IN 2014, Haribon Foundation re-launched a program called Haribon Travel that brings awareness on biodiversity conservation initiatives to travelers. The program is classified into two namely the “Green Travel” that is focused on conserving terrestrial ecosystems like forests and wildlife and “Blue Travel” that highlights saving aquatic ecosystems.
In both travels, participants learn valuable stories of nature conservation and support the host community’s ecotourism while having fun.
The Green Travel in Mangatarem, Pangasinan and Blue Travel in Masinloc, Zambales were the first pilot activities. Participants got to visit restoration sites and experience what the local community is doing to help the environment, such as nurturing seedlings, creating compost and mangrove planting.
I joined the Green Travel in Brgy. Tanauan, Real, Quezon on July 18. During the orientation, Brgy. Chairman Ramil Resplanador shared with us his town’s experience that led to their advocacy today. Back then, illegal logging in the area was rampant which caused devastating flash floods in 2004. It became an eye opener to the local community that they needed to do something about their degraded forests.
We proceeded to the tree planting site of Haribon funded by the organization’s members and corporate partners. We did a tree walk with the local guides and Forester Thaddeus Martinez. I remembered Malapapaya distinctly because they are one of the trees that have grown and they stood tall there, giving shade to us. There were at least 10 different types of tree species in the area, one of the essential considerations in reforestation—biodiversity. It was pointed out to us that native trees are planted in the area because they are important in our ecosystem and promote a more resilient environment.
Since the seedlings were planted years ago, some of them have grown into trees. People in the local community are maintaining these planted areas by hacking out the weeds since they compete with the trees for nutrients and inhibit their growth. They have to cut the vines around the seedlings as well to avoid being ‘choked’.
According to Brgy. Chairman Resplanador, the reforestation projects in their area have been really helpful to their community. Because of the shed of trees, rain water was able to seep down the soil and maintain the water level in their river. These made them think of opportunities and the jobs that could be created for their people instead of illegal logging.
The community is now promoting eco-tourism and one of their activities is the river rafting or tubing for two kilometers. It was a fun group activity, where we held on to our rubber boats while trusting the guides who bravely faced the water current to steer the boat safely to avoid the rocks. The guides invited us to come again from October to February where the water level will be higher and the current will be stronger to have a more challenging and extreme water experience.
Everyone showed cohesion in promoting eco-tourism and in conserving the ecosystem. I hope they will continue maintaining the site and they may produce more eco-tourism opportunities so that people won’t go back to illegal logging. It’s my wish that our government would give attention and support to conservation efforts like this for the future of our country’s biodiversity.
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