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Grassland now a thriving forest at the heart of the Quirino provincial capitol

In the mountainous part of the 105-hectare provincial capitol area lies a lush forest of various tree species such as almaciga, narra, kamagong, yakal, and many others.

Looking at the trees, no one will ever think that this part of the provincial capitol land area used to be a grassland inhabited by informal settlers who established their corn plantation as a major source of livelihood.

In the 1990s, farmers with their carabaos pulling sleds were a usual sight.

In 2010, then Governor Junie E. Cua initiated the inventory and assessment of the provincial capitol’s properties, and the biggest part of the said area is owned by the provincial government.

Immediately, the governor looked for a relocation site for the informal settlers to give way for a forest management project of the provincial government.

Today, the families who used to live in the area are now settled at Purok 7, San Marcos in Cabarroguis, just a few steps from the provincial capitol. Some of their family members were also accommodated as laborers in the provincial capitol.

According to some employees who were already employed in the early 90s, the Provincial Natural Resources and Environment Office started planting trees as early as 1992 when the Provincial Natural Resources and Environment Office (PNREO) was established. Still, people in the area used to destroy the plants so the effort was in vain.

According to Vivian Pilar, administrative officer of the PNREO, the forest development project went full blast in 2010 after the informal settlers were relocated.

Every year, on every special occasion like Quirino Day and during the birthdays of the then governor, employees of the provincial capitol, municipal government, and national government plant trees as part of the celebration.

A group from the provincial government of Quirino and Landbank of the Philippines plant trees at the Tree for Legacy Park, Capitol Hills, Cabarroguis. (Photo courtesy of PLGU Quirino)

Fifty hectares or 50 percent of the total land area has been devoted to the forest management program of the provincial government with the main goal of preserving the environment from degradation caused by the slash-and-burn farming practice of the informal settlers as well as helping mitigate the effects of climate change.

Former governor, now PCSO Chair Junie E. Cua (in orange cap) leads the team in the development of the forest park of the provincial government of Quirino. (File Photo courtesy of PLGU Quirino)

According to Estrella Pasion, provincial natural resources and environment officer, positive effects are now felt through the increase of biodiversity, especially the improvement in wildlife, and the quality and quantity of water supply.

“This is our contribution in carbon sequestration or reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to reduce the impacts of climate change,” Pasion said.

Tree for Legacy Park

One of the must-see parts of the area is the “Tree for Legacy Park” where one can see 10 of the oldest trees of the provincial capitol compound. In one of the celebrations of Quirino Day, some of the highlights were the photography contest featuring the oldest trees, adopting a tree, tree nurturing, and tree-hugging to emphasize the importance of trees in life.

Bamboo EcoPark

The provincial government through the PNREO and the Community Forestry Foundation of Quirino, Inc. (CFFQI) also initiated the establishment of the five-hectare Bamboo Eco-Park that aims to create awareness of the importance of bamboo to the environment and as a livelihood opportunity for the Quirinians. 

Located at the heart of the provincial capitol area, the park is connected to the different tourist destinations within the provincial capitol which include the Quirino Watersports Complex, Reflection Pond, Kalayaan Trail, and the Capitol Orchidarium.

To date, a total of 12 species of bamboo have been planted as a result of procurement and donations from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the Watershed and Water Resources Research Development and Extension Center.

Eventually, the eco-park is to be developed into a Bambusetum with a target of at least 60 bamboo species.

Kalayaan Trail

During the celebration of the 123rd Philippine Independence Day, a group of trailblazers from the provincial government led by Economic and Enterprise Office (EEO) Head Elmor Villaruel conducted a reconnaissance of the Kalayaan Trail along the four highest peaks within the 105 hectares capitol compound, the Ipil Bakir Peak, Silag Peak, Balitbitan Peak, and the Campsite.

One year after the reconnaissance survey, the Provincial Tourism Office trekked the area to plant the Philippine flag at the highest summit of the provincial capitol ground.

Forestry 101 Building 

The Forestry 101 building was also established to become a learning hub primarily on the importance of forests, environmental management, forest protection, conservation, rehabilitation, and nursery management.

Governor Dakila Carlo Cua (in red) continues the tree planting activities at the Quirino forest park. (Photo courtesy of PLGU Quirino)

Pasion said the building will be improved into a state-of-the-art information and education building for students, researchers, educators, and environment advocates.

“We are now drafting the program of works and detailed engineering design in preparation for its repair and construction through the funds committed by the Oceanagold,” Pasion assured.

The Bamboo EcoPark located at the Capitol Compound in San Marcos, Cabarroguis, Quirino (File Photo courtesy of PLGU Quirino)

Sakura Park 

In addition to the different features of the forest management project, EEO head Villaruel also disclosed the plan of the provincial government to put up a Sakura Park in the area with an initial 200 seedlings of Palawan Cherry, which looks like Japanese Cherry, to be planted.

“The initial plan is to plant the seedlings around the motocross mountain so that if you are at the stage of the motocross area, there is an overlooking view of Palawan Cherry Trees that looks like a Sakura Park of Japan,” Villaruel added.

Aside from the continuous beautification and reforestation of the area, a nursery for the propagation of various forest trees, fruit trees, and ornamental plants has been established.

The then grassland and cornfield had completely transformed into a greener, eco-friendlier site which is now a home to various pollinators such as birds, bees, and butterflies and a conducive place where lovers make promises.

As the area has become a perfect place for lovers, Forester Pasion has reminded those who frequently visit the area to respect the trees by leaving nothing behind except the memories and the promises they make under their shades.

Also, one must remember that every time he or she takes a deep breath of air, he or she should give credit to a tree for the fresh air it gives to everyone. (OTB/TCB/PIA-2, QUIRINO)

About the Author

Thelma Bicarme

Information Officer III

Region 2

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