Friday, March 27, 2015

What’s next after Biodiversity and Threats Assessment?

Simultaneous with the other entry points to Mt. Apo, the municipality of Sta. Cruz has conducted a Biodiversity and Threats Assessment along the Sibulan Trail to Mt. Apo Summit on March 15-19, 2015 with LOGSAC team leading the job. The activity was aimed at identifying the existing flora and fauna of Mt. Apo Natural Park, including the existing environmental threats that may affect the stability of the entire park in the coming years. LOGSAC was commissioned by the Biodiversity and Watershed Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystems Resilience (B+WISER), a USAID-funded program that is tasked to direct helpful interventions to selected protected areas in the Philippines, particularly on the aspects of sustainable park development and conservation.

Along with Ronnie Torlao and Julius Biala, I led the first group via the Sibulan-Cabarisan-Lower Tibolo trails on April 15 while the upper part comprising the following areas: Baruring, Colan, Tumpis, Garuc, Basakan, Tinikaran and Boulders, was conducted by a Mt. Apo super guide Roger Navarro and his team along with the Sibulan Porters Association.

As per observation not only during the assessment but also with my frequent climbing to the country’s highest peak, there are portions of Mt. Apo that have already been identified with high conservation value. Several flora and fauna dwells in this part of the country, whether common to the Philippines or unique in MANP. The presence of multi million-peso structures, as well as ecotourism activities and constant increase of settlements are observed to be reasons why MANP is very vulnerable to destruction. Habitat loss is an obvious remark as farming activities by the residents already approaches within the forest portions.

During the whole course of the assessment, we saw more of the threats than biological resources. There is variety of life, of course, in MANP but we identified it through indirect observations. The threats, on the other hand, were very obvious such as landslide, inappropriate farming activities by the locals, cases of kaingin, illegal cutting of trees, hunting, grass fires and the likes.   

These observations should not gain momentum in at least three to five years, otherwise, biodiversity in MANP will be another subject of severe extinction. With the complicated scenario of MANP in all areas, we could not afford to just let it run through the flow without efforts for conservation in a strongest possible manner. Ecotourism should be regulated, whether we like it or not. The local community should also be empowered as they have better stance towards biodiversity conservation being in the area for the rest of their existence. Existing industrial investments should level up their initiatives for Corporate Social Responsibility with focus on environmental restoration. And, further industrial development in MANP should be thoroughly reviewed to a point of giving more weight to environmental considerations.

Presently, there are efforts towards MANP conservation as spearheaded by the Protected Area Management Board (PMB) with strong support by B+WISER particularly the ecotourism committee where a uniform trekking policy will be implemented sometime in May this year. This is foreseen to be a vital step towards habitat protection and restoration. Personally, I think a change is within reach in as far as mountain climbing regulation is concerned. Unlike before when ecotourism policies were not harmonized and every LGU had different guidelines, today’s newly-approved policy will definitely set the tone towards a more comprehensive ecotourism program implementation.

Biodiversity is what we look for as source of life. Yet, its efforts for conservation have been practically overlooked. While it is true that biodiversity is the soul for survival of the human race, its importance had been ignored through the years. If we throwback the timeline of creation in whatever way we believed there was, there were very little effort for biodiversity conservation. We always converse on biodiversity conservation but we act the other way around.

What’s next after all these efforts of biodiversity assessments? Are we just going to compile the results in our respective databases? I supposed these have to be presented to higher authorities for appropriate action, but how long will we wait?

Life, after all, is what we make it.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

LOGSAC 8th year anniversary aspires to keep friendship alive and kicking

As the stage of our 8th year anniversary celebration unfolded on February 19, 2015; I couldn't personally help but thought of how this club started as a neophyte mountaineering group in 2007 composed of this blogger, John Jay Cuizon, Danrev Broñola, Jonas Florencodia, Glenn Gonzales and Irish Ann Palanca. Bonded by the spirit of camaraderie and the desire to climb mountains, we put together our efforts to form a group which eventually became one of the pillars of mountaineering in Mindanao.

Last Thursday, as usual, we had our reunion of sort. It was nice to see old faces once again. Junjun Libre was there, Jane Monton (now the President of SAVERS) came to our delight and the long-lost Kabing Baring surprisingly spared a little of her time to join us after six years of hibernating. Perennial reliables were also seen including the very busy women Doreen Joy Bauya, Faridah Lumpapac  and Irish Gay Simbajon.

The celebration could not have been that successful without the support of the club's logistic crew. Pawiks, Pagong, Uu, Jongjong, Irvin Joy, Niloy, Kaling and new recruit Jorax Geralde took care of the food preparation. Thanks to Hardi, Chombian, Doray and Hector John for volunteering their respective resources in Bato. We had a special guest that day also, a mountaineer and outdoor man, a very good Kumpare of this blogger in pare Dockie Enot.

Like our previous anniversary celebrations, we had a simple ceremony. We started the day with a mangrove planting in one of the areas in the barangay. 

As the sun was about to settle down westbound, we headed to Isla Passig, our home for the rest of the evening. We once again played our national game - BEACH VOLLEYBALL as a conclusion but to no avail, We failed to recognize who were the winners because the whole islet was filled with laughter. That's what we usually do when we bond. No single moment left unused with our crazy talking, eating, drinking and so on. We were more than brothers, indeed, we were built to be more than just that. While we recognize mountain climbing and doing adventures as a common thing among us, there are other unseen things that we easily gel together without us knowing. It is just around there, a spirit that we know would keep us together even when this organization fades away in time. Yes, fading away is inevitable, just like death, But there is always better things to come other than fading away and that's for LOGSAC to be found out. The only thing we know is that, we love our company.

As the club also grows old, external links were established notably. We gained very good friends from beyond our territory. We have friends who even became very important of the club's existence. The way we value friendship even in the farthest part of our campsite is gaining positive outcomes. With that, we built access to mountains in different parts of the country and even in some parts of the world and climbed them one by one. To our patrons who never backed down, thank you very much to all of you.

Counting the good things that happened to LOGSAC after eight years, I can say that although we have not achieved a big lap as of yet but excellence is an understatement in terms of fulfilling our sense of purpose and direction. Just like a person growing old, we are at some point invisible. We don't usually hang out the way we did five years ago. But when we do, we always take it to the limits.

Thank you very much to all those who participated the 8th year anniversary.