By DANNY O. CALLEJA
SORSOGON CITY– The massive planting of two species of endemic fruit trees that grow extensively in Bicol are being eyed for the conservation efforts within the 250,000-hectare BacMan (Bacon-Manito) geothermal reservation at the boundaries of Manito, Albay and this city, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The area, now site of the 110-megawatt geothermal energy operations of the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC), will serve as pilot site for the undertaking that falls under the government’s reforestation measures on protected areas, Fernando Quilanan, the regional director of the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) said.
It will also be under the EDC’s “Binhi” program that aims to plant millions of fruit bearing trees as a component of its medium-term development plan designed to create alternative source of livelihood for upland settlers, Quilanan said.
This initiative is part of the social responsibility activities of the geothermal energy firm to be implemented within its host communities.
These fruit trees are the “gumihan” (Artocarpus sericicarpus) and “baligang” (Syzygium curanii) of the family Moraceae and family Myrtaceae, respectively. These trees bear fruits almost simultaneously every year that ripens during the months of May and June.
The sweet-sour baligang fruit is similar to its biologically relative duhat (Syzygium cumini), while gumihan is a gold-colored fruit and looks like but tastes sweeter than “marang” (Artocarpius adoratissi).
In principle, Quilanan said the geothermal firm’s management had already committed its full support in terms of funding for the project.
Besides, he said the planting of these endemic fruit trees will also provide additional food for the 14 species of fruit eating bats found within the reservation area.
“These two Bicol’s endemic fruit trees would highlight how rich the region is in terms of forest resources that can be harnessed into sources of livelihood for local upland farmers. We are also planning to launch a contest in finding the biggest and sweetest gumihan and baligang this year,” Quililan said.
The seeds of these fruits to be generated by the contest will be used as planting materials for the propagation of the best quality trees that eventually will herald Bicol as a rich source of these products, he said.
“We can even adopt these species as landmark fruits of the region aside from the “pili” (Canarium ovatum) for celebrating unique festivity, say a Gumihan or a Baligang Festival patterned after the Durian (Davao) and Lanzones (Camiguin) Festivals, among others.” Quililan noted.
Manuel Rangasa, the executive director of the Albay’s Center for Research on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CIRCA) said Governor Joey Salceda, who sports the title “Green Economists,” has expressed support to the project.
A report of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) regional office in Legazpi city over the week said an agreement for the implementation of the fruit tree plantation project has been formally signed during the Executive Committee over the week and the period of implementation will start this month.