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MAGPET, North Cotabato, Aug. 13 - Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committees on food and agriculture, today advocated the propagation of agroforesty and ecotourism to improve agriculture and increase the incomes of Filipinos.
In a speech on the occasion of this town's 46th foundation anniversary, Loren praised the benefits of planting fertilizer trees that would enrich the soil through the introduction of nitrogen.
Loren cited a study by the World Agroforesty Centre that the planting of fertilizer trees can actually reduce the need for commercial nitrogen fertilizers by up to 27 percent while doubling or tripling crop yields.
According to Loren, planting fertilizer trees would not only improve the productivity of agriculture, it would also counter the effects of climate change, thus bringing about a clean environment to the community and reducing disaster risks.
"I am, therefore, promoting agroforestry throughout the country as a means of adaptation essential to building the resilience of our communities to impacts of climate change. With the World Agroforestry Centre, I bring experts to selected areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for consultations with the people and to help address their concerns about climate change," said Loren.
Noting the grandiose natural environment of Magpet which is nestled on the foothills of the imposing Mt. Apo. Loren remarked on the potential of Magpet for eco-tourism to provide a livelihood and raise the income of Magpet residents.
"Indeed, you live in a tourist's paradise. The most beautiful rainforest lakes and waterfalls of Mt. Apo are easily accessible via leisurely trails. The five Magpet trails are favored for their mossy trees and rainforest, abundant water sources, and spacious campsites. The Rapid River Tubing Adventure attracts water sports enthusiasts," Loren told the local people led by Mayor Piñol.
"Magpet presents the happy face of tourism, Eco-tourism, which embraces all forms of tourism in which the main motivation is the observation and appreciation of nature, contributes to the conservation of, and generate minimal impacts on, the natural environment and cultural heritage," said Loren.
"[Ecotourism] is one of the few economic tools available to finance conservation of sensitive ecosystems. Eco-tourism can ensure the participation of local communities in sustainable development whereby they enjoy their rightful share in income generated and other benefits of the activities, and the impact on the environment is kept at a minimal level," declared Loren.
She advised Magpet to focus on making the Mt. Apo Natural Park a major eco-tourism destination. "The conservation cum eco-tourism thrust of the local governments of North Cotabato and of Magpet, in particular, should be guided by a sound local forest land use plan (FLUP) that will inform Magpet officials on how to better manage, protect, and invest in its forest resources. Likewise, this tool can be effective in the resolution of conflicting land uses within the Park."
The UN champion for disaster risk reduction in Asia-Pacific, Loren also warned Magpet folk of the harsh effects of climate change.
"The Philippines unlike other countries in Southeast Asia, is exposed not only to typhoons and tropical cyclones but also to many other climate-related hazards especially floods, landslides, and droughts. Changing cropping seasons will wreck crop production and expose us to food scarcity," Loren said.
"We must undertake measures to reduce impacts on life, health, property and the environment and make certain that other measures to assist recovery will be accessible when needed," Loren declared.