Efforts are now being undertaken for payment of all Bantay Bukid ‘volunteers.’
Environmental group Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) is eyeing to lobby to the City Government of Davao to start paying all “Bantay Bukid” volunteers with salary and not just an honorarium of P2,500 a month.
In most countries around the world that promote volunteerism, volunteers serve for free.
In the case of Bantay Bukid, IDIS has partnered with farmers who serve on the frontlines of protecting the upland water sources by enforcing environmental laws, doing reforestation, conducting biodiversity and river monitoring and serving as first responders in disaster preparedness and response.
“Kana ang amoang ginapaningkamutan nga i-lobby sa city, which is to convert the honorarium into salary. Under Green Jobs, forest rangers are being categorized as green jobs dapat dili lang as volunteers ang ibayad but as salary. Hopefully, in the future it will be realized by the LGU to give them salary not just honorarium,” said Chinkee Pelino-Golle, executive director of IDIS in an interview.
IDIS conceptualized and organized “Bantay Bukid” volunteers in 2012 with funds coming from the Foundation of Philippine Government with the goal of intensifying the implementation of the Watershed Code of Davao City. The group equipped them with protective equipment.
“We have the ordinance and there is a provision that communities should be involved as partners in protecting the watershed areas. We initiated capacity building to the communities. Dapat i-train sila and then we make them partners in protecting the environment. Sila ang magbantay sa bukid and they will report to us, then we will report to the government agencies,” Golle said.
In 2013, the group lobbied to the City to recognize the “Bantay Bukid” volunteers and deputized them. “Na-deputize naman sila pero during that time wala sila’y allowance,” added Golle.
It took five years before the volunteers started receiving a monthly allowance of P2,000 from the city. In 2017, the group lobbied again to the city to adopt the volunteers as employees.
“Since the funding of agencies are not perpetual, we lobby that they get support from the LGU since they were trained already,” she said.
Last year, the city increased their allowance to P2,500 each.
“Hopefully, baka per year mutaas ang ilang allowance. Pero kulang pa din,” she said.
Currently, under IDIS there are 71 volunteers for the Panigan-Tamugan Watershed and there are over 250 Bantay Bukid volunteers managed by NGOs including IDIS and Philippine Eagle Foundation and all are receiving an allowance of P2,500 a month.
Realizig the importance of forest guarding, the City Government of Davao has recognized that the Bantay Bukid volunteers represent a very critical human capital to protect the city’s natural resources and help deliver clear sustainable development outcomes for the city.
While there are existing environmental laws to safeguard our watersheds, actual warm bodies on the ground are needed to conduct regular patrols and report environmental violations immediately.
Based on the volunteers’ report in the first quarter of 2019, 71 volunteers conducted biodiversity monitoring, with an increase in the number of species recorded compared to last quarter’s patrol. They planted over 800 seedlings in the riverbanks and monitored previously planted areas to replace seedling mortality due to El Niño. They also continued protecting the river waters from waste pollution, collecting up to 110 kilos of garbage from 4 clean-up drives.
They also helped in the monitoring of the reported Tabak – Kalatong illegal entry, occupation and poaching in the ancestral domain of the Obu-Manuvu in Brgy. Carmen.