July 16, 2024

■  Harley F. Palangchao 

Officers and members of the biggest media organization north of Manila, the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club, Inc., have revived the global award-winning Eco-Walk, an environmental awareness program for children by transforming the Busol watershed into a natural classroom.

The revival of the program with a tree planting activity on June 19 with Baguio officials was led by Rep. Mark Go, Mayor Benjamin Magalong, councilors Leandro Yangot Jr. and Rocky Aliping, along with representatives of the Baguio Water District, Benguet Electric Cooperative, and SM Foundation joining the activity.

The event was also in partnership with the city government of Baguio through the City Environment Parks and Management Office.

Eco-Walk was conceived to protect and preserve the Busol watershed, which has an area of 336 hectares, with 227 hectares on the side of La Trinidad, Benguet and 112 hectares in Baguio City.

The Baguio side is 80 percent forested while the La Trinidad side is still being reforested.

Conceived in 1992 by a group of Baguio journalists, who are now in the great beyond, the Eco-Walk program is based on the traditional forest management systems of indigenous peoples of the Cordillera and other parts of the world. It was inspired by the traditional muyong or pinugo forest systems practiced by the Ifugaos that sustain year-round irrigation for the world-famous Ifugao Rice Terraces; similar to tayan, lakun, and batangan systems of Mountain Province, and the lapat of Apayao.

It was also inspired by the “walk-about” among aboriginal youths in Australia.

These time-tested traditional forest management systems were proven to be effective long before the creation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The Eco-Walk allows children to lead in environmental conservation, which has inspired leaders and adult members of the community to support the program and heighten community commitment to environmental concerns.

A year after its inception, Eco-Walk received the 1993 “Gawad Oscar Florendo” award from the Public Relations Organization of the Philippines and three years later, the program received the 1996 “Galing Pook” award as one of the country’s most innovative and effective local government programs. The award was handled by the Asian Institute of Management and the Local Government Academy of the Department of Interior and Local Government and is supported by the Ford Foundation. 

For its success, Eco-Walk has been used as a case study at the Asian Institute of Management and by the Swedish International Development Agency in its international watershed.

Eco-Walk received its greatest recognition from the United Nations through the Global 500 Roll of Honour Award for Environmental Achievement during the international World Earth Day celebration in Shenzhen, China in 2012 or a year after the program won for the program director the 2001 “Lingkod Bayan” award from the Civil Service Commission.