LAKE BUHI AND THE AMBURAYAN RIVER An Exchange of Indigenous Best Practices

Felixberta Villamer (far left), Indigenous People Mandatory Representative for Buhi, Camarines Sur, describing the significance of Lake Buhi for her tribe in the presence of indigenous representatives from the province of Benguet.
Felixberta Villamer (far left), Indigenous People Mandatory Representative for Buhi, Camarines Sur, describing the significance of Lake Buhi for her tribe in the presence of indigenous representatives from the province of Benguet.

It has been observed that the healthiest ecosystems are in places where indigenous peoples flourish. Their culture, religion and practices are respectful of nature and all that it brings. However, it is also true that indigenous communities are especially vulnerable to the demands of the modern world.

This was a primary consideration of the local government of Buhi and the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, Environmental Management Bureau of Region 5 in their initiative to designate Lake Buhi as a Water Quality Management Area (WQMA).  Today, the lake is managed and protected by a multi-sectoral governing board that includes and prioritizes the needs and concerns of indigenous communities residing near Lake Buhi, the Agta Tribe. Last July 27, 2016, the Technical Working Group for the Amburayan River conducted a cross-site visit to the Lake Buhi Water Quality Management Area, one of the most established and successful WQMA areas in the Philippines. The Amburayan River snakes through three provinces and its vast watershed is home to many indigenous groups, a feature common to Lake Buhi.

The Amburayan technical working group was able to interact with the fisher folk and indigenous people of Lake Buhi. Felixberta Villamer, the 1st Agta Tribal Chieftain and Indigenous Peoples Mandatory representative (IPMR) for Buhi, refers to Lake Buhi as “unang miraculo” and mentions how her tribe safeguards the mystery of healing waters related to the lake. Nimfa C. Alina, the indigenous people representative in the Lake Buhi Governing Board, describes the indigenous methods of spear fishing employed by her tribe which poses minimal impact to the lake’s biodiversity.

The Lake Buhi WQMA with its ongoing interventions in the improvement of Lake Buhi’s water quality and its sustainable plans in providing livelihood and tourism opportunities for nearby communities, is a goal that the Amburayan River Technical Working Group also hopes to achieve.

Protecting and Defending the Amburayan River Basin and Watershed through Good Governance and Active Peoples’ Participation is a project funded by the USAID through the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and is implemented by the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc.  (JVOFI).

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