Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro — As a simple gesture of charity, residents of two communities that maintain a pro-environment mangrove pathway project in Puerto Galera share the blessings of their labor by distributing school needs to the children of their barangays.

Last June 25, the children from Barangays Tabinay and Dulangan, accompanied by their parents and guardians trooped to the main entrance of the Puerto Galera Mangrove Conservation and Ecotourism Area in Barangay Tabinay to receive their school items from their elders who make as alternative source of income their work as keepers of the 400-meter long pathway inside a sprawling mangrove area overlooking the scenic Puerto Galera bay.

Hermilando Lopez, chairman of Samahang Pangkabuhayan ng Taga-Dulangan (SPTD) said the idea of giving back part of the profits of their project to the community, particularly to the children is their way of distributing dividends like what is being done in the corporate world.

The SPTD, together with the officers and members of Tabinay Puerto Galera Sagip-Kalikasan Kabuhayan Movement distributed school materials such as pencils, notebooks including raincoats and umbrellas and other school needs of pupils of Day Care, the Tabinay Elementary School and Isidoro Suzara Memorial Elementary School in Dulangan.

The SPTD and TPGSKKM are partners in the project and both have assigned people to man the ticket booth and cleaning staff of the mangrove pathway project.

The project was a brainchild of local officials and non-government organizations which saw the dire consequences in ecology if the mangrove plantation will be left unguarded and exposed to poachers and wood gatherers.

It started with the Canada Fund in 2012 which shouldered the initial expenses of the project afterwhich it gained sympathy from other groups in the public and private sectors like the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro and Malampaya Foundation Inc. (MFI).

MFI has also extended a separate financial assistance to the group of Lopez three years ago to prepare them for huge tasks in the future as organized residents and introduced them the training on capability skills and fund management.

Lopez said they chose kayak and swimming gear rental business as their income-generating project in a white sand shore called Groto or Aplayang Munti by local fisherfolk and Virgin Island by foreign tourists.

This rental business became successful which boosted the group’s confidence to handle further the management of the mangrove boardwalk project in partnership with the Tabinay group.

Lucila Yaco, 64, a barangay health worker (BHW) was thankful to MFI for its full support to their neighborhood in Tabinay particularly its women-centered livelihood projects.

Yaco was also thankful to MFI for its assistance extended to the two coastal communities who were formerly small-scale miners but became jobless later when the provincial government, through an ordinance, banned their activity which under the said ordinance only pollute the river and destroy the watershed in the mountains.

MFI has teamed up with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of the Provincial Government of Oriental Mindoro which saw the need to help the displaced miners by involving all the stakeholders for the conservation of the mangrove plantation.

It was an uphill climb for the provincial government and MFI but when the residents realized the importance of the project, it was eventually given a thumb-up sign of social acceptance.

In March 2015, a local ordinance was passed, that firmly installed the project as a marine protected area (MPA) which opens itself up, among others, to protection and support from the local populace and the public.