Are you familiar of balobo tree, scientifically known as diplodiscus paniculatus? Perhaps, most had difficulty identifying this tree species. It is now considered vulnerable and its number has significantly declined as cited in one of the publications of the Research Information Series on Ecosystems (RISE). Among the factors contributing to its present state is the loss of habitat due to logging and shifting cultivation.

But according to folklore, long time ago balobo trees are so distinct in the municipality of Barobo when manobo tribesmen settled in the area. So thus, it is where the place got its name.

Barobo is a coastal town situated at the central region of Surigao del Sur. And with its location, the area is richly favored with water resources, which started gaining popularity with the help of social media.

Today, this town with an estimated population of more than 50,000 or 49,730 to be exact as per record set in Year 2015, is now known for its beautiful islets, springs and even cave. They have the Turtle, Cabgan and Vanishing islands, Bogac and Beto springs, the Liatimco or Wakat cave, and also resorts. The waters which appear to be so clear and some especially the springs being associated to a crystal-like jade for illuminating an emerald green color that has a calming effect made the area even more inviting to visitors. In fact, the influx of guests in the area as revealed by its Municipal Tourism Officer is increasing.

But, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Caraga made an intervention to educate the public especially the LGU officials that the clearness of water is no guarantee it is free from contamination, especially considering that there are dwellers within the area. Since water resources are generally utilized for recreational purposes, the Bureau included some of them, like Bogac and Beto Springs, Liatimco or Wakat Cave, and Licanto Beach Resort to the Recreational Waters/Beach Eco-Watch Program. Under this program, said waters are frequently monitored to ensure that they are indeed fit for its usage all year round.

Monitoring results in 2016 showed that those waters exceeded the standards especially for fecal coliform parameter. LGU-Barobo, being also a member of the Regional Inter-Agency Technical Committee (RIATC) for recreational waters were being notified about it.

The LGU officials turned out very responsive. They treated the result as reference for coming up with positive actions. Still, they continued pushing for tourism industry in their municipality, but already coupled with concrete steps so as not to compromise public health and wellbeing plus ensure an eco-friendly environment.

In 2017, the LGU relocated some dwellers within the location of those monitored waters identified as direct contributor to water pollution. Affected settlers were employed to their Bogac Coldspring operation. They strengthened their solid waste management initiatives and conducted massive information campaign through “Save Barobo River Program”. They also constructed and improved facilities to cater tourists’ comfort. And because of their aspiration to preserve the natural beauty of nature, they implemented the non-removal of trees, shrubs and grasses along Beto lagoon.

There’s indeed some improvement in the quality of water. And while seeing this development, LGU-Barobo continually sought the technical assistance of EMB Caraga and support of other stakeholders in their pursuit to attaining a sustainable and eco-friendly tourism industry. (CM Elpa)