Alcoy Forest Rehabilitation Project: Crimson Resort and Spa’s answer to nature’s call

By Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo |July 06,2019 - 07:09 PM

Volunteers and employees of Crimson Resort and Spa, members of the Philippine Air Force, representatives from the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. and Eco Explorations, and community wardens of Alcoy town launch the Forest Rehabilitation Project, a five-year commitment that includes the establishment of a native tree nursery and the planting of trees in the area. | Contributed photo

ALCOY, Cebu—In a patch of forest located 102 kilometers south of Cebu City, there lives an endangered songbird known in the scientific community as Copsychus cebuensis or siloy to the residents of this town.

Belonging to the family Muscicapidae, the siloy or Black Shama is a bird species that can only be found in Cebu island.

Sadly, it is also in the list of threatened species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

“Nowhere else in the world can anyone find this species. But it also lives in Cebu which has very minimal forest cover,” says Lisa Paguntalan, wildlife biologist and executive director of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PhilBio).

The siloy is not the only species in the IUCN red list. 

Twelve globally threatened birds are found in Cebu and three others can only be found in Cebu.

These include the Cebu Flowerpecker, Cebu Brown Dove and Cebu Hawk Owl.

Every day, they are in danger of becoming extinct as non-environment friendly practices such as slash-and-burn farming and illegal logging still persist.

Cebu Island only has less than one-percent forest cover and this is broken into eight widely-separated forest fragments in Cebu City, Alcoy-Boljoon, Catmon-Carmen, Tuburan, Malabuyoc, Dalaguete, Argao and Alegria.

These forest fragments vary in sizes from 36 hectares to 1,500 hectares.

But despite the dismal state of Cebu’s forest cover, a 1998 study by Collar et al. and then a 2001 study by Mallari et al. noted that “these small patches continue to support an astonishingly high number of endemic plants and animals and remnant populations of almost all of Cebu’s endemic taxa.”

More of these species, which live in Cebu, are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.

These are the Cebu small work skink, Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat, streak-breasted bulbul, green-faced parrot finch and Rufous-llred kingfisher. These species are vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered.

Volunteers and employees of Crimson Resort and Spa, members of the Philippine Air Force, representatives from the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. and community wardens of Alcoy town launch the Forest Rehabilitation Project, a five-year commitment that includes the establishment of a native tree nursery and the planting of trees in the area. | Contributed photo

Even then, Paguntalan says these species survive in small patches of limestone forests distributed in Cebu.

The largest of this is the Alcoy-Boljoon forest, which is considered as the stronghold habitat of species in the island.

The forest, which spans 1,600 hectares, is managed and protected by four local organizations through a community-based forest management agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Commitment

For more than two decades of working in the field of biodiversity conversation and protection, PhilBio has been vocal about forest rehabilitation as one of the most urgent and important components in securing the ecosystem services provided by Cebu’s forests.

This is why when Crimson Resort and Spa expressed their interest to contribute to this endeavor, Paguntalan says PhilBio sees it as a responsible move by a company to contribute in sustainable development.

“The support of Crimson Resort provides added attention and recognition of the biodiversity importance of the site,” says Paguntalan.

She says PhilBio connected with Crimson through Nella Lomotan of Eco Explorations.

Paguntalan says Lomotan visited Nug-as Forest upon the encouragement of PhilBio Board Member and former Tourism Secretary Joseph” Ace” Durano.

“She wanted to help, and we are glad that she did this,” she says.

Mia Mae Sy, public relations and marketing communications manager of Crimson Resort and Spa, says the company’s involvement in environmental conservation and protection is in line with the fulfillment of their mission as a green resort: That of contributing to the preservation and conservation of Cebu’s rich natural resources. 

To Crimson, community engagement and sustainable development are not just phrases that they throw around in order to build positive reputation. 

Sy says being environmentally and socially aware is part of the Crimson culture that they hope all employees will imbibe. 

In fact, the company is very much committed to be a responsible corporate and community citizen that committing hours for outreach projects, environment initiatives and other related activities is part of each employee’s key result areas when they are evaluated for job performance. 

“We cannot just work in a paradise and exist in a vacuum. We understand and take into heart that we are part of a larger and wider ecosystem, and we have a role to play in making sure that we continue to enjoy this paradise with respect and care for nature,” she tells CDN Digital.

Sy says this is Crimson’s five-year commitment that starts with the improvement of the local endemic nursery.

Community wardens are responsible in monitoring the growth of the trees and in managing the native tree nursery. Contributed  photo / Eco Explorations

Crimson initially committed to 2,000 seedlings, which will enliven at least a hectare of the forest. 

Sy says they will also call on partners and even guests to participate in this initiative by donating seedlings to the nursery for P40 per seedling.

“Every partner is involved. Later, when the trees are grown, PhilBio is giving us the opportunity to do name tagging so a tree can be named after the person swho donated it,” she says.

Engagement

Panguntalan of PhilBio says this is not just a regular tree planting activity as Crimson employees and volunteers are actively involved in the different stages of the rehabilitation initiative.

Crimson and PhilBio work closely with the local association, Kapunungan sa Mag-uuma sa Yutang Lasangnon sa Bulalacao, Nug-as, Alcoy (KMYLBNA).

“They are very much involved in setting up the nursery for native trees under the supervision of the community forest wardens in Nug-as, so they have tried seedling collection, bagging and planting the seedlings,” she says.

Paguntalan, who is a staunch advocate of wildlife conservation/protection and from whom a native species of yellow mistletoe in Negros was named after, says forest rehabilitation need the commitment and support of the private sector.

“This is why we’d like our partners to really see what we do on the ground, what our community wardens do in order to make sure that our ecosystem remains vibrant,” she says.

Paguntalan says a functioning tree nursery is crucial in forest rehabilitation; hence Crimson’s move to actively participate from seedling collection to treeplanting and even monitoring is crucial.

On May 31, 25 Crimson employees and 17 members of the Philippine Air Force trooped to the Nug-as forest to learn more about the value of planting native and endemic trees.

Volunteers take time off their work and personal schedules to help in establishing the native tree nursery at the Nug-as Forest in Alcoy, Cebu. | Contributed photo / Eco Explorations

They helped establish the nursery and learned seed collection and bagging from the community wardens.

The critically endangered Cebu Cinnamon tree will make up majority of the species to be planted along with other endemic trees.

Paguntalan says this partnership is a step toward creating and transforming more people to be ambassadors for wildlife protection and conservation.

At Alcoy’s Nug-as Forest, the birds sing and the trees sway.

In their midst are the humans, who commit to keep the song and the dance alive.

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