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Bacolod City, PhilippinesMonday, June 20, 2011

Pulupandan’s dolphin watch, an
exciting Environment Week event

BY ERROL GATUMBATO

By virtue of the Negros Occidental Sangguniang Panlalawigan Ordinance 152, issued 19 years ago, the fourth week of June is the Environment Week in the province.  This year’s commemoration banners the theme “Kakahuyan sa Kabukiran kag Kadagatan Manggad kag Kabuhi sang Katawhan”, which is very appropriate since 2011 is the International Year of the Forest, as declared by the United Nations.

One of the most exciting events during this Environment Week is the grand launching of the “Dolphin Watching” in the municipality of Pulupandan, a first of its kind in Negros Occidental. A study last year revealed the presence of rare and threatened Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris) in the coastal waters of Pulupandan, and also in Bago City. As reported in this paper in 2010, a study team headed by Dr. Louella Dolar, a marine biologist from the Tropical Marine Research for Conservation in San Diego, California, was able to document about 30 to 40 Irrawaddy dolphins in Pulupandan-Bago City area, the third locality in the Philippines where this dolphin species, declared as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN-World Conservation Union, has been recorded.

The provincial government, under the stewardship of Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr, in cooperation with the  municipal and city governments in Negros Occidental, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, schools and civil society groups, such as the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation and Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation, spearheads the long-week celebration in the province. Numerous activities are lined up with the main purpose of raising the environmental consciousness of the general public on the importance of forest ecosystem as a basic life support system.

The Environment Week is also intended to sensitize every Negrense on the critical environmental situation in the province, while celebrating at the same time the gifts of nature. Negros Occidental was once a natural resource-rich province with gentle and rolling slopes thickly covered by natural forest and equally bountiful coastal and marine resources.
The province is also the host to some of the most imposing and beautiful landscapes and seascapes in the country, like the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, Northern Negros Natural Park, Sagay Marine Reserve and Danjugan Island.

Beneath the surface of Negros Occidental’s land are reservoirs of mineral and energy resources, which unfortunately are becoming environmental issues because the exploitation of these resources entail large scale damages to our natural ecosystems.  Amazingly, Negros Occidental and Negros Island in general are repositories, too, of unique and endemic flora and fauna, with a good number of restricted species that cannot be found elsewhere.However, it is sad to note that Negros, as a whole, is competing for a record of becoming an island in the Philippines with most number of species threatened with extinction in the wild.Negros Occidental is known for its deforestation history since barely four percent of its land area remains forested. The mangroves and coral reefs in the province are similarly in bad state. The Environment Week celebration will hopefully enhance the appreciation of Negrenses on the importance of environmental protection and rehabilitation.

This year Environment Week’s celebration will take off on Tuesday with a Holy Mass at 2:00 p.m. at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol Building. Rep.  Alfredo Marañon III ( Neg. Occ., 2nd District) is expected to deliver a keynote speech during the opening ceremonies right after the Holy Mass. Opening of exhibit on the state of MKNP and NNNP, the two areas in the province where sizeable forest cover is still available, will be the highlight of the opening program. Simultaneous with the opening ceremony at the Capitol is the various school-based activities that will underline the importance of forest ecosystem.

On June 22, there will be a presentation of the province’s solid waste management plan and a forum on forest concerns, and the following day, June 23, a coastal clean-up will be conducted simultaneously in different cities and municipalities.June 24 is the awarding day for best Solid Waste Management Board and best Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council in Negros Occidental, while recognition shall also be given to environment-friendly business enterprises and local government units with outstanding environmental management.

The Environment Week will close with Arbor Day all throughout the province on June 26.(Author’s Note: This article is also available online at http://errolgatumbato.wordpress.com/ )

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