installed in the river system. Other National Government Agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources also extended technical assistance. Because of the noble objective of the project, support from the private sector came in during the implementation. Civic organizations such as the Junior Chamber International, Metro-Dagupan Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Dagupan, and various student organizations from the different universities in the City voluntarily participated in terms of providing man-power for mangrove planting activities. Local church communities also supported the initiative with the livelihood trainings they conducted for the families whose earnings will be affected by the dismantling of fishpens.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The initiative was implemented using different strategies. Among these strategies is the community engagement strategy with the objective of mobilizing the community to be part of the decision-making and execution of the initiative. With this in mind, the City institutionalized a mechanism wherein the sentiments and aspirations of the people are taken into consideration. One of these mechanisms is the establishment of the City Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (CFARMC) and the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (BFARMC). These institutions are mandated to solicit opinions, reactions, and suggestions useful in decision-making. One important activity is the conduct of series of consultative dialogues and focused group discussions (FGD) that were participated in by fisherfolk through the BFARMC. During the consultation dialogue, every barangay (community) is requested to present their concerns for discussion which will be consolidated for presentation to the CFARMC. The collected results from the BFARMC barangay (community) dialogues are then presented to the whole City level council where a set of CFARMC officers will make final comments. The consolidated concerns became the subject of a technical and discussion paper presented during the “Ilog ko, Bilay ko” (My River, My Life) Symposium. The final commitment across all sectors came in the form of a covenant that was signed by all stakeholders. These initiatives gave way to the orderly clean up of the river systems in the City of Dagupan where each stakeholder had an important role to play. With the process in place, stakeholders were able to understand the importance and urgency of this policy action upon their lives.

Another strategy used in the implementation is the social obligation approach. This strategy was derived from the theoretical framework formulated by Karl Polanyi, a Hungarian philosopher and political economist known for his views on the relationship of reciprocity and redistribution in achieving social change. This was integrated in the City’s battle cry, “Our City, Our Shared Responsibility.” The City Government made the citizens understand that if they want clean rivers, they should do their part in doing so. That is why the citizens of the City, especially those who live along riverbanks and derive their living from coastal resources made individual sacrifices to clean the rivers. A clear example of this is their participation in the one-year moratorium on fishpen operations. The moratorium affected their livelihood, but they derived more benefits from the program in the end.

The strategies used were established by the City Mayor and was collectively realized by the whole local government of Dagupan City.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
It took Dagupan City close to eighteen months (18) to fully implement the plan. On September 23, 2010, the “Ilog Ko, Bilay Ko”, (My River, My Life) Symposium was conducted to gather public suggestions for rationalizing the aquaculture sector for revenue-generation and sustainable livelihood. Public opinions were also heard to ensure broad-based implementation. Covenant signing between the stakeholders and the local government was subsequently made, including stakeholder’s commitment to the plan. Stakeholders made pledges to help the government sustain the vitality of the rivers after the rehabilitation.

In the succeeding months of October until December, the initiative to rehabilitate the river was put into action. Massive river clean ups were made and all fishpens and other illegal structures in the river were totally dismantled. River dredging was also administered during this period to deepen the heavily silted rivers. Daily monitoring of water quality was conducted after three months of vigorous clean up operations.

On April 9, 2011, as the City celebrated her Bangus (milkfish) Festival, the Dawel River Cruise was launched. The cruise is the City’s newest eco-tourism attraction that features the crystalline rivers and lush green mangrove forests of Dagupan. This serves as the City Government’s trophy for the hard work they have made to implement the river clean up initiative. After the implementation of the initiative, the people of Dagupan now treat the rivers not only as their source of livelihood, but also as source of pride and honor.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Implementing the colossal task of cleaning the rivers is not a walk in the park for the local government of Dagupan City. Several challenges were experienced. The main obstacle is the limited resources of the City in completing the initiative. As a solution, the City sought help from different national government agencies. The City borrowed heavy equipment from the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Provincial Government of Pangasinan for its dredging operations. The City requested the Department of Labor and Employment to provide for the wages of additional manpower needed in the river clean-ups. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided the City with science experts to assist in the project implementation.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
A lot of resources were needed to implement this initiative. One of which is the financial resources. This resource was taken from the City’s general fund. Approximately 4,000,000.00 PHP (91,894.61 USD) was used by the City in the implementation. Majority of this amount was used to purchase fuels for dredging operations and dismantling of fishpens. The technical resources which came from national agencies were used on the scientific aspect of the materialization of the initiative. Heavy equipment provided by the Provincial Government of Pangasinan and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were used by the City Engineer’s Office for massive tasks particularly dredging operations. Human resources were utilized to do the fieldwork such as dismantling of fishpens, collecting solid wastes in the river, planting mangroves, among others.

