PHL further bolsters conservation efforts PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 30 November 2014 14:03

By CATHERINE J.TEVES

 

Philippine conservation efforts further expanded this year with the environment department spearheading partnerships and other measures aimed at better promoting protection and sustainable use of the country’s natural resources.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) kicked off 2014 by releasing in January the landmark study ‘National Management Effectiveness and Capacity Assessment (NMECA) of PAs in the Philippines.’

Undertaken in collaboration with German development arm Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH, NMECA raised urgency to improve planning, legal, financial and protection systems of and legislation for Philippine protected areas (PAs) so these can be better managed for present and future generations.

”The study will influence resource management fundamentals of the Philippines,” said DENR Sec. Ramon Paje

RA 7586 (National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992) defines PAs 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.”

Following NMECA’s launch, DENR made known plans to increasingly pursue partnerships on further improving management of Philippine PAs.

“PA concerns can’t be the business of one institution alone,” said DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) director Theresa Mundita Lim.

She noted climate change raised urgency for improving PA management in the country.

“For a vulnerable country like the Philippines, PAs aren’t just refuge of wildlife but comprise the key to our nation’s survival - now, more than ever, is the time to recognize these areas as such,” she said.

In March, DENR spearheaded several local activities for the Philippine celebration of the first World Wildlife Day (WWD) that month.

“The celebration is a reminder wildlife is an important support system for our existence and isn’t meant for us to enjoy by extraction from habitats but is there to co-exist with us,” Paje said.

The WWD activities were launch for BMB’s maiden Wildlife Rescue Center (WRC) manual of operations to better manage wildlife species turned over to this facility while generating inputs for improving this guide’s succeeding editions.

WRC provides temporary shelter for wildlife species that are either turned over by concerned citizens or confiscated from illegal traders.

Launch of the manual boosted WRC’s protocol by spelling out basic policies and regulations relevant to this center, general principles covering its operations, requirements for the facility and operational procedures on handling and managing such species.

“The manual provides step-by-step guidance on what to do,” said WRC head Rizza Salinas.

During the WWD celebration, DENR also announced its plan to build a monument representing the country’s continuing participation in the international battle against illegal trade of ivory.

DENR noted the international community must sustain such battle as thousands of elephants worldwide are slain each year for the ivory in these animals’ tusks.

Ash of confiscated elephant tusks DENR crushed and incinerated last year will be among materials for the monument, the agency said.

BMB launched in May the coffee table book ‘Treasures of the Philippine Wild’ featuring several of the country’s wildlife species threatened with extinction.

The launch was among activities that marked the country’s 2014 celebration of International Day for Biological Diversity.

“Publication of the book aims to help raise public awareness about and action on protecting our biodiversity,” said Lim

She noted such protection is essential as the Philippines is rich in biodiversity but is also among the world’s flora and fauna hotspots.

Habitat destruction, invasive alien species, over-exploitation and poaching, pollution and susceptibility to climate change’s impacts are threatening the country’s biodiversity, she continued.

DENR also reported deploying in May state-of-the-art monitoring equipment for determining over-all health and status of reefs in three pilot sites to help improve protection of these marine resources.

The department said BMB scuba divers simultaneously installed, in each underwater site off Cavite province’s Carabao Island, Cebu province’s Mactan Island and Palawan province’s Snake Island, an autonomous reef monitoring system (ARMS) unit for the purpose.

“A group of ARMS installed in a specific area could provide a systematic and consistent method of monitoring marine life forms,” said Lim. “ARMS can also provide data on how climate change impacts like ocean warming and acidification affects the reefs or how marine ecosystems develop and maintain resilience to these impacts.”

She noted the country already had previous deployment of ARMS units.

In July, the Philippines and Australia launched the landmark project ‘Capturing Coral Reef and Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES).’

DENR said CCRES aims to quantify value and market potential of the Philippine’s blue capital.

Coral reefs and mangrove ecosystem services nationwide are part of such blue capital, noted DENR.

Lim assured BMB’s best efforts for implementing CCRES.

