Consuelo Magallanes is the real life embodiment of the motto “Stand up for what is right, even if you stand alone.”
Luckily for her, she doesn’t have to do it alone as she is backed up by her fellow members of the Coron Watershed Beneficiaries Watershed Association which has now evolved into the CWBA Agroforestry Services Marketing Cooperative, in their effort to protect the National Greening Program (NGP) site they have been assigned to reforest in Coron.
“We have always been partners of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) ever since the watershed protection project from before, the CBFM (community based forestry management program) and now with the NGP,” Magallanes, whoserves as the cooperative’s chairwoman said.
“And since we started with the NGP in 2011 it has helped our organization and our members a lot, first with providing income opportunities that help them send their children to school, to now enabling us to establish our own office,” she said.
Magallanes said that they have faced many challenges in caring for their 1,000 hectare area. As a matter of fact, she has time and again received death threats from poachers whom she has driven away on occasion.
But she remained unfazed by the threats.
“Once we spot irregularities, we immediately confront the offenders and sometimes, they threaten us. But I am not afraid. I will continue to do it because I am committed to the project,” she said.
There are also the occasional fires that are started by malicious individuals that they work hard to prevent via patrol.
“We have 41 official members in our files but there are still 91 pending applications. We welcome our community members to join the NGP even if they are not members because we want to give people the opportunity to help. We also want to spread the opportunity to uplift their lives because of this project,” she said.
Despite some elements who sabotage their efforts, she reported that their dedication to monitor and patrol the area have been quite successful. The plants they have planted have grown and some of them present additional income opportunities as potential merchandise for tourists.
“Our barangay now has a proposal to make a tourism park here in our area and we see this as an opportunity to become enterprising. We have planted acacia mangium, narra and other indigenous species to help with reforestation but there are also agroforestry goods that we may harvest and sell to tourists,” she said.
“We can also offer hiking like what they do in Mt. Tapyas because our mountain is already very lush. We can also start a zipline from our office to the top of the mountain,” she added excitedly.
Magallanes said that the NGP opened their eyes to the beauty of their area and the potential that it holds for their people.
“Right now our savings and income has allowed us to build our office but we are also thinking of starting a water business for tourists because the water quality has improved significantly here since we started planting,” she said.
She added that they are also planning to open our own inn so visitors will have a place to rest.
“We are excited about our future and its all because we partnered with the DENR for this project,” she said.