After two decades of aquaculture expansion in Taal Lake, fishkills now become a common occurrence as water quality deteriorates and open fisheries drastically declines. Added to this are problems in waste and sewage management and the looming widespread poverty stalking the area.
While a new Taal Volcano Protected Landscape (TVPL) Management Plan has been approved to protect and conserve Taal Lake and its environs, the challenge is its full implementation. Thus, PUSOD, Inc., an environmental non-government organization has tapped leading telecom company Globe Telecom for the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance implementation of the plan.
“We decided to join hands with PUSOD in this undertaking to affect positive change in the environment by using the company’s core competency which is ICT. Globe believes that ICT is such a powerful tool in addressing key environmental issues. By providing short messaging service and computer portals to PUSOD, Globe would be able to ensure Taal stakeholder access to vital information as well as their participation in the implementation of the TVPL Management Plan,” said Rob I. Nazal, Head of Globe Corporate Social Responsibility.
Under the agreement, Globe will provide PUSOD with one-year TxtConnect Plan 5000 facility. TxtConnect is an information broadcast medium that can send information to every registered subscriber of the service. It offers cost-effective real-time announcements and updates to the organization that would revolutionize the dissemination of information regarding the TVPL management plan.
Globe also turned over some 2,000 Bridging Communities SIM Cards to PUSOD for better stakeholder management. The Globe BridgeCom SIM cuts regular rates in half, thereby, giving users a chance to enjoy a very low P0.05 per second rate for Globe/TM-to-Globe/TM calls and P0.50 per text.
PUSOD is part of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) which trades and disseminates information to its members composed of the provincial governments of Batangas and Cavite, fisher folk communities and fish cage owners.
PUSOD plans to disseminate the management plan, in print and digital and reconnect with over a thousand stakeholders through SMS with updates on the plan approval and implementation steps taken so far. It will also seek to mobilize citizen participation and contribution in areas where management is unable to make progress in implementation.
SMS allows for critical issues to be raised. It is also a bridge to learning web and email applications if the SMS refers to documents accessible only in those formats. Thus, PAMB decided to use the power of the mobile phone already in the hands of the majority of its members for management and governance and to integrate it with web and radio broadcast access.
“Mobile phones, and specifically SMS, are already in the hands of the majority of the residents in the Taal Lake Basin. They are already using it to take power over other aspects of their lives. It is time they use it to take power over the management of their shared resource and to share power with a government that has not previously been interacting with them except in patronizing ways and during election period,” said PUSOD President Enrique Nunez.
Likewise, Globe will provide applicable internet connectivity solutions for three computer portals, namely Mataasnakahoy, Tanauan, and Talisay for the Taal Basin Management website.
At present, Nunez said that notices are hand delivered, minutes are in hard copy and distributed only during meetings, and frequently, there is no time to study documents before they have to be approved. Thus, SMS connectivity and integrated web and radio applications would allow for greater citizen participation, and push members of the PAMB to learn more efficient means to serve their constituencies and mobilize for the implementation of the plan. It will also lead to fulfillment of common goals by increased ownership of successes and progress, contribution in kind and in cash by concerned citizens and voluntary compliance when results and outcomes are well understood.
Taal Volcano Protected Landscape covers over 65,000 hectares, 24,000 hectares of which are occupied by the lake. It is listed in a book by Patricia Schultz as among the 1000 places to visit before you die. For an area that is only 60-80 kilometers from Manila, it is still sparsely populated, at under 350,000 – the aggregate figure of the population figures of the barangays forming the basin from the 2007 census.