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Farewell, Abyan Awè Last of two parts

Edwin Abanil, who passed away September 21 due to serious illness, will be most remembered for his numerous contributions in the field of conservation while working as the Provincial Environment Management Officer of Negros Occidental.

He worked with four governors, from Rafael Coscolluela, Joseph Marañon, Isidro Zayco to the incumbent Alfredo Marañon Jr., and other local officials, in ensuring that environment concerns shall be given utmost importance in the provincial government agenda. Edwin, or Awè to his family, relatives, and close friends, exemplified a meaningful public service life until he retired from the government.

In 1995, Awè was one of the persons who pushed and supported my application to become the Protected Area Superintendent of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park. During my seven-year stint as the PASu of MKNP, Awè was there to facilitate and ensure the support of the provincial government in all our efforts of protecting Mount Kanla-on, which was considered, at that time, as one of the best managed protected areas in the country.

While attention was given to MKNP, Awè was so concerned about the state of the Northern Negros Forest Reserve, since there was no visible and effective management system over the area that has much wider forest cover. Awè consulted Gov. Lito about this concern, and eventually paved the way for the formation of the NNFR Management Council in 1996. That was the first time when local governments, nongovernment and peoples organizations, and some national agencies covering the NNFR, gathered to become a management body.

With the PEMO serving as secretariat to the council, the NNFR later on was declared as the Northern Negros Natural Park under the National Integrated Protected Areas System of the Philippines. With the momentum achieved by the NNFR Management Council, Awè further worked for the organization of the Southern Negros Coastal Management Council.

More than the establishment of management councils, Awè also touched the lives of many upland communities, particularly the participants of the Integrated Social Forestry Program, which was devolved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to the provincial government. He took much time to visit upland areas to ensure that the ISF communities were provided with technical assistance in terms of capacity building and livelihood support and mobilizing them in forest protection and rehabilitation. To date, there are already 65 upland and 46 coastal communities that are being assisted by the PEMO. Awè further spearheaded in federating the different ISF organizations in the NNNP.

Awè appreciated the need for a wider public understanding on environmental issues. He was the brain behind the Center for Environmental Initiatives, a regular forum on various conservation issues and concerns, the annual Tag-amlig Awards, and the yearly search for environment-friendly barangays and schools. Under his leadership, the PEMO has taken a very pivotal role in shaping the environment movement in Negros Occidental.

On a personal note, some persons misconstrued Awè as “suplado”, because he was a very candid person. His passion to deliver quality outcomes had made him very strict in some instances, but he did not, in anyway, made personal issues. Over the years, we became friends, and I witnessed, in fact, how he was personal, too. He took his work not purely on official reasons, but it became his own personal mission to somehow assist in making a difference for the environment of the province, not only for us, but much more so for future generations.

To the wife of Awè, Virgie, who at all times, was supporting what Edwin was doing, his only son, Jeremy, and other members of his family, my heartfelt condolences and sympathies. Rest assured that the legacy of Awè will always be remembered and will serve as our inspiration to continue working for conservation. Farewell, Abyan Awè!*

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