Through an early-morning ceremonial tree planting activity, non-profit group Centre for Sustainability (CS), in collaboration with indigenous communities in Barangay Tanabag, Puerto Princesa City, officially launched yesterday, June 06, 2016, an Almaciga reforestation program in Cleopatra’s Needle Forest. The project, which forms part of the group’s ‘Saving the Almaciga’ Project, aims to plant more than 5,000 Almaciga trees in the area in partnership with the Batak communities of Sitio Kalakwasan and Sitio Pulang Bato of the said barangay.
The Centre’s Executive Director, Kyra Hoevenaars, graced the activity, which brought together leaders and members of local communities in Cleopatra’s Needle along with volunteers, members of the local press, and other participants. Aside from the Bataks, the planting activity also saw the participation of Tagbanuas from Barangay Binduyan.
According to Jessa Garibay, CS Project Manager, the project is a first of its type in the country in terms of reforesting Almaciga forest stands. “Ang ibang project kasi, seedlings na kaagad ang itinatanim. Kami, nagsisimula sa pagkuha ng mga IPs sa buto, inaakyat sa puno, kami talaga nagpapatubo at naghahanda ng seedlings,” she explained. (“Other projects start with planting the seedlings. Our project starts with the IPs gathering the seeds, climbing the tree. We’re really the ones propagating and preparing the seedlings,” she explained.)
Almaciga, a tree species whose resin (bagtik) is harvested for the manufacture of products such as varnish, lacquer, soap, among other products, serves as a source of livelihood among the indigenous groups in Cleopatra’s Needle. Dionecio Saavedra, Tribal Chieftain of Kalakwasan, expressed gratitude to CS for choosing them as a beneficiary of the project. “Bihira na lang kami ngayon mag-bagtik. Kasi kaunti na lang. Salamat, kahit alam namin, hindi kami ang makikinabang kundi mga kaapu-apuhan,” he shared. (“We seldom gather bagtik nowadays, because they [the trees] are fewer. Thank you, even though we know we’re not the ones to benefit but our grandchildren.”)
Barangay Captain Marcelito Dancil of Tanabag also committed support not only to the said project but to all endeavors of the Batak communities who form part of his constituency. There are about 54 households of Batak living in the village.
Cleopatra’s Needle is one of the most biodiverse mountains of Palawan and is considered as the highest peak in Puerto Princesa City. The name is derived from the obelisk-like rock structure that is found in its peak. It covers more than 30, 000 hectares in the Northern part of the city and is currently being lobbied for identification as a critical habitat.
Centre for Sustainability is an NGO established eight years ago to advocate conservation, livelihood and education, with seven (7) barangays in Puerto Princesa as their project areas namely New Panggangan, Tagabinet, San Rafael, Concepcion, Tanabag, Binduyan and Langogan.
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