The year 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Inc.’s (ALKFI) Bantay Kalikasan. In the two decades they have been operating, the organization has implemented countless projects in service to their mandate to protect the environmental treasures of the country. They have made significant contributions to lobbying environmental conservation laws and implementing them from the institutional level to the actual communities. What started out as a simple well-intentioned hotline has since evolved into a leading organization advocating sustainable solutions to environmental problems.
For their 20th anniversary, BK showcases the success of their ecotourism sites, highlighting the best practices implemented by BK to achieve success and the business, social, and environmental impacts of these projects in the community.
It has always been clear to Bantay Kalikasan that the job doesn’t stop with cleanups and drives. For BK, this is only one of the many steps in a thorough yet satisfying process of saving Mother Nature. More importantly, they seek to introduce to communities an alternative livelihood that is non-extractive and non-destructive to their ecosystem. As evident in their partnerships, BK believes in the capacity of the locals and their government to establish to advocate laws, policies and regulations. They knew, on the other hand, that empowering the communities would require financial, organizational, and logistic support.
The Grassroots Economic and Environmental (GREEN) Initiative seeks to identify communities where advocacies could be turned into community-based endeavors that would protect the environment and bring economic dividends to the region, either through agriculture, tourism, or a mix of both. Launched in in 2013, this aims to develop eco-tourism enterprises rooted in conservation. Managing Director of ALKFI Gina Lopez acknowledges this by saying, “My conviction is that we would not only alleviate poverty but also drive in a new paradigm of thinking, one that benefits the environment and the community.”
Since the implementation of this initiative, BK’s presence has spanned 14 areas, and 28 municipalities; they worked with 90 people’s organization and over 7,000 stakeholders. BK helped communities in Leyte, Mindoro, Sorsogon and Zambales to develop Eco-Tourism projects. These sites faced significant environmental threats, ranging from contamination, over-development, or natural disasters.
Though it was acknowledged that BK’s intervention in mobilizing the community into organizing environment protection programs and sustainable livelihood programs would be a long term partnership, the ultimate goal is for the communities to transition out of the initiative and become fully independent. Efforts were then focused on preparing projects to move on from the program Perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of the organization is to help communities become independent eco-tourism sites. To name some of these: La Mesa Ecopark and Watershed, Ugong Rock, Iwahig, Buhatan River Cruise, Gubat Surf Camp, Sabang Daguitan Surf Camp, Sohoton Caves, Lamlifew Living Museum, and Maitum White Water River Tubing. The projects in these areas are then phased out and shall serve as a reference point for current and future eco-tourism projects.
BK was determined that these eco-tourism sites impact not only the community but the entire region benefited from their presence. The Ugong Rock Cave and Zipline Adventure are exemplars of the success of BK-assisted communities, among many others. This budding ecotourism enterprise provided livelihood to the residents of Brgy. Tagabinet and also raised local awareness to protect the environment since the opening of the enterprise in 2008.
Another example is the Buhatan River Cruise, ALFKI helped the community take ownership of the river. In 2015, the Buhatan River Eco-Adventure Service Cooperative (BRESC) was formed in alliance with Bantay Kalikasan, the environmental arm of ALKFI, through its Green Initiative program. With the assistance provided by ALKFI, the community built floating cabanas for river cruising. In addition, they built a 200-person capacity floating restaurant.
In the next five years, BK plans to integrate more communities into the Green Initiative. They would continue to be part of the conservation of the La Mesa Watershed. They are also determined to prove that the revitalization of Pasig River, Laguna Lake, and Manila Bay possible. Of course their main goal would be to become obsolete in their remaining projects within the next five years, transitioning from support to partnership and ultimately empowering the communities to pass on hope.