Five sites including Tubbataha Reefs named candidate for an ASEAN marine protected area management project

September 21, 2022

Five sites in the Philippines including the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) have been named candidate for a marine protected area (MPA) management project in the ASEAN to be implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Aside from TRNP in Sulu-Celebes Sea, the other candidates are the Ticao-Burias Pass Protected  Seascape (TBPPS); Agoo Damortis Protected Landscape & Seascape (ADPLS); Bani-Bolinao-Burgos-Infanta, Dasol-Agno MPAN (MPA Network);  and Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary(TIWS).

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has just convened stakeholders of the project “Effectively Managing Networks of Marine Protected Areas in Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) in ASEAN” (ENMAPS). 

This is to gather and consolidate data as it is scheduled to submit its project proposal to its funder– the Global Environment Facility (GEF) by March 2023.

The sites being chosen for ENMAPS are biodiversity-rich sites that also face threats of environmental degradation. Beneficiaries of the project are Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand.

Other ASEAN Large Marine Ecosystems  (LME) sites under the project are the Gulf of Thailand/Andaman Sea of Bay of Bengal, Indonesian Seas, and South China Sea.

The Coastal and Marine Biodiversity of ASEAN is known to have 20% of the world’s seagrass beds, a third of world’s mangrove forests with 45 to 75 true species, and a third of the world’s coral reefs with more than 75% of species of coral and 40% of of fish species.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been concerned that the world’s oceans have been reaching their ecological carrying capacity, a limit to their ability to produce fish for food.

“More than 75% of world fish stocks are already fully exploited, overexploirted, depleted or recovering from depletion,” according to GEF website.

ENMAPS aims to develop and improve the management of networks of MPAs and marine corridors within selected LMEs in the ASEAN region. It aims to conserve globally significant biodiversity and support for sustainable fisheries for people’s livelihood and other ecosystem goods and services.

The ASEAN ENMAPS project will also be executed by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) in collaboration with the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

It also includes national technical working groups from DENR’s Foreign Assisted & Special Projects Services (FASPS); Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Fisheries Research & Devt. Institute, and PEMSEA (Partnerships in Environmental Management for the SEas of East Asia).

GEF has supported sustainable governance of 23 large marine ecosystems (LMEs) involving collaborative of work of many countries. The world’s oceans is known to be divided into 66 LMEs.

 This area covers 7.7 million square kilometers with 173,000 kilometers of coastline.
LMEs are huge marine areas extending beyond boundaries among countries which is why collaboration is important here. ENMAPS has a cost of $77.596 million. Of this, $12.548 million consists of GEF grant.

The procedure of UNDP aligns with the Social and Environmental Standards or SES.  This means that the project will integrate SES principles as it undertakes the project.  Such principles include human rights protection, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.  It will assess social and environmental issues in order to address risks.

The Ticao-Burias Pass Seascape has earlier been proposed to be an MPA with its plankton-rich waters.

“Species found there include whale sharks, thresher sharks, hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, manta rays, dugong, various species of sea turtles, coral reefs, and the globally rare megamouth shark, but the pass also suffers from massive overfishing and poaching, as well as destructive blast fishing,” according to reports from Philippine News Agency.

The Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary has been proposed in 2015 to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is known to be the only “major nesting habitat of Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas)  in the Philippines and the only major nesting ground in the whole ASEAN Region.”

The Agoo-Damortis Landscape and Seascape is known to have mangroves in the foreshore area which provide spawning and nursery grounds for fishes and crustaceans, and habitat for both local and migratory birds. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Agri science firm Bayer Philippines embarks on program to lure youngsters to farming, plant breeding as Ph farmer population dwindles

September 19, 2022

In an effort to help raise more agriculture entrepreneurs, Agriculture science firm Bayer Philippines Inc. has embarked on a program to lure youngsters to hands-on farming, plant breeding, and crop protection even as farmer-population in the Philippines has been declining.

Bayer has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) under with selected students are sent to Bayer’s Agronomic Testing Center Southeast Asia (ATC-SEA) in Laguna.

Another training site for the “Science Immersion Program” (SIP) is the Plant Breeding Station in General Santos City.

“As a partner of the PSHS we hope to help inspire our young scientists to take a deeper interest in agriculture, and to support science education in the country through hands-on activities in our research sites in Laguna and General Santos City,” said Bayer Philippines Inc. Managing Director Angel-Michael Evangelista.

