June 17, 2024

For its various efforts for environmental protection, La Trinidad, Benguet received the inaugural Gawad Gabay Kalikasan 2021 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Cordillera. 
Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Arthur Pedro attributed the award to the town’s active implementation of programs on environment conservation such as maintaining ambient air quality, water and solid waste management, information and education campaigns and implementation of ordinances.
The clean air program includes adopt-a-tree program, the monthly carless Thursdays, and forest preservation in which the town has four operational agro-forest nurseries which supplies saplings for tree planting activities, series of tree caring activities participated by various organizations and volunteers, and watering system installed in the planting sites.  
On water management, simultaneous clean-up drives are initiated quarterly and printed signages are installed along the river bank to instill public awareness about the need to keep the Balili River clean.
On solid waste management, the town has hired 173 bantay basura advocates who oversee each collection point ensuring waste segregation at source.  
To properly implement ordinances, CCTV surveillance cameras were installed at strategic areas, which led to the apprehension of individuals violating ordinances; implementation of demolition orders on illegal structures built within the Puguis communal forest, and confiscation of illegally sawn lumber. 
The 48-hectare Puguis communal forest was recently reclaimed by the local government after being taken over by illegal claimants for years.
At present, individuals and families taking respite from the pandemic go to the communal forest for biking and forest bathing with the supervision of a bantay gubat. Tree planting and tree caring activities are also regularly done in the area, which was not done in previous years due to the presence of claimants in the area. 
Pedro said they are constantly monitoring the forest and immediately dismantle illegal structures built inside the communal forest.
The LGU also won first place in the search for the Best Environment and Management Bureau-funded operating materials recovery facility in the region.
Pedro said the town made Barangay Ambiong as its entry for its best practices in managing its MRF.
Ambiong’s MRF not only reduces wastes in the barangay but also generates income that is used to sustain its operation. The barangay can produce eco-blocks and bricks that are being used for its beautification programs or is being sold to interested individuals.
The municipality bagged P50,000 cash prize which will be split with Ambiong to be used for their environmental protection programs.
Both awards were conferred on June 29 in time for the online culminating program of Philippine Environment Month. – Ofelia C. Empian