Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Interview: Philip Bartilet of AGAP-Bulusan (Bulusan, Sorsogon)

The author with AGAP-Bulusan president Mr. Philip Bartilet 

Entrance to Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP)
At Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP), I met up and interviewed, over a cup of brewed coffee and pili snacks, environment activist Philip G. Bartilet, the president of Aggrupation for Advocates for Environmental Protection (AGAP)-Bulusan, Inc. and past president (2010-2011) of the Philippine Ecotourism Guides Association.  

He is also the Municipal Tourism Officer of Bulusan town. 
AGAP-Bulusan, working hand-in-hand with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), protects and conserves biodiversity of the BVNP through Project PRESERVE (Participate Reforestation with Ecological Support, Education and Research to Validate the Ecosystems) which was launched in Lake Bulusan last October 31, 2011. Philip explained that the project was approved and funded by the Global Environmental Facility, Small Grants Program Philippines, United Nations Development Program (GEF SGP) of the UNDP. 

Its initial goal is to organized and mobilize communities within the BVNP as a participatory mechanism to mainstream biodiversity conservation in the local policies and resource-based management plans of people's organizations (POs) and government institutions. 

Second, it aims to harness the efforts of multi-sectoral representation from the 6 barangays within the BVNP to organize themselves into environmental biodiversity para-legal protection units focusing on research, monitoring teams and organizing illegal fishers as eco-guides and rangers promoting alternative sustainable livelihood.  It also aims to rehabilitate, within 2 years, the denuded, 50-hectare biodiversity habitat and maintain the surrounding ecosystems and eco-tourism attractions within the BVNP-Bulusan area via seedling propagation.  At least 20,450 agro-forestry seedling (pili, cacao, coffee, etc.) and 6,000 endemic hardwoods and watershed seedlings were planted in 6 identified barangay nurseries within the park area. 
Philip, the author and Bernard.  Behind are watercraft
(kayaks, water trikes) acquired by AGAP-Bulusan, Inc.  
Third, it aims to establish poverty alleviation mechanisms through the provision of eco-livelihood support.

This project, according to Philip, will provide an alternative source of livelihood to persons who have been continuously conducting illegal activities within the area, to totally refrain from such activities and eventually become the first persons to take care of the rich biodiversity of the BVNP as they will be trained to become eco-tourism guides (who will later become accredited guides of the Department of Tourism) or be deputized by the Department of Environment & Natural Resource (DENR) as forest rangers and Wildlife Environmental Officers (WEOs) with monthly compensation benefits.  

In a plan presented by Philip, sustainable para-technical training will be provided, both on agriculture and aquaculture development, with 42 participants coming from the 6 barangays within the area. 

Fourth, it aims to heighten the level of environment awareness of the primary stakeholders, particularly biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of the BVNP-Bulusan area.  The PRESERVE group will conduct a Dalaw Turo, with 8 courses that will focus on the environmental biodiversity richness of the BVNP, how it should be conserved and the bright prospects of the BVNP as a prime tourism destination.  It will also provide an impact study to heighten environmental initiatives so that stakeholders will become more value-driven rather than economy-driven.  They will also publish biodiversity conservation materials, manuals and learning guides as information education materials. 

The end goal of the project is to conduct comprehensive research on biodiversity and other environmental management-related studies and establish a data repository of the BVNP-Bulusan area.  This will include a monthly monitoring and inventory of flora and fauna of the BVNP, with the help of the academe who will provide an ecological profile of the resources of the 6 barangays within the BVNP. 

AGAP-Bulusan is also working on their proposal for a Canopy Walk and the Zip Tour (a variant of the zip line), a more affordable alternative while a feasibility study for cable cars is being considered.  Aside from these, wall climbing, rappelling and adventure rope courses are also being considered.  Together with the DOT Region V Office, LGU Bulusan and Wild BOARS (Bulusan Outdoors Adventures and Recreational Sports) Philippines, they are also organizing the 2012 Bulusan Triple Loop Eco Trail (Team Relay) Running Challenge Cup this July, a 3, 5 and 10-km. run along the periphery of Lake Bulusan and newer, challenging trails on the regular 21-km. Bulusan Eco Trail Running Cup.

AGAP-Bulusan, Inc.: Bulusan Social Development Center (BSDC) Bldg., 262 Sesbreno St., Brgy. Dapdap, Sorsogon City, Sorsogon.  Mobile number: (0918) 457-8767 and (0908) 896-8826 (Mr. Philip Bartilet).  E-mail: agapbulusan@yahoo.com.ph

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