“Bayer aspires for a world where there is ‘Health for all, Hunger for none’ – and science will help us get there. It’s in our purpose of ‘Science for a Better Life’ and it is integral to our Pharmaceutical, Consumer Health and CropScience divisions.”

At the Bayer Seeds Research and Development Station in General Santos City, students will learn about plant breeding as both a business and science.

At the Bayer ATC-SEA site, PSHS students will be exposed to agriculture operations that contribute to skills in agriculture entrepreneurship. These include seedling production, land preparation activities, crop maintenance, and safe use of crop protection products.

Bayer Philippines Inc. Managing Director Angel-Michael Evangelista conveying support for science education through the PSHS Science Immersion Program. (Photo credit: John Carlo Quito)

As agribusinesses require technical know-how, they will gain basic understanding of agriculture and crop protection research and gain hands-on experience in conducting laboratory and field bio-efficacy trials from insect rearing, field assessments and analysis.

They are expected to gain exposure to the end-to-end breeding process of rice and corn in an industry setting. This includes development of breeding populations, molecular breeding, testing and evaluation of lines and hybrids from early pipeline to pre-commercial stage, as well as exposure to digitalization, mechanization, and automation of breeding operations.

They will be familiarized with the activities of the Plant Pathology Laboratory, Seed Laboratory, and field and screenhouse nurseries.

They will participate in actual inoculum propagation, inoculation, rice emasculation and hand pollination.

“The Philippine Science High School System is committed to provide Pisay students relevant learning opportunities to advance their scientific aptitude and interpersonal skills.Today we earned another collaborator to champion the worthy cause of science education. I am thankful to Bayer Philippines for accommodating the PSHS System to the Science Immersion Program (SIP) for Grades 10-12 students,” said Lilia Habacon, PSHS director.

Bayer scientists from India and the Philippines had earlier conducted a plant breeding and biotechnology webinar across all PSHS campuses to share how Bayer DEKALB corn seeds from the laboratory to the farm have helped Filipino farmers increase their yield and improve their livelihood.

From left to right: PSHS Deputy Executive Director Rod Allan De Lara, PSHS Executive Director Lilia Habacon, Bayer Philippines Inc. Managing Director Angel-Michael Evangelista, and Bayer Philippines Communications Manager Nadira Abubakar. (Photo Credit: John Carlo Quito)

Protect Taklong, Tandog islands and Visayas provinces stricken by severe typhoon Yolanda

September 16, 2022

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has supported policies for the protection of the Taklong and Tandog Group of Islands Natural Park (TTG-INP) in Guimaras, Iloilo and other Visayas provinces that are struck by severe typhoons as Yolanda and Odette.

In a partnership with the Federal Republic of Germany, DENR has started developing policies and legislative support on TTG-INP under the “Sustainable Coastal Protection through Biodiversity Conservation in Coastal Ecosystems Affected by Typhoons in the Philippines” (PROCOAST).

“The project aims to improve the protection of coastal areas and the people who live there from the effects of climate change,” according to Michelle I. Yu and Eddie B. Abugan Jr of DENR’s Foreign Assisted & Special Projects Services (FASPS).

PROCOAST has a total project cost of E4.8 million (P275.418 million) including funds from the German government and the Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. It is implemented by Germany’s Deutsche Gessellschaft fur International Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Also an executing partner is DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

Support for drafting national policies has been completed by PROCOAST on the following, according to the FASPS report:

  1. Establishment of Taklong and Tandog Group of Islands Natural Park as component of NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Area System). House Bill 10643 seeks to declare TTG-INP as a protected area to be overseen by a Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). Among PAMB members are DENR Director-Region 6 (Western Visayas), Guimaras governor, Senate/Lower House representative, and representatives from Indigenous People, private sector, academe, and non-government organization.
  2. Integrated Coastal Management Bill (ICM). The ICM (Senate Bill 1920, Senator Risa Hontiveros) seeks to promote sustainable development of coastal and areas –protecting the environment while providing livelihood for its nearby residents. It will provide support for local government units (LGUs) to come up with an ICM program.
    “A national ICM program will (enable us) to realize our goal of achieving food security, sustainable livelihood, poverty alleviation, and reduction of vulnerability to natural hazards while preserving ecological integrity,” according to SB 1920.
  3. National Coastal Greenbelt Bill (NCGB). The NCGB (Senate Bill 1927, Senator Risa Hontiveras) seeks the protection and expansion of mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrass meadows all known as the blue carbon ecosystem. The bill noted the death of more than 6,200 people and four million who lost their homes due to super typhoon Yolanda.
    “As the Philippines’ 36,000 kilometer coastline is among the longest in the world, coastal greenbelts effectively mitigate the damaging impacts of waves and storm surges,” according to NCGB.
    “Disaster preparedness comprises a whole suite of items, such as early warning
    systems, elevated shelters, hard engineering (e.g., breakwaters) and green engineering/infrastructure.”
    Mangroves are estimated to have a value of $14,000-16,000 per hectare for its coastal protection value, according to NCGB.

