After 15 years of volunteer work, the community of volunteers commonly called Bantay Gubat/ Lasang/ Palibot/ Katunggan/ Suba - Community-based Environmental Law Enforcers (CBELE) in Cauayan, Negros Occidental has been formally recognized by the local chief executive through Executive Order. No. 42, s. 2023. The executive order defines the roles and functions of CBELE relative to the Mount Malipantao Local Conservation Area Management Board and set the financial support it is entitled to receive from the local government for enforcing environmental laws.
The Bantay Gubat-CBELE protects the local conservation area (LCA) in Mount Malipantao, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. The LCA hosts forests, riverbanks and 15 creeks that are tributaries of the Trangkalan and Molobolo rivers within the Ilog-Hilabangan River Basin.
The Bantay Gubat-CBELE began as watchdogs against deer and wild pig hunters who were notorious for setting up forest fire in the area. With their work now recognized and incentivized, their role expands. Aside from their main responsibility of protecting the forest, they are also tasked to lead the information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign on the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
The E2RB Project, which is jointly implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through its River Basin Control Office (RBCO) and the Deutsche Gesellschafts für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), implements capability building initiatives on biodiversity assessment, environmental protection and conservation to capacitate the Bantay Gubat-CBELE. (E2RB/ Dolores Nuevas)