SOME 250 Blaan youth volunteers were tapped by Sarangani Energy Corporation (SEC), a unit of the Alsons Power Group, and the Conrado & Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation, Inc. (Clafi), in a tree inventory activity in Amsipit village in Maasim, Sarangani last June 2.
For volunteer 21-year-old future educator Ruben Isla Jr., he was unaware there was a tree called Dalingdingan (Hopea Malibato) in his birthplace in Sitio Kyumad, a predominantly Blaan village in the hinterland barangay of Amsipit.
Ruben Jr., fondly called “Toh,” by his friends and relatives was one of the 250 Blaan youth volunteers tapped by SEC.
The program, which was launched on May 2 this year directs at providing summer job to both the in-school and out-of-school youth in the barangay, with a daily allowance pegged at P100. Their chores vary from measurement of the trees’ canopy, height and circumference to fruit evaluation, recording and documenting the trees' condition and tree-tagging.
The tree inventory forms part of SEC's on-going Watershed Protection Project (WPP), aimed at reforesting 7,500 hectares, an area bigger than the City of Manila and over twice the size of Makati City, within a 15-year period, to protect the Siguil and Kamanga River watersheds in Maasim.
The project encompasses villages Amsipit, Pananag, Lumatil, Kablacan, Nomoh and Bales. The power company will plant a total of 3.75 million seedlings of indigenous tree species and commercial agro-forestry crops such as coffee, guyabano, cashew among others.
"Most, if not all of them, are children of our farmer-beneficiaries," said Angelie Christie Budo, Clafi's environment program coordinator.
Touted as the biggest environmental undertaking in Sarangani in terms of land area, WPP ensures the livelihood of at least 500 resident families from the B’laan and T’boli indigenous communities who are organized under the Maasim Highland Farmer’s Association (MHFA).
Beneficiary families of the MHFA protect and cultivate the planted seedlings and in turn, harvest and market the products of the trees and agricultural crops once they bear fruit.
MHFA families keep all the proceeds from the sale of the harvested crops from the watershed protection area. SEC also provides the MHFA families with a regular stipend and farming implements.
SEC and the MHFA are implementing the program in partnership with the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Provincial Government of Sarangani, the Municipality of Maasim, and the various villages and communities within the project site.