TAGBILARAN CITY, April 28, (PIA) –In possibly among her last officials acts, something her town would remember her, outgoing Danao Mayor Natividad Gonzaga has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to realize her dream of opening up a model community-based reforestation project to tourists.
By doing that, Gonzaga, who bows out of office to give in to her son in this year’s election, the community who has struggled to implement the town’s greening ace on the sleeve, could finally cash in on tourism from the government protected area which they have now developed into a full blown forest of 75 hectares.
Speaking at the out of town Kapihan sa PIA which was held in Danao Adventure Park (DAP) in barangay Magtangtang, Mayor Gonzaga hinted that since the community of San Miguel in Danao picked up the challenge to put up the 50 hectare forest by natural growth, they have not since collected a decent income.
The challenge was even weird, by the standards of farmers and reforestation contract workers: cover 50 hectares of cogonal lands with endemic tree species without introducing new seedlings.
On a cogon covered hills of San Miguel, project leaders for the Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) told us to measure the place, seek out surviving seedlings which have remained stunted under the grasses and clean its surroundings so it would not have others to compete with the soil nutrients, 59 year old Alberto Padilla shared during the Kapihan.
Padilla, along with 43 other members of their San Miguel Association Resource Team (SMART) initially established what would later be a town citation among ANR towns in the country.
With the area situated in a portion of the town identified as timberland, many farmers knew they could never cash in on the trees they could grow.
But seeing that the area can also sustain small practices of growing rootcrops and other small plantations, farmers also put in cassava, bamboo, pandan and other cash and easy on the table crops.
But the income can only do as much, despite the P130 per day duty for farmers coming out on rotation scheme.
Danao, whose sudden explosive rise in the eco-tourism market is largely credited by the DAP eco-tourism activities, now wants to include the model ANR to its tour package.
Already a model for low cost, simplest cheapest reforestation system, the Danao ANR has been attracting environmental advocates, but pays nothing for the experience.
Here, Mayor Gonzaga plans to open up trails at the ANR, a restaurant, collect entrance and environmental fee while members can make souvenirs from the materials within the area.
She accordingly asked her town’s guests if they would be willing to pay at the ANR and was told they will.
I hope the DENR will help me with this plan, Gonzaga, who is now reaping what his son started then. (rac/PIA-7/Bohol)