For CCRES, DENR said the Philippines and Australia agreed working to come up with models for valuing mangrove, seagrass and coral reef ecosystem services with the potential to enhance sustainability of marine-based enterprises and marine spatial planning in select coastal communities nationwide.

DENR in September announced setting the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) for conservation and sustainable use of natural resources nationwide.

Paje described PBSAP as a road map highlighting key natural resource-related initiatives DENR targets completing within the next 15 years with assistance of this agency’s partners.

The road map sets “clear directions on how we can achieve sustained growth but with clear warning signs if we overstep our so-called development activities,” he said.

He said PBSAP identifies need for the ecosystem approach,recognizes humans as an integral component of various ecosystems and balances values of conservation, sustainable use and fair sharing of benefits from use of genetic resources.

PBSAP also considers all forms of relevant information including scientific and indigenouslocal knowledge, innovations and practices, he continued.

In October, BMB held in Metro Manila back-to-back conferences on alternative governance tools for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development nationwide.

One of the conferences focused on indigenous peoples and local communities conserved areas and territories (ICCA) and its benefits to further raise public awareness about, appreciation for and use of this governance tool.

“We’re very optimistic it’ll lead the way,” Lim said.

The second conference highlighted viability of local conservation areas (LCA) as tool for undertaking locally initiated conservation projects.

Lim noted ICCA is considered the oldest form of conservation with indigenous communities continuing to function as caretakers and sustainable users of forests and resources there.

“ICCAs are natural and modified ecosystems including significant biodiversity values, ecological services and cultural values voluntarily conserved by indigenous peoples (IPs) and local communities and governed through customary laws and other effective means,” she said.

DENR said LCAs are areas LGUs designate - usually through local ordinances - for environmental protection and conservation purposes.

LCAs may be either areas identified as habitats of unique or threatened species, natural ecosystems ideal for ecotourism purposes, areas highly vulnerable to natural hazards like erosion and landslide, headwaters of local water districts or remaining closed and regenerating natural forests, noted DENR.

Aside from helping promote ecological balance, authorities said protecting and conserving such assets are essential for sustainable growth through eco-tourism and other activities.

DENR and Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) signed in November the agreement for helping save and protect the country’s native wild birds.

Both parties agreed to jointly undertake activities aimed at promoting replenishment and/or re-establishment of such birds’ population through rehabilitation and release of rescued species in the wild.

BMB will support operation of a WBCP-run rehabilitation facility for rescued wild birds, said DENR.

WBCP committed to assist BMB in establishing bird populations and identifying sites where rehabilitated birds can be released back into the wild, DENR continued.

DENR also said WBCP will complement BMB’s conservation efforts through its members’ expertise on bird photography.

“That’s a unique approach to conservation – aiming and shooting at birds with cameras instead of guns,” said Paje.

During the same month, DENR said BMB joined the ASEAN Biodiversity Communication, Education and Public Awareness Workshop in Metro Manila to help better heighten public awareness about biodiversity issues.

ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) organized the event, optimistic knowledge gained from the workshop will help Southeast Asian countries address loss of biodiversity.

Aside from such year-long measures, DENR said the Philippines registered in 2014 a milestone in its conservation efforts.

Globally important Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (MHRWS) and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) were added to the prestigious list of Southeast Asia’s most treasured parks, reported DENR.

“Such latest recognition indicates natural characteristics of MHRWS and TRNP are so exceptional these deserve to be protected for the benefit of everyone in Southeast Asia,” Paje said.

He noted ASEAN member-countries’ environment ministers approved MHRWS’ and TRNP’s nomination as the 34th and 35th ASEAN Heritage Parks (AHP), respectively.

The approval came during the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment last month in Vientiane, Lao PDR, he also said.

ACB Executive director Roberto Oliva noted the approval made MHRWS and TRNP part of the AHP Programme.

The AHP Programme is a regional network of national PAs of high conservation importance, preserving a complete spectrum of respective ecosystems to generate greater awareness, pride, appreciation, enjoyment and conservation of ASEAN’s rich biodiversity, he noted.

DENR said the Philippines’ other AHPs are Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park all in Mindanao as well as Luzon’s Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro province and Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna province.