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The National Geographic Channel (NGC) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently gave 50 portable solar lamps to the Taw’Buid – an indigenous Mangyan group inhabiting the remote mountains of Mindoro. Park rangers protecting the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park also received new hammocks, raingear and all-weather patrol uniforms from the Primer Group of Companies.
The deployment is part of NGC’s Earth Day Run, which has been supporting WWF projects since 2013. Race proceeds reforested Isabela forests with 20,000 fruit-bearing trees in 2013 and deployed fibreglass bancas for Palawan fishermen in 2014.
Proceeds from NGC’s 2015 race funded the solar lamp deployment, which was held inside the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park last 3 September. About 15 million Filipinos lack regular access to electricity and Mindoro’s Taw’Buid tribesfolk are no exception, relying on kerosene and firewood to light their homes.
“We gave portable solar lamps because burning fossil fuels accelerates climate change,” says WWF-Philippines President and CEO Joel Palma. “Solar energy is an economical and safe power source because there are no emissions to trigger respiratory ailments. Our goal is to cover basic Filipino needs while fighting climate change.”
The reclusive, forest-dwelling Taw’Buid or Batangan tribe is the most numerous of the eight Mangyan subgroups, with approximately 20,000 members. Most live in simple thatched huts, few of which have been seen by outsiders, owing to the traditional fear harbored by Taw’Buid for outsiders, called Siganon. Many still wear Amakan loincloths made from pounded tree bark and smoke potent tobacco in pipes called Bakto.
As very few have access to electricity, most cut trees for firewood, used to both light homes and provide heat in fire pits, where families congregate and talk each night. The solar lamps will help ease the strain on Mindoro’s forests while giving tribes both light and a means to charge what few electronic gadgets they have. “No longer shall our people rely on fire for light. Thank you for the gift of eternal light,” said Taw’Buid Overall Tribal Chief Fausto Novelozo during the deployment.
The 24-strong corps of Park Rangers were equipped by the Primer Group of Companies with all-weather khaki uniforms. “With the proper clothing, our rangers will be better able to protect themselves from the elements to more vigorously fulfill their tasks. We’re glad to be part of the project,” adds Primer Group of Companies Programme Manager Kristine Villaflor
“Each of our park rangers patrol around 1000 hectares of land. Constantly pelted by both sunrays and raindrops, they need proper gear such as all-weather uniforms, boots, hammocks and rain ponchos to help dispatch their duties. Thank you for the help as it will help us better protect the park,” says Mt. Iglit-Baco Park Superintendent Rodel Boyles.
Since 2012, WWF has been working with the Tamaraw Conservation Programme (TCP), Far Eastern University (FEU), Banco De Oro Unibank (BDO), local government of Occidental Mindoro and the Taw’Buid people to restore the forests of the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park, which hosts the world’s largest population of Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) a critically-endangered dwarf buffalo and one of the country’s national icons.
A pressing objective is to double the number of wild Tamaraw from 300 to 600 by 2020. From 327 heads in 2012, the wild buffalo’s numbers soared to 413 by April 2016. The project, dubbed ‘Tams-2’ or Tamaraw Times Two by 2020, aims not just to conserve Tamaraw, but to protect the cultural identity of the Taw’Buid people while protecting upland forests and ensuring a steady flow of water for the people of Mindoro. The Philippines celebrates Tamaraw Month each October.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to gift Mindoro’s Taw’Buid tribesfolk with economical lighting solutions like solar lamps. The Nat Geo Earth Day Run raises awareness on sustainable environment solutions and helps as many people as possible. We hope the solar lamps will make a positive impact on the lives of the Taw’Buid and contribute to keeping Mindoro’s forests intact,” says FOX Networks Group Senior Vice President and General Manager Jude Turcuato.
Held last April, NGC’s Earth Day Run 2016 will next fund WWF’s marine conservation drive for Apo Reef in Mindoro, the largest coral reef in Asia.