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Water Resource Center for Northern Mindanao eyed

By Mike Baños

A five-year research and development project which ended with its final conference on July 12-13 at the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, is looking forward to the eventual establishment of a Water Resources Center for the region.

Launched on January 24, 2018, “Building up an Integrated Methodology for Water Resources Assessment and Management in Urban Coastal Areas of Mindanao Island, Southern Philippines” (BIMWAM) sough to develop a methodology to assess the water resources, potential, and quality in urban coastal areas, particularly in the municipalities of Opol and Medina, Misamis Oriental, by reinforcing local scientific capacities and expertise.

“BIMWAM has specifically established the methodology to assess the water resource’s potential and has trained human resources in the fields of hydrogeology and socio-economics,” said Fr. Mars P. Tan, S.J., Xavier Ateneo President, in his welcome remarks for the two-day final conference. “BIMWAM envisions setting up a Water Center in the Philippines to cater to the needs of the expertise in developing groundwater resources in the region.”

The BIMWAM Project

A partnership between three Belgian universities (Université Catholique de Louvain, Université de Mons, Université de Namur), and two Philippine universities (Xavier Ateneo, University of St La Salle), in collaborations with two local water service cooperatives (Medina Rural Waterworks and Sanitation Cooperative (MERWASCO) & OPOL Waterworks Association), and the local government, BIMWAM was funded by the Académie de Recherche et d’enseignement (ARES, formerly the Commission of Universities for Development or CUD). ARES is a Belgian organization of higher education establishments of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation which provides scholarships and training courses for developing countries such as the Philippines .

 “With science and collaboration and collaboration espoused by BIMWAM, our understanding and appreciation of the relationship between the resource and demand/consumption has taught us how to conserve and sustain the resource,” said Engr. Dexter S. Lo, Xavier Ateneo Vice President for Social Development. “Such as beautiful metamorphosis from our human needs to moral responsibilities, truly making science and technology matter to humanity and nature (sa katilingban ug sa kinaiyahan)!”

The BIMWAM Project Summarized

The project team included the following: Dr Guadalupe Calalang (BIMWAM South Coordinator), Dr Vincent Hallet (BIMWAM Project North Coordinator), Ignace Adant, Catherine Almaden, Ana Rosa Carmona, Pascal Goderniaux, Fr Mars Tan, and Doctoral CandidatesMark Alexis Sabines, and Adrian Boyett Agbon.

Dr Calalang said the project had three components: Hydrogeology; Socio-Economics; and Water  Network Engineering. Among its outputs were the methodology, two Filipino doctoral degree graduates (Doctorate in Hydrogeology at UNamur & UMons, and Doctorate in Economics at UCL), three Belgian MSc degree graduates (UCL, UMons, ULB) and the envisaged Water Resource Center.

In his closing remarks and synthesis, Mr. Lo pointed out how science and collaboration marked the two day conference.

“We discussed a lot of science: hydrogeology, engineering, social sciences, economics; demonstrated and presented the methodologies, results, and analysis; policy implications, economic opportunities, environmental ; responsible water stewardship, and its moral dimensions,” he noted.          

In particular, he mentioned how Prof Pascal’s discussion of the “disturbed water cycle”; Dr Sabines monitoring of aquifers and their characteristics as the key to understanding, seawater intrusion, groundwater modeling; Prof Ignace’s economics of water, infrastructure, quality and labelling; and Dr Agbon’s intensive survey on “specialization of water” (by use, by source), and social factors (gender, etc), and “nudging” to influence water consumers’ behavior, his presentation on climate change and its effects on water supply, and Engr. Ma. Nenita A. Jumao-as’ history, experience and challenges with the USC-Water Resource Center.

“I’d also like to mention the collaboration without which this project wouldn’t not have been made possible without the partners, as stressed by Fr. Mars, and HE Ambassador Michel Parys of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium (Manila), who cited the long, solid history of bilateral relationship between our nations (Belgium and Philippines,” Mr. Lo stressed.

 “As a teacher myself, the real prize of this, is we are able to involve our students, not just in graduate levels, but including the undergraduate students through the Service Learning Program,” he added.

“But the collaboration among universities is just the 1st level, the REAL, EFFECTIVE, and ESSENTIAL collaboration is with stakeholders – not just on the results, but along the process of our journey together such as the Opol Waterworks Association represented by Mr. Robert Enerio, and MERWASCO represented by Chairman of the Board of Directors Mr. Philip C. Tarongo.”

“Not the least, whether there is a Water Center or not (yet), XU commits to continue our role on water issues, to bring science, technology, policy recommendations, and advocacy to where they are needed.”

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