DENR launches two special projects on Philippine Tarsier in Mt. Matutum and carbon valuation in forests of Mt. Timolan Protected Landscapes Protected Landscapes

June 27, 2022

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has launched two special projects involving the conservation of “endangered” Philippine Tarsiers in Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato and the valuation of carbon input in reforested and secondary forest in Mt Landscape, Zamboanga del Sur.


The special projects are under DENR’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) where DENR shells out its own fund for special conservation programs.
The study on the Philippine Tarsier in Mt. Matutum is in partnership with the University of the Philippines- Diliman. It aims to further understand the ecology and behavior of Philippine Tarsiers within Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape (MMPL) to enhance and supplement conservation efforts in the Tarsier Sanctuary.

Philippine Tarsier in Mt. Matutum. Credit- South Cotabato News


The project on the Mount Timolan Protected Landscape will be carried out by the Zamboanga del Sur Provincial Government College.


It will study differences in the production and decomposition for quantifying carbon input in reforested and secondary forest in Mt. Timolan Protected Landscape.


The Philippine tarsier was classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1986, 1988, and 1990.


In 2008, it was reclassified as near threatened. While tarsiers have been known to be popular in Bohol, the nocturnal (active at night) primate endemic to the Philippines has also been found in Siargao Island, Maripipi Island, Dinagat Island, Samar, Leyte, and Basilan.


Tarsiers are one of the smallest primates (where monkeys and the human species belong). Their height ranges from only 3.35 to 6.30 inches. They weigh from 80 to 160 grams. They are arboreal (tree-living) creatures.

Mt. Timolan Protected Lanscape Zamboanga del Sur. Credit-Pinoy Mountaineer

The Mt. Timolan Protected Landscape, spanning over 1,994,79 hectares and a buffer zone of 695.39 hectares, is an important watershed.

It supports river systems that are sources of irrigation for many rice farms. Eighty percent of Mt Timolan’s landscape consists of dipterocarp forests. Seven percent is made up of man-made forest plantations of Gmelina and Acacia, according to the Philippine Clearing House Mechanism for Biodiversity.

Acting Secretary Jim O. Sampulna said during the launching of the two special projects at the Radisson Hotel that the projects’ signing of memorandum of agreement indicates that successful partnerships lead to attaining shared goals on sustainable development. The partnerships extend to international agencies, the academe, and other government and civic institutions.


“The project in Mt. Timolan will surely help in achieving the country’s international commitment in climate change,” Sampulna said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DNA barcoding of bamboo to support bamboo conservation and propagation in typhoon-affected Cagayan Valley

June 25, 2022

A phytochemical screening and DNA barcoding of economically important bamboos will be carried out as part of aims to conserve and propagate the species in typhoon-affected Cagayan Valley  and explore bamboo’s pharmaceutical-industrial prospects.
   “Bamboo has numerous industrial, pharmaceutical, phytochemical, medical, nutritional, and food advantages.  Characterization of bamboo germplasm is an important connection between conservation of diversity and utilization of germplasms (seeds or living tissues that carry genetic resources useful in plant breeding and conservation),” according to Alvin Jose L. Reyes and Eddie B. Abugan Jr of the Project  Management Division (PMD).
   PMD is one of the units of the Department of Environrment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Foreign Assisted and Special Projects.
   The Bamboo Characterization Project of the Cagayan State University (CSU)-Gonzaga through its Project Leader Jeff M. Opeña. just made a presentation at DENR Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.
It is in relation to its petition for a gratuitous permit to conduct the bamboo characterization and sample collection activities in the Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape.
   The project also aims to refurbish a research laboratory in CSU-Gonzaasga. It will collect and characterize different species in different ecosystems in Cagayan Province.

