Dreams do come true and old sayings can become a reality. When my family and I first set foot in the municipality of Lobo in Batangas more than 10 years ago, the roads were all rough and bumpy and the people’s only steady source of living was fishing. People lived simple lives and had simple dreams. We fell in love with that quiet, laid-back town just the same because it had pristine beaches, lush mountains and a welcoming people. Thus, we took the leap of faith and put whatever little savings we had to become adopted children of Lobo. Our leap was coupled with a vision that one day this undiscovered paradise will rise from the rubble of poverty.
Recently, we realized that our dream was now taking shape and the old saying that “Crisis is the mother of opportunity” is fast becoming a reality in Lobo.
Only some six months ago, crisis erupted in the once-sleepy town when its people learned that its Sangguniang Bayan had endorsed to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the operation of open-pit mining for gold by an Australian company. The once-quiet municipality which prides itself in being along the coast of the Verde Island Passage—the center of the center of the world’s marine biodiversity—and of having rich flora and fauna, was threatened by the destructive effects of open-pit mining. The church leaders, resort owners, the Lobo Water District officials who became gravely concerned about the devastating effect on Lobo’s watersheds, the media, especially ABS CBN network and several columnists, and people’s organizations quickly joined hands to avert the destructive consequences of mining on the Verde Passage and Lobo’s mountains and rich vegetation. The stakeholders formed a coalition that was to employ a multi-pronged courses of action. Gina Lopez of the Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation stepped in to persuade the local government of Lobo that mining would impoverish the people of Lobo even more, apart from permanently destroying the Verde Passage. She promised to lift the municipality’s economy by introducing trainings toward organic farming and food processing and manufacturing. She also promised to market Lobo’s products and promote it as a tourist destination.
Several rallies and protests were staged at the town’s plaza and at the Environment Department. Finally, listening to what the people wanted, the Sangguniang Bayan revoked the endorsement it earlier gave to the mining company. This was also promptly followed by a Resolution issued by the Regional Ecotourism Committee composed of several government agencies, led by the Department of Tourism, which declared that Lobo, being part of the Batangas and the Verde Island Passage coastlines, is included in the National Tourism Development Plan of the government. Thus, the Ecotourism Committee said, no application for mineral contracts such as mining shall be allowed pursuant to Executive Order 79, dated 6 July 2012.
Then, last week, the local government of Lobo led by Mayor Gaudioso Manalo signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, headed by Gina Lopez. In the agreement, the LGU made a commitment to environmental protection and conservation in all its activities and policies, and to the provision of counterpart contribution for projects identified by partner people’s organizations. For its part, ABS-CBN Foundation committed to provide technical support for livelihood training, tourism and marketing, as well as media promotion. To jumpstart all the projects planned, First Gen Corporation, the leading producer of renewable energy in the country, pledged P5 million for use in livelihood training and tourism development.
With all the projects and infrastructure that are on the drawing board, the rest of the nation will soon get to see the well-kept secrets of Lobo: its rice terraces, mangrove forest, an old lighthouse, waterfalls, a sea turtle sanctuary, and its marine life which is unparalleled in richness. Lobo’s plump sweet atis, its tamarind and mango wines, sardines and other organic products will soon be in markets.
My dream, and the Loboeños’ dream, that this once-undiscovered paradise will rise is fast becoming a reality, with credits to the crisis that hit it months ago.
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