Jollo Pusong, 15, the vice chair of the Macatumbalen Environmental Youth Association said that the time of pandemic is also a good opportunity to help in environmental conservation instead of playing computer games alone.

Pusong said that he is also aware that it will be challenging as they only started to form their group early this year with some 17 members. Members are also students under blended learning scheme ranging from ages of 14 to 18.

“Hindi lang ito environment kung hindi ay para sa spiritual din. Sa tingin ko makakatulong kami magkaroon ng kalinisan at naniniwala kami na malaki ang gagampanan ng kabataan. Kung lahat ng kabataan ay makikilahok, sa dami ng kabataan sa San Vicente, sa Macatumbalen, naniniwala kami na kaya namin ito baguhin (magkaroon ng pagbabago),” he said.

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“Ngayon pandemic lang kami nag-start. Nasa bahay lang naman tayo, sa halip na maglaro sila ng cellphone, pwede sila tumulong at maging kapakipakinabang sa kalikasan,” he added.

Pusong was encouraged by Nida Collada, the president of the Macatumbalen Community Based Forest and Management Association (MCBFMA) to form the group and recruit some youth members within their sitio.

The MCBFMA was established in 1997 protecting the forest area in Macatumbalen, including watershed and mangrove area. Collada believed that the youth will be the next liner in environmental protection within their community and pandemic should not hamper this advocacy.

“Malaking bagay sila kasi sila ang susunod na henerasyon. Kapag napaliwanagan namin ang isang grupo, hindi mahirap i-encourage ang mga kabataan, sila mismo ang magpapalaganap tungkol sa environment.— Kailangan maging model kayo, mas maraming mahihikayat kung ilan lang kayo, ano kaya ang kinagaganda. Madali manghikayat kung nandyan na kayong modelo ng kabataan ng management sa environment,” Collada said.

“Kung papapigil tayo sa pandemya, walang mangyayari sa atin. Kaya kami ay tuloy-tuloy, sulong-sulong sa misyon ng CBFMA. Kung papatalo tayo sa pandemya, hindi na tayo magtutuloy-tuloy sa gawain ay walang mangyayari,” she added.

It is also Collada’s dream to see that the fruit of their labor will be enjoyed and protected by the younger generation.

Aside from environmental protection, the CBFMA explored different livelihood opportunities such as abaca planting for value adding, processing honey, vermiculture, and rattan production which will benefit their children.

Pusong’s group is now starting to expose themselves to different activities involving environmental protection such as mangrove conservation. He wants to start from their sitio until they reach wider scope in the municipal level believing that small steps can also make a difference.

“Sa ngayon ay sumasama muna kami kila nanay Nida, sa CBFMA para matuto rin kami kasi hindi pa kami masyadong sanay. Nakikisama muna kami lalo na noong tree planting,” he said.

Collada, on the other hand, said that elders like them should support and hone the youth for the future of the environment.

“Mas madaling hubugin ang mga bata kaysa matatanda kung talagang may huhubog lang sa kanila. Mas madali silang paniwalaan ng matatanda, halimbawa nakahubog ako ng isang bata na illegal ang tatay, mas madaling magpaliwanag sa tatay ‘yon kasi anak,” she said.

“Dapat ang mga kabataan ay maging concerned kasi kung masisira ang future ng environment natin, ano pa ang madadatnan nila? Wala na, sira na. Gusto mo ba na hangin ay hindi na fresh, tubig na malabo? Dapat ang mga kabataan, kung maaaring tutukan, kasi tayo ay puno na ng aral kailangan sila (naman),” she added.

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is one of the senior reporters of Palawan News. She covers agriculture, business, and different feature stories. Her interests are collecting empty bottles, aesthetic earrings, and anything that is color yellow.