Cagayan’s bamboo growing in rivers and volcanic areas


   DNA barcoding will be a modern and innovative way to characterize bamboo species.  It will accelerate experts’ identification of the species that they desire to use based on traits—such fast propagation or medicinal properties.  
   Bamboo has been traditionally characterized based on its flowering frequency or abundance—annual flowering, sporadic or regular flowering, and gregarious flowering.
   “However, characterization using floral morphology posed a limitation and difficulty due to the requirement of long period of time which can occur in years or even decades,” according to Reyes and Abugan.
   Moreover, biochemical characterization through phytochemical (plant chemistry) screening enables experts in pharmaceuticals and medicine to detect plant secondary metabolites in bamboo which have utilization potentials in the industry.  
   While primary metabolites include small molecules like amino acids and sugars, secondary plant metabolities such as alkaloids, anthocyanin, flavonoids, phenols, saponins, steroids, tannins, and terpenoids are studied for medicinal plant herbal purposes, among other possible commercial uses.
   Former DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu ordered in November 2020 the extensive propagation of bamboo in Cagayan Valley to prevent massive flooding that plagued the province arising from Typhoon Ulysses.

CSU Project Leader Jeff Opena (left) leads bamboo DNA bamboo barcoding


   Executive Order 879 also mandated that 25% of the annual school desks of the Department of Education should be made of bamboo. EO 879 creates the Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC).    
   DENR”s own reforestation areas should be planted with bamboo in its directive to DENR-attached Forest Management Bureau, Laguna Lake Development Authority, and Mines and Geosciences Bureau.
   The bamboo project costs P1.601 million consisting of P1.261 million from DENR and P340,000 from CSU.  Aside from involving DENR’s local offices in Cagayan, implementor includes Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Offices of Cagayan, and the Central Analytical Laboratory of CSU.
   Aside from preventing flooding effects of typhoons, DENR also aims to use bamboo as tool to climate change mitigation.  Bamboo is known to sequester five metric tons of carbon dioxide per hectare of plantation.  
   Bamboo is also being planted in the rivers of Marikina and Bicol– areas usually flooded during typhoons.
   DENR is also promoting its use as lumber substitute using engineered bamboo.  
   While it has extensive use as raw material in many industries, the Philippines’ bamboo export actually slowed from a high of 106,000 kilos in 2011 to  35,000 in 2015 and even further lower to 8,00 kilos in 2018, according to Statista.com.  Exports just picked up to 66,000 in 2020.
The phytochemical and morphological studies of bamboo species will be a first among bamboo species studies that will take into consideration the different ecosystemswhere bamboo grows in Cagayan province.  
   “Cagayan is  rich natural systems, not only agro-ecosystems but grasslands, and others like water falls and volcanic areas where sulfur-rich soil is found.  For example, we will study if the Bayog bamboo species carries different morphological and phytochemical characteristices when they are grown in sulfur-rich volcanic areas,” said Opeña
   The study will find out if in the future, the “species’ phytochemical properties may be used (as raw material) for pharmaceutical, nutraceutical products, for medicine and other products.”
   Target for the bamboo species growth study are in two volcanoes– the Smith Volcano, also called Mount Babuyan, which is politically located in Calayan Island and Mount Cagua in Gonzaga.
   Among other ecosystems  the bamboo species will be studied  in coastal areas, residential areas, glasslands, agroecosystems, near bodies of water (rivers, creeks, waterfalls, dams, lakes, freshwater and hotsprings), caves, near the volcano, rainforests/forests, islands, protected areas, and others. .  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR anticipates recognition of Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve as a Ramsar Site or Wetland of International Importance as contracting parties meet in Switzerland in December


June 22, 2022
The Sibugay Coastal Wetlands (SCW) will be renamed Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve (SWNR) as Philippines anticipates its inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance when contracting parties meet in December this year in Gland, Switzerland.
   Georgina Fernandez, Conservation and Development chief of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Zamboanga Sibugay, said that the Ramsar Site designation will open opportunities for international cooperation on research.  


