Visiting Researcher Speaks on Community Mobilization in River Rehabilitation

carlene yuCarlyne Z. Yu, a visiting researcher at the Social Development Research Center, shared her findings on the study "Community Mobilization in River Rehabilitation" with research staff on January 21, 2008 at the SDRC Conference Room. An MS in Urban Environmental Management candidate at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, her study sought to identify the main substantive contents of the (environmental) management measures implemented for the river rehabilitation program of Marikina City, and the dominant symbols and discourses used for these measures. It further sought to determine the extent to which and under what conditions the public has been involved in the decision-making process of the river rehabilitation program; to investigate how the community has constructed its stakes and interests in the river rehabilitation program of the city; and to identify the dominant symbolic constructions and material stakes that have come into play in their participation in the river rehabilitation program.

Ms. Yu revealed that the program as implemented was patterned after a study conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways and was LGU-driven. During the first phase or the physical rehabilitation of the river, the management style was top-down; thus, planning and implementation was centralized, with minimal or no input from affected constituents. On the other hand, community participation in the rehabilitation was voluntary; incentives were material in nature and consisted of the distribution of land and basic services among participants. As the community felt that the implementation of the program deprived them of their rights and due process, and limited their options in terms of where they would be relocated, the rehabilitation program met with some resistance.

The second phase of the program, involving wastewater treatment, continued to be implemented with a top-down approach that was still LGU-driven; planning and proposed implementation remained centralized, with negligible participation from the constituents. The stakes were indeterminable due to lack/low level of knowledge about sanitation and sewerage.

From her study, Ms. Yu concluded that the communities were clearly not mobilized to their maximum potential for a successful rehabilitation of the Marikina River. She pointed out that there was too much focus on the enforcement of regulatory/command and control instruments, undermining the goals and impact of the other tools, especially suasive (information/education campaign) measures. As a result, the community still does not take responsibility for some of its actions. Furthermore, economic instruments in the form of incentives/disincentives are still rarely explored.

It was recommended that the program make use of opportunities to increase community mobilization during the second phase of the program. Ms. Yu pointed out that economic incentives such as scholarships could be offered to communities treating their wastewater. In addition, there could be more extensive use of suasive measures at the grassroots level for the development of interests and stakes focused on environmental protection and preservation. A bottom-up approach to planning and implementation of the program could likewise be introduced. Lastly, cross-subsidization for tariffs could be considered as a means of encouraging community participation.