The Forestland Management Project (FMP) – an 11-year project of the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) with funding and technical support from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – is about to close down shop. Originally scheduled to be implemented in 10 years, the project had encountered some unforeseen events that demanded an extension for another year. The beneficiaries of this decade-long project are the upland communities from Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Ifugao, and Iloilo.
However, before the project’s storied implementation journey comes to a halt, we were blessed enough to experience and explore FMP’s sites of intervention, particularly in Iloilo, along with their stories.
In the words of DENR Region 6 Assistant Regional Director Andres T. Untal, “Sunset is proof that endings can be beautiful. Closeout would be beautiful because of FMP.”
Dubbed as the “City of Love,” Iloilo is known for its heritage homes, cultural landmarks, and cuisine. It also typifies how collective effort among local governments, people’s organizations, and communities could make a foreign-funded project a resounding success.
In a portion of a forest set aside for agroforestry in the municipality of Janiuay rises the Robusta coffee plantation of the Panuran-Tasik Upland Farmers Association Incorporated (PATUFA). Established through the site development component of FMP, the plantation supplies farmers with coffee beans on a scale that is commercially viable. From harvesting of coffee cherries to depulping, drying, and dehulling, the farmers were hands-on. The coffee processing is greatly improved by the Agroforestry Value Chain facility that was also provided by the project, enabling the farmers to produce good quality coffee product that potentially commands higher market price.
“Ipagpatuloy po namin ito. Sabihin natin na wala na yung funding, wala na yung JICA pero nandito pa rin yung personnel ng DENR na magbibigay sa amin ng dagdag na kaalaman kung paano namin maalagaan itong proyekto na iniwan sa amin” [We will continue it. Let us say there is no more funding from JICA, but we are optimistic that the DENR will keep on extending its expertise to us to help sustain the project.], Mr. Bernie Roche, PATUFA Vice President, said.
Gray Infra for Natural Resource and Enterprise
The barangay of Bagongbong in the municipality of Lambunao prides itself for having a hanging bridge that was constructed by the project to support enterprise development and boost socio-economic services such as access to health care and commercial trade.
About a 10-minute walk away from this facility, a hardware store has been put up by the Bagongbong Forestland Association Inc. (BFAI) to augment its members’ income. Here construction materials such as nails and cement are sold, which previously would have been prohibitively costly to transport from the commercial centers.
However, the most important contribution of the bridge is that it shortens travel time of residents to and from their homes and improve their well-being and safety from accidents through a sturdy passageway.
No One Left Behind
Situated approximately 66 kilometers northwest of Iloilo City, far-flung areas of the municipality of Calinog received six completed Agroforestry Support Facilities (ASF), namely the Aglonok Hanging Bridge, Supanga Hanging Bridge, Marindig Hanging Bridge, Marindig Irrigation Pipeline System, Caratagan-Marindig Pathway, and Caratagan Irrigation Pipeline System in April this year. These ASFs are meant to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of upland communities of Calinog through reliable transport and agricultural irrigation systems, thereby making access to education and health care downtown easier, and boosting agricultural production.
Francisco Camarig, Jr., president of Guinbunyugan United Suludnon Tribal Association, Inc., which availed of FMP’s agroforestry project earlier, said: “Ginusto kong sumali sa project ng FMP kasi nakita ko na may malaking pribiliheyo sa barangay at sa komunidad dito sa Guinbunyogan, Calinog, Iloilo. At dahil na rin sa gusto kong matulungan ang community dito at saka yung mga miyembro ng mga GUSTA para ma-improve ang Brgy. Guinbunyogan. Nakita ko na ang FMP Project ay may malaking maitutulong sa aming barangay." [I wanted to join FMP because I saw that it was a great privilege for our barangay and community here in Guinbunyogan, Calinog, Iloilo. The other reason was that I wanted to help GUSTA members. I thought that FMP would greatly help our barangay in general.]
This he said 10 years after FMP extended assistance to the group, in which GUSTA members can now harvest coffee regularly. (FASPS/ Alliah Delgado)