Biodiversity on Wheels goes to Tandag, Surigao Del Sur

Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and the Haribon Foundation conducted a series of teaching sessions focused on spreading biodiversity conservation and preservation to students in Surigao Del Sur.

Because of the province’ geographical position facing the mighty Pacific Ocean, surf-worthy waves pound the shorelines of Surigao Del Sur all year round. For many, this becomes a good reason to get stoked in the province. Conversely, the gift Mother Nature brings to this sea doesn’t end there. Beneath the mammoth swells hides an underwater gem teeming with some of the healthiest coral reef in the country.

This fact however, comes with a shadow of peril. Studies have shown that the wealthy marine system found under the waters of Hinatuan stretching to Lanuza Bay, can all disappear within a few years if no actions are taken. Comparing figures from several decades ago, the percentage of living coral reef has astonishingly diminished by more than 70%.

Teach Biodiversity Conservation Now

Because of the threat facing our ocean’s resources today, it is imperative to start educating the younger generation about biodiversity conservation.

The Haribon Foundation launched in 2012, a program called “Biodiversity in Wheels”. According to them “Biodiversity on Wheels (BOW) is a built-in multimedia and library rolled into one van that visits schools and communities to teach environmental topics such as Philippine biodiversity and solid waste management. BOW has conducted a wide array of engaging activities for youth new to biodiversity and environmental topics. Through BOW biodiversity, conservation is now more accessible to children.”

In 2017, the Tourism Promotions Board of the Philippines (TPB) partnered with Haribon. Since then, both organizations have worked on a number of projects including a Biodiversity on Wheels Program in Iloilo in January and this recent one held in Surigao Del Sur.

In one lighthearted exchange during the ‘Biodiversity on Wheels’ teaching session at Tagbina Central Elementar School in Surigao Del Sur; Wendy - a TPB staff volunteering as one of the day’s teachers, candidly asked the students if they have seen a sea turtle. Immediately, a 4th grader boy raised his hands and ran to the classroom’s comfort room. He came back carrying a live baby sea turtle.

It turns out he bought it from a vendor outside their school and has been keeping it alive on a bucket of water. After learning about the importance of preserving biodiversity and protecting Lanuza Bay’s endangered marine species, the little boy pledged to bring the sea turtle back to sea.

As comical the episode was, it heightened the significance of raising biodiversity consciousness to young students early in their education life.

The Biodiversity on Wheels concluded with a two day interactive discussions conducted by volunteer teachers for the day from the TPB, on the students of Purisima National High School and Tagbina Central Elementary School in Surigao Del Sur.

Promoting Tourism and Environmental Awareness

As the marketing and promotional arm of the Department of Tourism, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) of the Philippines is also conducting CSR programs that touches on environment awareness across the country. Because sustainable tourism can only be achieved if we all do our part in conserving our natural resources, TPB has reached out to like-minded organizations to spread ecological consciousness. By partnering with one of the leading environmental advocacy organizations the Haribon Foundation, it plans to take Biodiversity on Wheels to more provinces next year.

Today, The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program of TPB is currently the most active arm of the agency in promoting sustainable tourism. TPB also perceived that the conducted CSR activities with partner NGOs yielded more meaningful results, not only to the target recipients but also to the CSR volunteers who became more engaged in clean and green practices.

For now, it’s definitely “More Fun in the Philippines”, but how long it will last depends on our ability to preserve our remaining natural resources. With the help of Biodiversity on Wheels and other similar programs, there is still hope in making the fun brought about by the beauty of our country, to last forever.