On October 13, 2022, the second day of the three-day celebration of the National Science and Technology Week in Central Visayas, a STARBOOKS Stakeholders’ Convention in Central Visayas took place at Pavilion, DepEd Ecotech Center, Cebu City attended by around 320 participants – school heads, librarians, and STARBOOKS focal persons.

One highlight in the day’s event was the launching of STARBOOKS NATURE, a customized, environment-oriented version of STARBOOKS.  It is designed to be interactive and tourist-friendly information kiosk.

According to the new Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Maria Antonia “Toni” Yulo-Loyzaga, there are 248 Protected Areas (PA) in the Philippines with a total area of 7.79M hectares.

Pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 which was amended as Expanded NIPAS ACT of 2018 (ENIPAS), the national government, local government, and concerned private organizations must preserve and protect what are considered as “identified portions of land and water set aside by reason of their unique physical and biological significance, managed to enhance biological diversity and protected against destructive human exploitation,” collectively called as Protected Areas or PA.

In the context of Negros Oriental, there are three identified PA, namely: Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, Apo Island Protected Landscape and Seascape, and Balinsasayao Twin Lakes which are homes of some rarest and endemic forest and marine species in the Philippines.

Along this line, the Department of Science and Technology – Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII) has designed an information kiosk relative to these Protected Areas in Negros Oriental. As ecotourism is already implemented in these PA, information dissemination using a digital and interactive information resource serves as a promising tool to reach and educate visitors especially the young generation with science-based and technical information about the sites.

This is DOST-STII’s new project to be first launched in Negros Oriental.  In a moment during the convention, DOST-STII Director Richard P. Burgos, DOST 7 Regional Director Engr. Jesus F. Zamora, Jr., and DOST-PSTC Negros Oriental Provincial Director Atty. Gilbert R. Arbon signed a Memorandum of Agreement on the project nominated as “Development and Deployment of STARBOOKS Nature to Promote Wildlife Preservation, Environmental Education, and Ecotourism in Protected Areas in Negros Oriental.”

In a way, with STARBOOKS Nature, DOST-STII and DOST-VII take the example of paying heed to the mandate of The International Ecotourism Society or TIES to promote “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, (to) sustain the well-being of the local people, and (to) involve interpretation and education.” (By: Jose Aldous R. Arbon II, SRA-IO)