Support pours in for UC's Tublay Ecotourism Plan

November 11, 2018

Various organizations have pledged support towards the Ecotourism Plan for Tublay in Benguet by the University of the Cordilleras (UC) which was among the Top 8 national entries in the Quest for Loving Organizations that can build Village Economies (Quest for LOVE).

Gina Lopez, Former Environment Secretary and Investments in Loving Organizations that Can Build Village Economies (iLOVE) Foundation chair, along with ECHOstore founding trio Reena Francisco, Jeannie Javelosa, and Chit Juan visited the Benguet town ahead of the Earth Warrior Training on October 23-25.

The team visited Tublay's major tourist attractions such as the Bengaongao Cave in Barangay Ambongdolan, and the Bayokbok Falls, Asin Hotspring, and the centennial Balete Tree in Barangay Tuel which are integral elements in the municipality's Ecotourism Plan.

A multisectoral meeting with representatives from government agencies was held at the Longayban Hall in Fort del Pilar to discuss possible events to draw in more tourists in the area. Among the ideas pitched were the coffee-picking tour and trekking during specific months of the year. They also strategized how the locals can benefit from the influx of visitors by showcasing their products and culture.

"Ang unang-unang mga tao na dapat na makikinabang sa area development ay ang mga taong nakatira doon," Lopez said.

She revealed that Southeast Asia's biggest outdoor superstore Recreational Outdoor Exchange (R.O.X.) shall sponsor P1.5 million pesos worth of rappelling gear once they have conducted an ocular inspection to assess the exact equipment needed. In addition, the UP Mountaineers will train the locals in mountaineering safety precautions and techniques.

The iLOVE Foundation Team spearheaded the "Earth Warrior Training" which was aimed at forging a strong rapport between the UC Team and Tublay Local Government. The training culminated in the knighting of 65 new Earth Warriors dedicated to improving peoples' lives by protecting the environment.

During the two-day activity, farmers from Tublay and Municipal Agriculturist Jeffrey Sotero sat with Lopez to discuss their agricultural needs. It was found that among their major problems were irrigation and marketing. In response, Ahdore Jacinto of Ecosystem Technologies Inc. said they will revisit the site later this month to identify a possible water source where they can install the most appropriate pump system. The iLOVE Foundation also issued P108,000 to procure the initial materials to help the farmers. Lopez added that the foundation will look for hotels and restaurants in Manila where their produce can be sold.

Meanwhile, newly-installed Philippine Military Academy Superintendent MGen. Ronnie S. Evangelista has expressed the academy's support in the ecotourism plan. Evangelista, speaking before the team, wished that Tublay be as successful as Bohol where the combined community and government efforts boosted its tourism industry to become one of the largest in the country.

"Advocacies fail because of the lack of community participation," Evangelista reiterated.

With all the support pouring in, Tublay Mayor Armando Lauro said he is looking forward to the positive change it will bring to the municipality. "Ito na ang hamon sa amin para sa kabutihan ng Tublay. Gone are those days na mayroong kanya-kanya system. We are looking forward for a better Tublay that is now moving towards its vision as an agro-ecotourism haven," Lauro said.

Lopez, who launched Quest for LOVE early this year, envisioned the residents of Tublay to be out of poverty. "I see a great future here but the key to the future is in your hearts. Ipapakita ninyo sa lahat ng Pinoy sa mundo na pwede pala at itong pangarap na ito ay nanggaling sa puso natin at hindi sa pera," Lopez told the residents.

Quest for LOVE is a nationwide search which aims "to transform marginalized communities into viable localized economic zones, such as successful resource-based agro-forestry, fisheries, or eco-tourism sites and the like."

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