One beneficial thing about this initiative is that the salary of all of the 50 workers who worked for one month in the dismantling of fishpens and collection of solid wastes were paid by the Department of Labor and Employment. With this, the funding initially intended for manpower was used to finance other aspects of this initiative. Many institutions from the academe and civic groups also volunteered their time and effort in planting mangroves. Technical resources from national agencies were given to the City for free. The dredging machines and other heavy equipment were also lent to the city for free by the Provincial Government and Department of Public Works and Highways. This also led to the smooth flow of implementation of every stage of the program. The initiative was completed according to the set time-table because of the availability of the needed resources.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Completing the initiative of cleaning the river is not the end, but only the beginning. The beginning of another heavy task of sustaining the cleanliness of the rivers so that future generations can still enjoy this gift of nature. That is why the City laid plans in sustaining the initiative. For the financial aspect, the city will allocate funds from its annual budget for the preservation of the rivers. Some of it will go to different activities such as river dredging, mangrove reforestation activities, and capacity building for our personnel in charge in maintaining the cleanliness of our rivers. Livelihood training and provision of fishing equipment will be provided to the local fisherfolk to sustain the social and economic aspects of their lives. Livelihood and titled resettlements were also provided to the relocated informal settlers along the river areas. Strict enforcement of the Coastal Fisheries Resources Management Ordinance and other related local laws will ensure institutional sustainability of the initiative. Fish wardens were trained and deployed by the city to protect our rivers from all possible threats. Additionally, the City aims to double the 15 hectares of mangrove forest in the river areas to sustain the environmental stability of Dagupan City’s flora and fauna.

Starting this coming year 2012, the city is planning to charge fees on those who will ride the Dawel River Cruise. It will soon feature a floating restaurant with water-resistant audio-visual facilities, day spa cruise and serenading local musicians. Add-ons such as kayak rentals, souvenir shops, snack bars and restrooms strategically placed in pit stops of the river cruise are also in the works. Fees that will be collected from these tourist attractions and services are expected to cover the expenses for maintenance and development of the river and also generate revenue for the city which can be used for other developmental projects.

The success story of Dagupan City’s river rehabilitation initiative has already been disseminated in other local government units in the country. As a proof, our case has been presented in the Land Use Forum held in Iloilo City which was organized by a German organization, The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in cooperation with the Department of Interior and Local Government. Because of this, other coastal local government units in the Visayas were able to learn from this initiative of our City.

We were also able to share our river rehabilitation initiative to the international community with our participation in the 2011 Livable Communities Awards held in Sungpa-gu South Korea. Dagupan City was able to bag two bronze awards in the whole city and project awards in Category E (Cities with population over 400, 000). Recently, the program was also presented in a conference during the COP 17 UNFCC Meeting in Durban, South Africa. Other local governments in the country have signified their interest to replicate our river rehabilitation initiative. Replication is very possible because this initiative is documented.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
In general, the initiative improved not only the rivers of the City but the whole natural environment. It also gave better economic opportunity for fisherfolks who benefit from the bounty of the rivers resulting to better life. Aside from this, environmental conscientization was instilled in the hearts and minds of Dagupeños. They have learned the value of shared responsibility by taking care and protecting our environment. Lastly, the City of Dagupan is now known not only for its best tasting milkfish, but also as a community home to the cleanest rivers in the Philippines.

Possibly, the most important lesson learned by the local government of Dagupan City in implementing this initiative is the importance of community participation. Engaging the local community to participate in a critical program is not an easy task. Much is needed to be done such as educational information campaign, community level consultations, to name a few, to achieve this particular objective. However, when community participation is secured, the implementation of an initiative becomes much easier. It cuts the work load into half, and manpower resources can be easily augmented through volunteer works. Resistance from affected sectors can be avoided if total community participation is attained. Proper management of resources is very crucial to maximize the impact of the same. With this, the local government ensured that the plans are followed, to avoiding wastage in the end. Lastly, political will is a very important tool. Decisive leadership coupled with direct consultation is key to successful accomplishment of desired outcomes.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Dagupan City Local Government
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Vladimir Mata
Title:   Dagupan City Administrator  
Telephone/ Fax:   63-075-515-4241
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   City Hall Complex, A. B. Fernandez Avenue, Dagupan City, Philippines
Postal Code:   2400
City:   Dagupan
State/Province:   Pangasinan
Country:   Philippines

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