   It will help raise funding for conservation and protection of the site.
    Provincial Eenvironment and Natural Resources Officer (PENRO) Edgardo P. Montojo said  it is important to advocate for the wise use the wetlands’ resources so it will be enjoyed by future generations. Here, the Ramsar list will play a unique role.
   DENR-Region IX is preparing the documents for the inclusion of the SWNR into the list. These will be submitted to the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) – the designated Ramsar National Administrative Authority for endorsement to the Office of the DENR Secretary who will then endorse it to the Ramsar authorities.
   The effort toward the declaration of SWNR as Ramsar  site is part of conserving its rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage of Subanens and other ethnic tribes in Zamboanga Sibugay.      
   Its designation also supports the country’s commitment to the Ramsar Convention as well as to the Convention on Biodiversity and Convention on Migratory Species, said Michael F. Dela Cruz,  PENRO Sibugay Technical Services chief.
   The listing will protect the rich biodiversity of Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve which is home to 68 waterbird species – 43 migratory species– 9 Near Threatened species and  4 Threatened species namely Far Eastern Curlew, Great Knot, Chinese Egret and Philippine Duck.


   Banded (with flags/ring) waterbirds were also documented in the wetland with banding sites from China, Taiwan, Russia, Australia, and Japan.          
   The 172,007.25-hectare Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve has vast areas of mangroves, mudflats, seagrass and corals.
   “The mangrove forest plays a major role in the productivity of the wetland, especially for fisheries as well as roosting site for the largest Flying Fox population in the country. The wetland also serves as a staging, roosting and  foraging grounds various waterbirds, marine turtles and whale shark according to DENR wildlife experts.

Wetlands feeds birds


   The proposed Sibugay Wetlands Nature Reserve covers 9 municipalities out of the 16 Sibugay towns.  Two Marine Protected Area Networks (MPAN) are housed in this proposed nature reserve.  
   DENR IX through PENRO Sibugay is completing in the second quarter of 2022 the Nagao Funded Project which aims to empower the local communities on the sustainable use of the wetland and its resources.

Whale shark or Butanding


   It also aims to organize and operationalize its citizen science group and implement the community-based wetland action plan, according to Fernandez, also chief of the Nagao Wetland-funded “Establishing Knowledge on the International Importance of Sibugay Wetlands:  A Means to Enhance Wise Use of the Proposed Ramsar Site.”
   The Sibugay Wetland Nature Reserve  will be Philippines’ ninth Ramsar Site when granted this recognition.  
   Other Ramsar Sites in the country are Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Naujan Lake National Park, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area, and
Sasmuan Pampanga Coastal Wetlands.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

USAID-funded “Safe Water Project” to give safe drinking water, sanitation services to 350,000 individiauls in Palawan, Negros, Sarangani

June 20, 2022

The United States-funded Safe Water Project (SWP) will be implemented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to give access to safe drinking water and sanitation services to 350,000 individuals in Palawan, Negros Occidental, and Sarangani.


Project components include a technical assistance (TA) on water chlorination for LGUs and water districts and TA to Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) on septage management.


The septate management covers the Supreme Court Mandamus for Manila Bay area.
Other components are exploration on diversifying surface bulk water supply in Negros Occidental and assistance in water security plans for Negros Occidental and Sarangani.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has been prompted by water security challenges in the Philippines including a “growing population, unsustainable land uses, deficient wastewater management.”

“At the center of these challenges are the need for adequate supply of clean drinking water which has become increasingly elusive in many parts of the country, elimination of open defecation, especially in poorer communities, and increased access to safely managed sanitation services,” reported DENR Project Evaluation Officer Israel Helios S. Inocencio.

Climate change, typhoons, droughts, and diseases like Covid 19 are further worsening the level of stress from these water supply threats.These threaten watersheds and the integrity of water and sanitation infrastructure.

Total project cost is P922 million– equivalent to a grant of $18 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Philippine government shoulders a fund equivalent to not less than one-third (P307 million) of the USAID grant.

The project employs the Integrated and Inclusive Water Security (IIWS) framework. This is part of the long term goal to protect the upstream water resources — the forests–where the water comes from. The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) is a co-implementor of the project.

As such a highlight of the SWP is a livelihood component.

In this livelihood lineup is an ube production training for people’s organizations (POs) in Narra, Palawan. It involves private company Sunlight Corp.
Another livelihood component is training for the use of starter kits and farm tools for the ECLOF Organic Farm, a non-profit microfinance institution.

