MABINAY, PHILIPPINES – “When bats die, the world ends.”  That was the take-home message of the two-day environmental forum and exhibit held in Mabinay, the cave town of Negros Oriental.

pygmy fruitbat

The Bat was the point of reference that led the way into the forum discussing the planet’s ecological meltdown.  Mysterious and often disliked, bats captivated the audience as they listened to Dr. Apolinario Carino, bat biologist and member of the Negros Oriental Wildlife Conservation Council, explain how bats are integral to the Mabinay ecosystem.

According to Dr. Carino, bats contribute to ecosystems as pollinators and by acting as natural pest control.  Bats are indispensible to sustaining the unique biodiversity of Mabinay. However, as Dr. Carino pointed out, increasing temperature and unseasonal rains of the changing climate are acting to disrupt bat development, reproduction, food access, and rest.

Dr. Carino expanded his discussion to present the Wet and Wild Exhibit, which expanded the discussion to include all the endangered species of marine and terrestrial wildlife in Negros Oriental.  He concluded by challenging the local government of Mabinay to develop and implement a comprehensive cave management plan to protect bats and promote the conservation of all endangered creatures.

pygmy fruitbat

350 Philippines followed with a presentation illustrating the Earth’s increasing rise in temperatures and the affected climate patterns around the world.  The audience was made to understand the destructive qualities of carbon dioxide emissions when combined with the blatant deforestation and liberalized mining practices that continue to destroy forest cover.

Rainforest farms were then introduced as a concept to absorb carbon dioxide and to help farmers augment their livelihoods.  Rene Vendiola, a former slash-and-burn farmer, introduced the idea.  Vendiola now leads a campaign to save trees, and was recently awarded the title of 2012 Exemplary Individual by the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc.  He introduced the delegates to the various tree and plant species endemic to the Philippines on a guided walking tour of the surrounding area.

The forum culminated to state: concrete steps must be taken to help reverse the trend of a warming environment.  Erick Hanquinet of Environment Alternative Solutions Technology explained solar panels as a renewable energy technology alternative to coal, which is considered the dirtiest and most carbon intensive source of energy yet heavily depended on in the Philippines.  350 Philippines presented a ten-point program of small and practical steps every student can perform to help reverse the climate crisis in their own way.  These included simple ways to reduce our carbon footprints, as well as a call to support the campaign for a moratorium on coal fired power plant projects in the Philippines.

With the help of ethnic musician and community organizer, Nicky Dumapit, a local core group was formed to plan and initiate local campaigns and build the local movement for a sustainable Mabinay.  

The environment forum and exhibit was made possible thanks to the local government of Mabinay through the support and actions of Mayor Earnest Janggo Uy, Dr. Cesar Estrope, Negros Oriental Wildlife Conservation Council, Negros Oriental State University – Mabinay Campus, PENAGMANNAKI, and Environment Alternative Solutions Technology.

Together, we have taken one step to building a better world.

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