A must-visit when you are in Kalibo, Aklan is the Bakhawan Eco-park – a 220-hectare mangrove forest located in Barangay New Buswang. It was in 1990 when through the collaborative efforts of Local Government Unit and several non-government organizations the mangrove reforestation project was initiated along the muddy shoreline of Barangay Buswang.
The reforestation project was aimed to prevent erosion, floods and storm surges during bad weather. To date, Bakhawan Eco-park is hailed as the most successful mangrove reforestation project in the Philippines. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization acclaimed the eco-park as one of the exemplary managed mangrove forests in the whole of Asia and the Pacific region.
The eco-park not only protects the community but also provides means of livelihood for the locals. Tourists can enjoy a unique and educational experience with a wide variety of outdoor, cultural and culinary attractions and activities to enjoy. The community earns by selling locally-made products as well as cultured crabs and clams.
A kilometer-long wooden footwalk acts like a guide as you traverse through various features of the eco-park. Along the way, you will pass by huts and rest areas which offer a respite for tired travellers. Familiarize yourself with different kinds of mangroves that can be found on both sides of the footwalk-19 out of 35 species of the mangroves in the Philippines can be found here at the Bakhawan Eco-park. In the middle of the eco-park is a bamboo bridge that allows you to cross the Sooc River. Pause for a while right at the middle of the bridge and enjoy the beautiful view of the calm river. Continue walking until you reach the end where the cool breeze and a sand bar welcomes you to a view of the Sibuyan Sea.
Hopefully, the Local Government Unit continues its effort in preserving and developing the area. Ensuring active community participation in crafting of plans and development strategies for the Bakhawan Eco-park as well as in the implementation thereof is vital for its sustainability. We should continue engaging with the private sector and institutionalize existing partners such as the Kalibo Save the Mangroves Association (KASAMA) and the Center for International Mangrove Studies. (SC)