Negros Occidental

Women-led cleanup initiative in Negros Occidental bags international award

Reymund Titong

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Women-led cleanup initiative in Negros Occidental bags international award

AWARDED. Sipalay City Mayor Maria Gina Lizares (2nd from right), Negros Occidental 6th District Representative Mercedes Alvarez (Left), Susan Santos de Cárdenas, City Tourism Officer Jerick Lacson (right) receive the second place award in the Thriving Communities Category.

Courtesy of Jerick Lacson

'Lakbayon (Steps) – Women Steps Toward Sustainability' is recognized at the Green Destinations Top 100 Story Awards held at the Internationale Tourismus-Börse in Germany

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The women-led cleanup initiative of the Sipalay City government and the city’s council for women bagged second place in the Green Destinations Top 100 Story Awards held at the recent Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) in Berlin, Germany.

The initiative’s story, “Lakbayon (Steps) – Women Steps Toward Sustainability,” clinched second place in the Thriving Communities category. Lakbayon, which translates as “walk along the beach,” is a portmanteau of lakbay (walk) and baybayon (beach).

Sipalay was once home to the largest copper mine in Southeast Asia, and was considered as a mining community in the 1950s. The mining company closed in 2001 following labor disputes and environmental disasters that destroyed croplands, contaminated river systems, and caused dust-related respiratory illnesses.

The city began to shift its economy one year before the mining company’s closure, with tourism as its primary source of income and supported by laws and programs aimed at environmental preservation.

Lakbayon, which has 14,675 volunteers from 11 villages, is aimed at addressing water waste pollution at the city’s Poblacion Beach. The Sipalay City Council for Women and the city government embarked on the project in 2000.

Under the initiative, women from different walks of life were encouraged to help clean up Poblacion Beach every morning through the collection and disposal of ecological waste, led by the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).

The local government unit paid volunteers P40 per hour or P1,200 for 15 days for two hours of daily cleanup work.

The Department of Tourism-Western Visayas said in a statement that the project has significantly cleared and cleaned the beach and led to the declaration of 40% of the shoreline as a conservation area for sea turtles and the 11-hectare beach and mangrove forest.

Negros Occidental 6th District representative Mercedes Alvarez said that the initiative encouraged participation from more women over the years, transforming it into a movement that helped solve the pollution problem in Sipalay beaches.

“The consistent cleanup drive has resulted in positive impacts on the environmental, social, and economic areas of the city,” she said.

As a city that advocates green tourism, its decade-long initiative was included in the Green Destinations Top 100 Stories for 2023 in Estonia before it was shortlisted for the ITB Berlin 2024 awards.

Alvarez said that the award is a testament that the city’s sincere effort in environmental protection.

“We hope to inspire, to help, to share Sipalay’s best practices with other communities, so that there will be more green destinations, and that sustainable tourism will be inscribed in the DNA of localities,” she said.

The Green Destinations (GD) Top 100 Story Awards at ITB showcased the most inspiring initiatives for sustainable tourism development in six categories: Destination Management, Nature and Scenery, Environment and Climate, Culture and Tradition, Thriving Communities, and Business and Marketing. –

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