This year’s World Environment Day (WED) themed, ‘Connecting People to Nature,’ encourages us to go outdoors, appreciate the beauty and importance of nature, and take forward the call to protect the earth. The Biodiversity, Coastal, Wetlands and Ecotourism Research Center (BCWERC) took the challenge and launched the Cebu Experimental Forest Community Recycled Waste Product (CEFCRWP) Display Center last June 7, 2017 at the Old Forest Research Institute (FORI) building in Camp-7, Minglanilla, Cebu.

The CEFCRWP Display Center was conceptualized as a follow up activity of the Solid Waste Management learning event conducted by the BCWERC in partnership with the University of San Jose Recoletos - Recoletos Institute for Disaster and Environmental Management (USJR-RIDEM) for the Cebu Experimental Forest (CEF) community last April 19-20, 2017.

BCWERC Center Head, Dr. Alicia L. Lustica led the ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the CEFCRWP Display Center. Joining her is the Barangay Captain of Camp 7, Hon. Catalino Largo and Ms. Louela Alix of Movement for Livable Cebu (MLC). Said event was also participated in by Dr. Joanna de Catalina of USJR-RIDEM, Mr. Rudy Alix also from MLC, LGU partner-Barangay, civil society organizations, and officers and members of the local Peoples’ Organizations (POs), namely the Camp-7 Non-Timber Planters Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CNTPMPC), Saint Mary Women’s Organization (SMWO), and the Camp-7 Environmental Planters Association (CEPA).

Said PO members have joined hands in bringing out their creativity to produce products out of recyclable waste materials. These include decorative plant pots made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, craft papers and cardboards produced out of residual office papers, and paper beads weaved into fashion accessories and draperies. Decorative items also made from driftwood, fallen branches, twigs, and seeds were even crafted that can be sold as souvenirs to CEF visitors.

BCWERC has initiated the SWM program in the CEF in response to the worsening problem of indiscriminate solid waste disposal by the community, mostly informal settlers within the area, which negatively affects the ecotourism potentials of the CEF.

The Camp-7 kids, on the other hand, also contributed to the activity by adding value to the recycled waste products through paintings on craft papers/cardboards and empty wine bottles. Surprisingly, said paintings revealed the kids’ poor perception about the CEF. Definitely, there is a need to boost the youngsters’ awareness through continuous Information, Education and Communication (IEC) Campaigns, particularly on the aspects of solid waste management, biodiversity conservation, and forest protection.

The launching of CEFCRWP Display Center is part of this year’s WED and Environment month-long celebration. The display center serves as a bridge that connects people to nature, as it is BCWERC’s prime goal to increase people’s awareness on the need to protect and conserve the biodiversity of the Cebu Experimental Forest and the country’s oldest reforestation initiatives, the Osmeña Reforestation Project. Joselito Sumabat, BCWERC