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Beyond Tourism

The importance of caring for our environment.

Palawan has been voted as the best island in the world. Puerto Princesa made its mark in the world because of the Subterranean River or what is more commonly known as the Underground River, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Seven Wonders of Nature. You can also go island hopping around Honda Bay where you can find one of my favorite snorkeling sites, Pambato reef. Palawan, popular for its clear waters, rich ecosystem, and pristine beaches has wooed tourists to visit its islands.

In July, Republic Chemical Industries Inc. (RCI), maker of Pioneer Epoxy, and its affiliate Pioneer Adhesives Foundation Inc. (PAFI) as part of their corporate social responsibility, organized a three-day event to promote environmental awareness. Their campaign, “Our Earth, Our Responsibility” in collaboration with the local government of Puerto Princesa and Department of Science and Technology (DOST) organized activities such as mangrove tree planting, bangkarera race, and reef awareness activities.

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  • Mangrove planting site
  • A girl on her way to the mangrove forest
  • A mangrove seedling ready to be planted
  • A crowd watching the bangkarera under the noonday sun
  • Cowrie island
  • Pioneer Bangkarera
  • A volunteer examining corals that serve as a nursery for young fishes
  • coral bleaching
  • attaching live fragments to corals
  • different corals under the sea
Biodiversity

When we go for our firefly tours, we ride a boat that flows through these rivers lined with mangrove trees without realizing how important its role is to our environment. During typhoon Yolanda, a few islands were super protected because of these trees. It lessened the impact of the water in some coastal areas of Eastern Samar. They are considered as the rainforest of the sea which is home to a lot of crabs, shrimps, fish species, birds, and other organisms. They also serve as a nursery to a range of marine species.

RCI and PAFI organized a tree planting activity in collaboration with the local government wherein 1,200 seedlings were planted by 526 volunteers. Barangay San Jose, Puerto Princesa, is a good example of a community hosting what a mangrove forest should be. There are people assigned to take care of the nurseries, watch over the seedlings that have been newly planted, and plant seedlings regularly. The reforestation efforts have shown promising results. What used to be a fish pond is now being restored into a mangrove forest and involving the community has made the efforts even more vital for the town because now, they understand why it is important to preserve and protect these forests.

Inclusiveness

Alongside racing enthusiasts, we crowded the Baywalk in Puerto Princesa. On a blazing hot day, fishermen lined up their boats and raced their hearts out. This is the first Pioneer Bangkarera. Fishermen and racers from different parts of the country such as Cebu, Davao, and Negros traveled for days just to be a part of the event.

“The competition will initially serve as fellowship among the fishing communities and also as a kickoff of RCI’s long-term plan to establish sustainable livelihood projects in the future for the fisher folks in the country,” Marie Grace Panganiban, Pioneer Epoxy assistant manager, shared.

Fishing is a huge industry in the Philippines and has also been abused over the years. Being an archipelago, it is the main livelihood of most of the communities in our coastal areas. Educating and making them aware that they are part of something bigger will help sustain their livelihood and our seas. There is also an opportunity for them to expand into tourism. Once they realize how valuable this is, they will also begin to love and care for the environment.

 

Coral Bleaching

The initial plan of RCI and PAFI was to have a 50 man volunteer reef restoration in Tangdol Reef. The campaign is headed by Martina Spakowski, director of PAFI. With the use of Pioneer Epoxy Clay Aqua, trained divers can now attach live fragments which may have been broken of due to strong currents, boats, or even accidentally kicked by tourists. The DOST has been working on this since 2012 and found that this particular epoxy clay was non-toxic, durable, and has ease of use. PAFI has been providing these epoxy clays to help in the restoration of reefs in different parts of the country such as Boracay, Bohol, Camiguin, Pangasinan, Palawan, and more. They also have nurseries where they let the live fragments grow and develop until it is hard enough to be attached to the reef.

“Seventy billion pesos is what our coral reefs contribute to our economy.One square kilometer of healthy coral reefs generates an average of R2.5 million per year and this is only from tourism and fishing. It doesn’t even involve navigation and other related industries. Within 26,000 square kilometers, only 10 percent is healthy. 50 billion is potentially lost.” said Dr. Melvin Carlos of DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development.

Two weeks before the said event, coral bleaching occurred and most of the corals which were up for restoration died. I was never aware of this phenomenon until now. Because of global warming and climate change, the increase of temperature in the water causes the corals to expel the algae or zooxanthellae living in their tissues. Putting it into lay man’s terms, “Corals are animals not plants,” said Dr. Melvin Carlos. These zooxanthellae live in the corals, which give out the different colors that you get to enjoy when you’re diving or snorkeling. When the water temperature is too warm, these organisms leave the corals and cause them to turn completely white. So now, the plan in Tangelo has evolved into a six-month program where they aim to create awareness, train divers, and begin transplanting.