This site has evolved from a personal blog to an advocacy-related site. I interviewed various advocates and featured advocacy-related news and stories in region 12 and other parts of the country. I hope that the stories that I featured on this site will inspire you as readers.
I recently had the opportunity to visit Sitio Green Valley, located in Barangay Nalus, Kiamba, Sarangani Province. This community is nestled within the Mount Busa mountain range, which is considered a local conservation area of the province.
I visited Raven Bato, a provincial winner of the Young Farmers’ Challenge organized by the Department of Agriculture, to show my support. Raven ventured into abaca farming, as it is the major crop of this community. He also runs a small tailoring business called “Binuhat,” through which he supports the local abaca industry. He is also one of the teachers at Green Valley Integrated School.
I visited Sitio Green Valley with Raven as my guide. Despite the challenging road conditions, I was captivated by the lush forests surrounding the community. However, as I looked around, I noticed patches of barren land amidst the greenery.
Curious, I approached some locals and inquired about the cleared areas. They revealed that "outsiders" are conducting (illegal) small-scale mining operations, using tunneling methods to extract high-grade gold. The locals felt powerless to voice their complaints, as they believed that many of the financiers behind these operations wielded significant influence.
I stood there for a moment, gazing at the patches of barren land and pondering the future of this community if such activities were to continue. What would become of this beautiful place if nothing was done to stop it?
Still under threat
Mount Busa, home to the region's lush primary forests, may soon become a protected area under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (E-Nipas) Act of 2018, thanks to the efforts of the Sarangani provincial government. The mountain is located primarily in Kiamba and spans several municipalities in Sarangani and South Cotabato.
Mount Busa, standing at an elevation of 2,064 meters, is the tallest peak in Sarangani and spans 114,144 hectares. This majestic mountain range, enveloped by verdant forests and considered as a western watershed of Mindanao, was designated as a key biodiversity area and an important bird habitat in 2001.
In 2022, Mount Busa was declared a Local Conservation Area by the provincial government. However, its protection and conservation efforts need to be strengthened as it continues to face threats. The provincial government is advocating for Mount Busa to become a national protected area under the E-Nipas Act of 2018. This would bolster its protection against harmful human activities such as poaching, hunting, wildlife collection, mining, land conversion, slash-and-burn farming, and unauthorized timber removal.
Since Sitio Green Valley and its neighboring barangays have a favorable forest cover, abaca thrives within these lush forests, making it a primary crop for the community.
Abaca, also known as Manila hemp, is a species of banana native to the Philippines. The fiber obtained from the plant's leaf stalks is used for a variety of purposes, including cordage, textiles, and paper products.
Abaca is among the commodities that Sarangani has identified under its Provincial Investment Commodity Plan and value-chain analysis.
The community of Sitio Green Valley has found a way to sustainably harvest this valuable resource while preserving the natural beauty and biodiversity of the surrounding forest.
From my observations, many farmers could benefit from knowing the fair market price and having direct market access for their agricultural products. Embracing new technology for harvesting and processing abaca could also increase productivity. However, transporting raw abaca products remains a challenge due to poor road conditions.
I have encountered similar situations in other communities I have visited. It is a common challenge faced by many farmers, who often lack access to the resources and information they need to thrive. By raising awareness, we can hopefully help improve their living conditions and bring about positive change.
I eagerly anticipate my return to Sitio Green Valley, where I can once again immerse myself in the community’s rhythms. The opportunity to interact with the locals, learn from their experiences, and contribute to their community is truly invaluable.