Lopez, as ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation chairperson, plans in making Sarangani as a model for reforestation and eco- tourism.
Known to strongly oppose controversial mining projects, Lopez plans to put up a task force in the province that would go after illegal loggers and illegal miners especially in Maitum and Kiamba.
She wants to enroll Sarangani as a model for reforestation and livelihood for the community through eco-tourism under the National Greening Program to support the province’s efforts in sustaining environment and agriculture.
Lopez, a known environmentalist, has done impressive efforts in rehabilitating the La Mesa Watershed, the Pasig River and in launching other ecotourism sites in the country.
She emphasized to create economic activity out of environmental preservation efforts.
Solon presented an overview of major environmental concerns in Sarangani – the two key biodiversity areas (KBAs) of Mt. Latian and Mt. Busa, Sarangani Bay, Malungon-Buayan River Basin, and Kling Beach Forest.
Kling Beach Forest has the potential to be the first beach forest park in the Philippines.
“Efforts should be in line with the livelihood of citizens,” Solon pointed out. “It should give good economy to the sites.”
Lopez visited the Virgin Coconut Oil Plantation in Kling, Kiamba; Lamlifew School and Museum of Living Traditions at Malungon and the White Water Tubing Ecopark in New La Union, Maitum.
These tourism sites are starting to gain popularity among tourists.
However, the white water tubing ecopark is threatened by illegal mining and logging activities where the headwaters of Pangi River lie.
The Lamlifew Village Museum is the first community-initiated museum in the Philippines through the efforts of the Lamlifew Tribal Women’s Association, the first cultural organization managed by an indigenous community registered at the Securities Exchange Commission.
“We are very honored for having the passionate and driven Ms. Gina Lopez to visit our province and be of help in preserving nature,” said Senator Manny Pacquiao, in Lamlifew.
Sarangani, with a total land area of 4,441.79 sq. km., is a haven of natural resources and tourism destinations. The Sarangani Capitol-based Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC) considers Mt. Busa as a priority conservation and protection biodiversity study area as it is one of the remaining forests in the province.
Mt. Busa (Area: 114,144 hectares) was declared as a key biodiversity area (KBA 116) and an important bird area (IBA PH0105) in 2001. It harbors critically endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare bird species and connects several conservation priorities.
A study of the ECPC in 2011 confirmed reported sightings of tarsier, wild deer, pigs, monkeys, bats, civets and endangered species of birds at the foot of Mt. Busa.
Mt Busa, which straddles the towns of Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim, is threatened by land conversion (to farmland), kaingin (slash-and-burn), wildlife hunting, illegal logging and mining.
On the other side, Mt. Latian Complex is viewed by ECPC as vital for the protection of the watersheds of several major rivers of Sarangani Province, such as, the Buayan–Maribulan, Big Glan, Big Lun Masla and Little Lun Masla rivers. The site was identified as one of the important biodiversity areas in the Philippines and in 2002, it was declared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as Philippine Biodiversity Conservation priority.
Mt. Latian (Area: 95,077 hectares) straddles the municipalities of Malungon, Alabel, Malapatan and Glan and is imperiled by land conversion (to farmland), forest fires and kaingin.
In Kiamba, researches recently found a span of 18.941 hectares in the shoreline of barangay Kling with 39 forest species distributed among 23 families present in the site. The presence of century-old beach forest species makes the area potential for development into a beach forest park.
Located at the southern part of the Philippines and as part of the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, Sarangani Bay is home to shallow marine habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests. Sarangani Bay is a protected seascape but it is threatened by siltation caused by erosion in the deforested Malungon-Buayan River Basin. Marine life is also threatened by metal poisoning due to illegal mining. (Cherry Marie Irish D. Cruz /SARANGANI INFORMATION OFFICE)