Negros Occidental Rep. Kiko Benitez listens to a presentation on Safe Water Project

Profiling of a PO in Sarangani for enterprise development will also be implemented. An estimated 150,000 people will be the livelihood beneficiaries.

Profiling of a PO in Sarangani for enterprise development will also be implemented. An estimated 150,000 people will be the livelihood beneficiaries.
A total of $20 million will be mobilized as investment for the sustainable environment operation.

The project will empower local government units (LGUs), water service providers, and watershed councils on the sustainable management of water resources.
Other beneficiaries are communities in Region 4-B (Mimaropa, Mindoro Marinduque, Romblon) , Region 6 (Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo) and Region 12 ( Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat).

The Safe Water Roadmap will provide 350,000 people access to safely managed drinking water services . A total of 1.1 million people will receive improved service quality from an existing safely managed drinking water services.
An estimated one million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced due to sustainable landscapes system.

Assistance on the setup of a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) will be extended to Puerto Princesa and Quezon in Palawan, Bago and Kabankalan in Negros Occidental and Sarangani.
The Safe Water Project is being implemented over five years until 2024. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Bayer Philippines pilots Mama & Baby Care project in Tuy, Batangas, to train at least 100 BHWs on maternity and infant care

June 7, 2022

BATANGAS, PHILIPPINES — As the country adjusts to the new normal, a study by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI) revealed that the pandemic disrupted family planning and maternal and newborn health services in the Philippines and globally, straining already stretched out government healthcare workers.

Barangay Health Workers at Brgy. San Jose, Tuy, Batangas receive training for the “Mama & Baby Care” project of Bayer Philippines and Health Futures Foundation Inc. (HFI)

In its commitment to championing women’s health and safety, Bayer Philippines Inc. launched the “Mama & Baby Care: The First 1,000 Days” project, an initiative that formally trains at least 100 Barangay Health Workers (BHW) with the fundamental modules needed for maternity and infant care.

The First 1,000 Days

Supported by Bayer, a global life sciences company, Bayer Philippines Managing Director Angel-Michael Evangelista remarks Bayer is committed to helping BHWs care for mothers and newborn children.

“At Bayer we support ‘health for all, hunger for none’, and with this project, healthcare workers are equipped with the knowledge to support both mother and child during that critical stage of development and help set the foundation for good health early on in life,” said Evangelista.

The training modules, developed by HFI, give prominence to practical information on properly and safely caring for pregnant women and their babies during the first 1,000 days from conception.

From the formational pregnancy period when the fetus grows and develops inside the womb for 270 days, until the infant’s first 730 days after birth, the program highlights the support and care health workers can provide.

“Mama & Baby Care” also puts special emphasis on training healthcare workers in the local barangays to offer ready support for mothers closer to home, lessening the need for pregnant women to spend hours in transit just to make it to their regular check-ups in nearby cities.

By empowering BHWs with trainings on maternal and infant care, local governments provide access to safe motherhood in areas where such services are not available.

“Working with Bayer Philippines, the program fills in the need for maternal and infant healthcare in the local setting, hence the strategic move to focus on barangay health workers. Currently, there are very few programs targeted specifically on the first 1,000 days from the baby’s conception, which our two teams saw as a crucial gap that needed to be addressed. We hope to champion healthy infancy and toddlerhood by starting from the formative days of safe motherhood,” shares HFI Chair Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan.

Bayer Philippines, Health Future Foundation Inc. and representatives from the local government of Tuy at the community launch event of Mama & Baby Care at Tuy, Batangas.
In photo: (L-R back row: Incoming ABC President Hon. Kap. Ramil Sanchez, Tuy BHW President Nancy Delfinado, Tuy RHU – Public Health Nurse Alma Capricho, and Current ABC President Hon. Kap. Adrian Perez) (L-R front row: Tuy MHO Dra. Pilar, Bayer PH
Communications Manager Nadira Abubakar, HFI Chair Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, MD MPH, and Executive Assistant Domingo Condicion to represent Batangas Mayor Randy Afable)

Tuy Municipal Health Officer Dr. Pilar Adrias, also comments, “Pregnancy and the early stages of motherhood are no doubt challenging, but with an efficient and capable support system around them, we hope to lighten the burden of new mothers across the Philippines.”

