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Native trees to be restored in Buhisan

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Native trees to be restored in Buhisan

08:08 AM March 12, 2012

Concerted effort from various stakeholders in Cebu is needed to save the local watersheds, a conservationist said.

The lush 360-hectare forest with indigenous trees that is the Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve boasts a variety of ecotourism attractions for the nature enthusiast.

Architect Socorro Atega, executive director of the Cebu Uniting for Sustainable Waters (CUSW), said the Buhisan Ecotourism destination is one way of encouraging environmental sustainability and letting the public understand their role as stewards of the environment.

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“We should educate our constituents. Most of us don’t realize that we have the responsibility of taking care of our water resources,” Atega said during the Hambin Monthly forum in the Cathedral Museum yesterday afternoon.

Atega talked of Buhisan as an ecocultural heritage tourist destination for Cebu. He said the area has lots of potential for tourism aside from being a water source.

The Buhisan Dam, along with the Fuente Osmena Circle, celebrated its 100th anniversary of operation last February 13.

The circle is a waterworks project inaugurated in 1912 and considered as one of Cebu City’s historical sites. While Buhisan with its 60-hectare pond area is the only surface water source tapped by Metropolitan Cebu Water District.

The dam produces 5,000 to 10,000 cubic meters of water per day and provides 5 percent of the MCWD water supply.

Last year, new projects in the watershed like the garden for endemic butterflies, including the Jumalone butterflies only found in Cebu was opened to the public.

Atega said they are also designing programs for the livelihood of upland communities. Among the livelihood opportunities would be in ecotourism where locals will serve as tourist guides.

Atega said they will also prioritize the development of water and forest sustainability that will center on the program of planting native trees species in the watershed.

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“We would like to replace our exotic species with native tree species,” Atega said. He added that exotic species will hinder development on the lower portion of the ecosystem leaving the soil under thick trees barren and vulnerable to erosion and siltation of the surface water source.

Many exotic trees like mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla), gmelina (Gmelina arborea) and teak trees (Tectona grandis) were planted in the watershed areas years ago before the advantages of native tree species were noted by conservationists. Some exotic species are known to be invasive and can cause permanent changes in natural forest habitats.

Among the indigenous seedlings in the area are mabolo, tipolo, banilad, dakit and Cebu cinnamon. Many conservationists are now advocating restoring indigenous tree species as the best approach to forest ecosystem restoration and conservation.

She said the program is still undergoing “polishing,” especially on the training of the community on the ecotourism.

Atega said they are hoping to open the area for eco-tourism within the year.

Initially, the plan includes a Buhisan Watershed and Forest Reserve Nature Center, which is in the middle of the trees, that will house the historical and ecological facts about the watershed.

Behind the center is a two-level pond that will save rainwater runoff. Atega said they would also put tilapia fish in the pond.

A nursery for seedlings sponsored by the Philippine Business for Social Progress will house indigenous tree species to be planted in the area.

The track from the center to the pond near the dam is lined with mahogany, teak, and gmelina trees as old as 50 years.

They provided alternative livelihood for nearby residents like vermi composting, planting of crops and raising livestock as alternatives to illegal logging and charcoal making. Candeze R. Mongaya, Reporter

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