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)

EO to prioritize watershed rescue pushed to counter climatic destructions, replenish geothermal-hydro energy, irrigation resources

July 4, 2021    

An executive order prioritizing watershed rescue is being pushed for urgent passage by forest experts in order to counter effects of climate-linked calamities and ensure replenishment of irrigation and hydro-electric or geothermal energy sources.

   The Forest Management Bureau (FMB)-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is drafting an EO that will elevate to national strategy status its “Save Our Watershed” movement.

   “This will pave the way for the establishment of institutional mechanisms for collaborative or whole-of-society efforts in conserving our watersheds,” said DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu at a launch of the Save OurWatershed (SOW) campaign last week.

   It is extremely important for watersheds– forests that are sources of water that are “shed” into rivers, lakes, and seas—to be protected, according to Energy Development Corp. (EDC) Assistant Vice President Allan Barcena.

   “Protecting  watersheds is not only a corporate social responsibility program for us.  It is part of our business strategy.  When we’re protecting the watershed, it means our geothermal resource is sustained. If we don’t protect our watershed, our geothermal steam is not sustained. So for us it’s both a commitment and a business strategy and mission.”

D\EDC geothermal power plant, North Cotabato. Credit-Power Philippines

   EDC runs 12 geothermal-powered power plant in Leyte, Bicol, Southern Negros, and North Cotabato with an installed capacity of 1,179 megawatt.

FMB Director Marcial C. Amaro said he expects the EO to be filed with Malacanang before the end of the year.

   The SOW campaign is being supported by the  DENR’s Forestland Management Project (FMP).

   Eigo Azukizawa, chief of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-Philippines, which co-finances  FMP, said the SOW campaign hopes to avert destructive effects of calamities.  The Typhoon Ulysses in November last year, he said, affected three million people in Cagayan Valley who suffered from flooding.

   “To see people on top of their houses submerged in flood is heart-breaking.”

   SOW-FMP has targeted to protect 71,300 hectares of forests within the critical wastersheds of Upper Magat and Cagayan, Upper Pampanga, and Jalaur (Panay Island).

   As of 2019, there are 131 critical priority watersheds in the Philippines  that support water facilities, hydroelectric power plants, and irrigation systems.

  For one the Cagayan River Basin irrigates around 300,000 hectares of rice fields.

   The Jalaur River Basin in Iloilo with an area of 1,503 square kilometres can supply 90,611 million cubic meters of water.

Magat hydro-electric plant, Ifugao-Isabela. Credit-Mapio

   “Everyday we use water in our homes for drinking, washing, and watering our plants. We ensure the constant supply of water to our homes by taking part in saving the watersheds,” according to SaveOurWatershedPH.  

   The Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant, one of the largest hydro facilities in Luzon, produces a maximum output of 388 megawatts and draws water from the Magat River.

  SOW-PH said 10% of electricity requirements in the Philippines may be supplied by hydropower generation.

   “The water that runs through Magat River comes from the Magat Watershed located in Ifugao, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya. This means part of the electricity that powers our homes comes from water. When water becomes scarce, the electricity generated is less and can cause power outages in Luzon.”

   “The Philippines has a lot of hydropower potential, but it is up to us to harness this potential.”

   Twenty-four subwatersheds covered by Upper Magat-Cagayan, Upper Pampanga and Jalaur River Basins lose around 1 million tons of soil amounting to P 140 million per year.

   “Soil loss is when the top layer of fertile soil is removed and goes to rivers and other places. It results in loss of nutrients for the trees. Another serious consequence of continued soil loss is landslides. Trees and other plants are important in conserving soil and water resources. These help hold the fertile top layer of soil to prevent landslides and flooding.”

   A DENR study as of 2015 indicated a total of 14.375 million hectares of forestland in the county remains, but these only have a forest cover of 18%. 

   Priority watersheds include 3.004 million hectares in Region 3; 1.76 million hectares in Region 11; 1.637 million hectares in Region 2; and 1.573 million hectares in CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region).

   “Soil erosion is considered as one of the worst problems of most watersheds in the country, with estimates of between 74 and 81 million tons of soil being lost annually.  Between 63% and 77% of the country’s total land area are affected,” reported the DENR study.

   “Thirteen of the country’s 73 provinces have over half of their land area affected by moderate to severe erosion. Sedimentation has reduced the storage capacity of the country’s major reservoirs affecting water supplies for domestic, industrial, irrigation, and power generation.”

   Ironically, the same people who need water for their many purposes contribute largely to watershed destruction.

   “The population that relies on the goods and services watersheds provide steadily grows, creating more pressure for the already overburdened natural resources in the watersheds.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

80 hectare Malaybalay city agroforestry area now high-quality Arabica coffee producer, generating jobs for IPs

July 1, 2021

An 80-hectare agroforestry area in Brgy, Dalwangan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon has become a high-quality Arabica coffee producer while equally protecting the Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP) and giving jobs to Indigenous People (IP).

   The Indigenous People’s Organization (IPO) of Inhandig Tribal Multipurpose Cooperative (ITPMC) has established a sustainable livelihood planting superior quality coffee. 

   They now sell their coffee beans to HIneleban Foundation Their high-grade Arabica coffee commands a price three times compared to regular buying rate.

   The IPs in Brgy. Dalwangan, Malaybalay City have taken advantage of livelihood opportunities in project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) called “Integrated Natural Resources Environmental Management” or INREMP.

Bukidnon coffee. Credit-PIA

   The Inhandig IPs was awarded by INREMP 50 hectares of groforestry area and 30 hectares of Community Tree Plantation (CTP) to develop and manage.  These areas are located in the foothills of the PA (Protected Area) Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park (MKRNP).

   The IPO was provided by INREMP with all-weather plastic dryer amounting to 300,000   to enable the quality drying of the coffee beans.  The plastic dryer also reduces drying time in order to produce high quality and a longer shelf life coffee.

   In addition, the all-weather dryer allows the people’s organization to dry the harvested coffee beans anytime—even during the rainy or wet season. With this, their production and sales will also increase.

   The Inhanding tribal group planted different varieties of coffee over the INREMP-awarded agroforestry area. This is in addition to their existing coffee plantations.

   Ground coffee is also being produced and directly sold to local buyer within the community.    

   The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) of Bukidnon has offered the IP Inhanding a synergistic assistance to promote their coffee products through online marketing.

   Given the right motivation, skills and knowledge coupled with good link and networks with business service providers the ITMPC is confident that they will have a bright future from their coffee beans.

Bukidnon coffee farm. Credit- PCB

   INREMP is a a foreign-funded project of the DENR.  It promotes the production of high-value crops.  At the same time, INREMP works on the protection and development of natural forests while generating livelihood for upland communities.  The project reduces and reverses degradation of watershed caused by forest denudation and unsustainable farming.   

   INREMP has three subproject types, namely: 1) Natural Resource Management (NRM), 2) Rural Infrastructure (RI), and; 3) Livelihood Enhancement Support (LES-1). Fortunately, ITPMC has been a partner of INREMP to implement and manage two of these subprojects (NRM and LES). (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

PHOTO Bukidnon coffee plantation. Credit-PCB

PHOTO Bukidnon coffee. Credit -PIA