Already before COVID-19, the Philippines saw about 2,600 women dying every year due to complications from pregnancy or childbirth. The maternal mortality cases in 2020 can increase to up to 670 additional deaths from the 2019 level (26 % increase).

At a community event on May 30, 2022, “Mama & Baby Care” stakeholders officially marked the beginning of the project.

The event was attended by representatives from Bayer Philippines, partner organization Health Futures Foundation Inc. (HFI) Chair Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, and spokespersons from the local municipality of Tuy and its community of healthcare workers– Tuy Municipality Health Officer Dr. Pilar Adrias, Tuy BHW President Nancy C. Delfinado, and Tuy ABC President Adrian Perez.
References:

UNFPA Philippines | Significant rise in maternal deaths and unintended pregnancies feared because of COVID-19, UNFPA and UPPI study shows – https://philippines.unfpa.org/en/news/significant-rise-maternal-
deaths-and-unintended-pregnancies-feared-because-covid-19-unfpa-and

Sibugay Coastal Wetlands to be nominated to the Ramsar List of International Importance

June 6, 2022

The government will nominate the Sibugay Coastal Wetlands hto the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance as part of conserving its rich biodiversity and the cultural heritage of Zamboanga Sibugay’s Subanens and other ethnic tribes.


The Sibugay Coastal Wetlands (SCW) will be Philippines’ eighth on the Ramsar List when granted this recognition.

Wetlands feeds birds


The listing will protect its rich wildlife which is home to 53 waterbird species– 37 migratory waterbirds and 11 threatened migratory waterbirds.


The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is completing in the second quarter of 2022 the project “Establishing Knowledge on the International Importance of Sibugay Wetlands: A Means to Enhance Wise use of the Proposed Ramsar Site.”


Sibugay Wetlands’ 187,000-hectare area has been extensively planted with mangroves totalling 5,155 hectares. It has mudflats (bay mud) spanning 1,607 hectares.


“The mangrove forest plays a major role int he productivity of the wetland, especially for fisheries as well as roosting site for the largest Flying Fox population. Sibugay Wetlands serves as a staging, roosting, foraging and breeding grounds for various waterbirds including migratory species,” according to DENR wildlife experts.

Sea cow or dugong

As part of the conservation plan, DENR will empower the local communities on the sustainable use of the wetland and its resources. That will give them livelihood to keep them away from destroying such environmental wonder.

“The bay supports fishing and other marine related livelihood which serves as the main source of subsistence for most of the coastal barangays.”


Marine turtles

The DENR study will generate detailed bilogical and physiochemical data, and information on ecosystems services of Sibugay Wetlands. It is also now completing Communication Education Public and Awareness (CEPA) sessions and capability building of the community.

The project includes the wetlands’ assessment, distribution of maps of wetland resources, and CEPA within the coastal wetlands, and a workshop on the formulation of community-based wetland action plan.

The SCW project is funded by the Nagao Wetland Fund for P936,000. Implementor also includes DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and the Provincial Environment & Natural Resources OFfice-Zamboanga Sibugay.

SCW also supports threatened species such as marine turtles, Whale shark, Sea Cow, and Saltwater Crocodile. The vast mudflat is home to a variety of oysters, scallops, and other mollusks.


Whale shark Butanding

Endangered Far Eastern Curlew were recorded. Banded-flagged birds were also documented with banding sites from Nan Pu mudflat, Bohai Bay, China; Chongming Dao, Shanghai, China, Khairusova and Belogovaya Rivers estuary, Russia; Australia, and Japan.

The Ramsar List promotes conservation and sustainable use of wetlands. It recognizes wetlands’ international significance based on its “ecology, botany, zoology, limnology (study of inland waters) or hydrology.” (Ramsar Convention).
Philippines’ other wetlands on the Ramsar List are Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary,
Las Pinas Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area, Naujan Lake National Park, Negros Occidental, Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area, Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and Tubataha Reefs Natural Park. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)