Central Mindoro, Eastern Mindanao to be developed “Biodiversity Corridors” for sustainability, livelihood generation

July 7, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has identified two biodiversity-rich islands — Central Mindoro and Eastern Mindanao — as pilot areas to become “Biodiversity Corridors” under a Global Environment Facility (GEF) project.

   The DENR’s Biodiversity Corridor project will have multiple benefits of conservation of threatened species, reduced deforestation, infrastructure development, and jobs creation.

   The creation of the two pilot corridors, defined as “terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that promote conservation of biodiversity with sustainable use,” will strengthen management of 11 Protected Areas (PA).  These cover 300,000 hectares.

   It will be  financed with a total of $74.961 million of which $12.26 million will be from the GEF Trust Fund and $62.701 million from various Philippine agencies.

   That makes it DENR’s biggest foreign-assisted project.

   The PAs include the Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park, Mount Calavite Wildlife Sanctuary, Agusan Marsh, Alamio, Buyaan, Carac-an, Panikian Rivers and Sipangpang Falls Watershed, Cabadbaran Watershed, Mainit Hot Spring, Mati Protected Landscape, Surigao Watershed, Mt. Hamiguitan, Andanan River Watershed, and Aliwagwag Protected Landscape.

Ramsar Wetland Site Lake Naujan in Oriental Mindoro invites birdwatching as 19,000 migratory birds visit it yearly. Credit-Alain Pascua

   The project will establish at least 200,000 hectares of KBAs (key biodiversity areas) that are now outside of the PA system through Indigenous People management.

   It will benefit the environment with carbon sequestration of 44.3 million metric tons over 20 years.

   “At least 65,000 individuals, 30% are Indigeous People (belonging to 15,000 households) will directly benefit through sustainable natural resource management and livelihood improvement.  (It will result in an) increase of 15% in average economic benefit (at least 50% of beneficiaries are women, 25% are IP women),” according to a project primer.

   The two pilot areas were chosen based on importance as flora and fauna endemism, biodiversity threats, and economic significance.

   Other criteria include poverty incidence, vulnerability, extent of extractive industries and extent of land use conversion and infrastructure development, and land degradation.

   A total of 16 KBAs (key biodiversity areas) are located in the two biodiversity corridors, with a total area of 1.026 Million hectares.

   The project will implement a new framework in biodiversity conservation called IEM or integrated ecosystem management.

   This means that while mainstreaming conservation of flora and fauna resources, IEM will also promote regional development, investment planning, and the creation of municipal local government comprehensive land use plans (CLUPs).

Some of the world’s rare carnivorous plants like this pitcher plant (Nepenthes peltata) is found only in Mt. Hamiguitan, Davao Oriental

   This way, not only do the natural resources become conserved, they also serve people’s purposes—livelihood and rural economic development.

   Occidental Mindoro is a major fishery and aquaculture producer (tuna, milkfish, and tiger prawns), top producer of corn, onion, and salt.

   It has high capabilities for tourism (historic heritages, fine sandy beaches, coral reefs, mangrove forests and nature sports and recreational sites.  It has a growing agribusiness sector (tuna, picked fruits and vegetables, aquamarine processing, salt industry, seaweeds, pastillas, handicrafts).

   Oriental Mindoro has Puerto Galera recognized as “One of the Most Beautiful Bays in the World,” declared in 2005 by the Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club.  It hosts Naujan Lake, one of the Ramsar’s Wetland of International Importance as it is home to more than 150 bird species and entertains 19,000 migratory birds yearly.

   It is also a food basket for  agri-based, aquaculture, marine products and livestock, calamansi, banana, palay, and agri-business (banana chips; rice-based delicacies; calamansi purees and concentrates; virgin coconut oil; bamboo-based products; lamayo, dried biya and seaweeds; handicrafts and novelties; and crafts from abaca, buri and cogon).

   Mindoro Island hosts Mangyan indigenous peoples.

   The Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor hosts a large proportion of the country’s unique plants and animals.

   “At least 370 species of forest vertebrates (i.e. birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles) are currently known. Out of these, nearly half (181 species) are found only in the country. The corridor’s plant diversity is also very high, with more than 2,300 species known there (31% of the total species known for the Philippines).”

            PHOTO Puerto Galera is found in the Coral Triangle, the center of the center of the earth’s most diverse marine resource. Credit-Asiadivers

   Eastern Mindanao is the country’s timber corridor and has rich mineral deposits such as iron, gold, silver, nickel, chromite, manganese and copper. Its timber industry hosts 33 industrial forest management agreements (IFMAs) covering almost 400,000 hectares and  has sawmills with combined annual log requirement of almost 60% of the country’s total.

   There are 182 community-based forest management agreements (CBFMAs) – long term tenure instruments given to organized forest communities, covering 306,366 hectares, involving approximately 150,000 households. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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