Going Green in Barlig: A glimpse of its eco-tourism industry

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The dense tropical rain forests of Barlig,Mountain Province are thriving spots for numerous wildlife species like deer, warty pigs, eagles, and snakes. But the relentless and uncontrolled hunting have led these to the verge of extinction. There is then the need for immediate and concrete government and community interventions to save these resources.//Photo by Ivan Banna

 

In many instances, so-called developmental projects and endeavors have deleterious impacts to the natural environment. That is why policy makers and local stakeholders are continuously looking for alternatives that would not only benefit the communities but sustain their existing resources. Eco-tourism, which is growing in popularity is one of the many ways to do that.

More than a tourist-getter and an income-generator, eco-tourism espouses responsible travel to natural areas. It also minimizes the adverse effects of conventional tourism amenities like hotels and trails while promoting the use of locally-available materials.

In Barlig, a fifth class municipality nestling at the eastern part of Mountain Province, eco-tourism is growing as a major driver of the local economy. Given that, the local government units (LGUs) have taken strides in promoting and materializing such industry.

Unveiling Gradual Destruction

Touted as the “Last Frontier of Mountain Province,” Barlig is almost entirely covered with dense, tropical, rainforests with a colossal ecosystem that remains relatively undisturbed. Numerous endemic wildlife species like ugsa (deer), namorok (warty pigs), snakes, and selay (monitor lizards) still linger the forest floor. In addition, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have designated Lias as a haven of the Philippine Eagle locally known as lawi or kuli. Almasiga, rafflesia, oak trees, and many rare flora species also abound.

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The virgin forests of Lias forms part of the vast forest cover of Barlig, Mountain Province. These are thriving spots for a various wildlife species which are gradually diminishing due to excessive hunting. The onset of commercial farming is also another threat to the ecosystem.//Ivan Banna

The towering peaks and green growths of Barlig also drain numerous brooks that feed the Tanudan River. These are thriving spots for different marine species like kachews (a finger-size fish called bunog in other places), agkara (crabs), and chalet (eels) which command a high price in the market. Irrigation ditches have also been dug out along these to provide irrigation for the winding terraces of the locals.

But, as observed, these resources are gradually being depleted due to abusive human activities.

In Sitio Chatol, patches to patches of rainforests are being cleared to give way to vegetable and lemon farms. The forests of Lias especially those along the national highway are also being converted into citrus farms. Deem to increase production and ward off pests and diseases, some of the farmers resorted to using synthetic fertilizers like pesticides and insecticides.

Wildlife species are also being relentlessly hunted to the verge of extinction. Local stories tell that monkeys and deer in the past were just easy to spot since they were everywhere and would often come near the village. But at present, these could now be rarely found. Even the Sayang Mossy Forest which is supposed to be the breeding ground of deer and boars is not spared from frequenting hunters coming from different tribes.

There is also an evident decline in the fish population and catch of eels in Barlig. The panelang (a Gobby fish species), which used to swarm in numbers, are told to be almost extinct already. According to the locals, one major reason behind this is a certain aquatic disease that has brought decimation to the local fresh water species. When this case was raised to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), initial findings showed that this is a type of fungus that is known to infest tilapia. It is during summer that this disease becomes prevalent and one would see fishes dying in big numbers!

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The Tanudan river especially the portion along Lias, Barlig is a haven for numerous, endemic freshwater species like eels. But recent years saw the gradual decline of this species due to abusive fishing methods like alkampor (sodium cyanide) and electrofishing. Both the local authorities and prior communities should forge measures to ensure the sustainment of such a resource.//Photo Courtesy of Ivan Banna

That, in addition, to the use of illegal fishing methods like alkampor (sodium cyanide) and electrofishing as well as dumping of wastes and garbage. The use of alkampor causes the death of fish eggs and juveniles and stop the regeneration of fish species.

Eco-tourism to the rescue and corresponding benefits

The municipality is just awaiting the approval of House Bill No. 2192 titled, “Declaring the Municipality of Barlig as a Tourism Development Area and Appropriating Funds therefore,” filed by the incumbent Congressman Maximo Dalog.

Once this will materialize, eco-tourism would come in full swing. The various potential sites would be improved with the establishment of non-detrimental facilities and amenities anchored to the standards of responsible tourism.

It is also hoped that such venture would encourage the local populace to participate in the conservation of the natural environment.

To date, the municipal officials in partnership with the barangay LGUs are crafting ordinances that would facilitate the smooth and effective implementation of eco-tourism in the area. With support from the Provincial Tourism Office (PTO), they have also been organizing tourist guide associations in the different barangays.

Roger U. Sacyaten, head of the PTO, gave caution though that the Barlig officials should not encourage the coming of business people from other places to take advantage of its growing eco-tourism industry, adding that it should be the locals who should benefit from their own resources.

Meanwhile, he enthused that eco-tourism should really be given priority since it is a timely and efficient way of developing the municipality without destroying the natural environment.

On the other hand, the International Ecotourism Society, a global organization espousing eco-tourism as an alternative to other development activities, cites numerous advantages of eco-tourism with respect to particular community.

Accordingly, eco-tourism minimizes impact or damage to the environment, builds environmental awareness, provides direct financial benefits for conservation as well as financial benefits and empowerment for local people, and respects local culture.

In as much as we yearn for development to happen in our respective communities, we should always consider the welfare of our natural environment- the very resource that sustained our ancestors and brought into reality the present. Thus, it is but our moral obligation to do the same and fortunately, there are so many ways we could do just that. And that includes tapping the eco-tourism industry. Let us all choose to be green.//Daniel Jason M. Maches

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