    PROCOAST will further document typhoon impacts on the targeted provinces– assessing their preparedness. It will support MPAs or marine protected on local ordinance formulation.

    Among PROCOAST’s accomplishments so far are policy support for eight sites in Negros Occidental and Iloilo and tourism planning for Concepcion and Ajuy local government units. It has also produced a Mangrove Ecopark Manual.

    It conducted social marketing for the Sagay Marine Reserve in Negros Occidental, Philippines’ largest marine reserve with 32,000 hectare-area, while protecting its reefs — Carbin and Maca Reefs.

    It also did social marketing for the Tanon Strait Protected Seascape in Negros in Cebu which is known for whale and dolphin watching.

    It has trained 9,000 individuals and 30 trainers on species on coastal protection.

    PROCOAST has put up six Centers of Learning (COL) in an aim to establish venues for promoting innovative measures through learning visits, peer-to-peer exchanges, and training workshops. The COL’s establishment was with the aid of GIZ and Zoological Society of London.

    The COLs have been established in Concepcion Marine Protected Area, Concepcion, Iloilo; Pedala Integrated Mangrove Ecopark Ajuy, Iloilo; and Leganes Integrated Katunggan Ecopark, Iloilo.

    The main COL is in Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR), Nueva Valencia, Guimaras. Two other COLs include locations outside ILoilo– Sagay Marine Reserve, Negros Occidental and Katunggan it Ibajay, Aklan.

    The TINMR covers 46 islands and the coastal barangays of La Paz and San Roque under Presidential Proclamation 525. Its 1,143-hectare area consists of 183 hectares of terrestrial area and 960 hectares of brackish and marine water.

    “TINMR rich biodiversity prides itself of 64 species of birds, 16 species of reptiles, 8 species of mammals, 114 species of hard corals, 17 species of soft corals, and 9 species of seagrasses,” according to RA 11038.

    The islets are covered with indigenous plant species such as Molave, Magtalisay, Pandan Dagat, Kamachile, Batino, Passi, Duhat, and Pitogo.

    Among the mangrove forests are Bacauan scientifically called Avicennia with specific species such as Api-api, Bungalon, Pagatpat, and Bantigue.

    Wildlife species inhabiting the area are Island Flying Fox, Western Visayas Water Monitor and bird species including Philippine Pied Fantail, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Olive-backed Sunbird, Pink-necked Green Pigeon, Pied Triller, White-collared Kingfisher, Asian Glossy Starling, Large-billed Crow, Blue Rock Thrush, Common Emerald Dove, White-breasted Woodswallow, Philippine Coucal, Philippine Night Jar, and Black-naped Tern.

    Some of the birds there are threatened species such as the Philippine Megapode or Tabon Scrub Fowl which is often foraging and laying eggs in Taklong and in Apugan Islands with their nesting sites sighted in Kaliruhan.

    Endemic Philippine Ducks or Anas luzonica have also been located at the Suba Malawig mangrove area.

    PROCOAST has extensive coverage of coastal protection in the Visayas including Region 6 (Aklan, Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Capiz, Negros Occidental) and Region 7 (Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor). (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

    Rice farmers pleaded to PBBM to restore NFA’s ‘regulatory powers’ to assure farmers of a sure market, protect poor consumers

    September 15, 2022

    Rice farmers have pleaded to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to restore National Food Authority’s”regulatory powers” to ascertain farmers of a sure market that pays higher while also assuring lower-price for the poor segment of consumers.

    The Mabandi Multi Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in Pulong Bayabas, San Miguel, Bulacan and the Federation of Central Luzon Farmers Cooperative (FCLFC) have also asked the president to raise farmgate price of clean and dry palay (unmilled rice) to P23 per kilo.

    Palay buying direct from farmers used to be a major intervention of the former National Food Authority (NFA) prior to this function’s abolition under the Rice Tariffication Law.

    While ‘ayuda’ (financial assistance) is given in cash, the farmers insisted they prefer to be treated with fairness and in a more business-proper manner. Ayuda is only given arbitrarily.

    “Not everyone gets to receive ayuda. Only those that are close to those in power. But when palay price is raised to P23 per kilo at farmgate, that benefits all farmers,” said Atanacio Santos of the Mabandi MPC.

    Only 75% of farmers get to receive ayuda, said Santos.

    The Philippines’ food security problems can be significantly solved if government assures farmers of this palay market. Providing a stable farmers’ market is a function that has been practised by countries with progressive, profitable agriculture sector.

    “Kung talagang magnanais tayo na magkaroon ng sapat na pagkain ay ipatupad natin ito at hindi puro salita lamang,” said the rice farmers in an open letter. “Ang patuloy na pagwawalang bahala ay hudyat ng kamatayan ng pangsakahan. Patuloy na maghihirap ang mga magsasaka at tuluyang mawawalan ng pagkain ang taong bayan.”

    {Marcos should immediately implement the price increase, or ignoring farmers’ plea signals death of the rice sector. More farmers will be impoverished, and consumers will run out of food.)

    The increase to P23 per kilo already covers all costs of production including those for seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, according to Simeon Sioson, FCLFC chairman. Farmgate price has dropped to P18 to P19 per kilo and even hit a very low level at P10 to 14 per kilo. This has caused huge losses on farmers and compelled many farmers to give up tilling the land.

    “The P23 per kilo farmgate price will cover all increases in costs in the market including those for the higher price of fertilizer now, diesel, and pesticides,” said Sioson.

    But aside from farmers, the government will also be a big beneficiary since government can collect additional value added tax (VAT). Such additional VAT may then be used to subsidize the cost of rice for consumers.

    Prior to the RTL, the poor used to depend on cheap NFA rice for their staple.

    “Now there is no more P27 per kilo NFA rice.”

    Trade liberalization advocates stress NFA’s rice subsidy function for consumers renders it bankrupt, dependent on huge loans, and incompliant to free market principles.

    But Danilo V. Fausto, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. president, said NFA is not supposed to be profit-making like private companies.

    “NFA’s purpose is not to make a profit (but intervene and assist rice sector),” said Fausto.

    But with the P23 per kilo farmgate price, government will even hit its targeted P20 per kilo price at consumers’ market– given government subsidizes rice price for all using the additional VAT it collects.

    Sioson said government should strictly monitor the Philippines’ rice shortfall. This will prevent any excess in domestic rice volume that causes further rice competition to farmers.

    “Importation only benefits farmers in Vietnam and Thailand. We should rather protect our farmers. Only the shortfall should be imported,” Sioson said.
    Even government’s buffer stocking function for the lean months, with inventory level required is at 30 days, will be addressed through higher production from incentivized farmers.

    “Our rice sector will flourish. Everybody will be benefitted,” said Sioson.
    Mabandi MPC and FCLFC also said government should take into consideration the many climate disturbances adversely are affecting farming.

    “Tinatamaan din kami ng climate change tulad ng mga bagyo, pagbaha at kung minsan tagtuot. Apektadong apektado rin kami ng inflation.”

    “Dahil sa kasalukuyang tagtuyot sa China, apektado din ang mga bansang Vietnam, Cambodia, at Thailand–dala ng mababawasan ang tubig galing sa China. Babagsak (lahat) ang kanilang produksyon.”

    (We are also affected by climate change’s including typhoons, flooding, and sometimes drought. We are also severely affected by inflation. The drought in China also affects Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand who suffer from lower level of water from China, Their production will also decline. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

    DENR project Cold Chain Innovation Hub launched at TESDA in Taguig City to showcase best low-carbon tech and energy-efficient technologies

    September 13, 2022

    The Cold Chain Inovation Hub (CCIH), a one-stop shop for technology transfer,capacity building, research, and education, has been launched at the TESDA Complex in Taguig City, showcasing best low-carbon technology and energy-efficient technologies.
       Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Foreign-Assisted and Special Projects Service (DENR-FASPS) Director Al O. Orolfo hailed the occasion as “momentous” as it helps enable Philippines to meet ozone depleting substance (ODS) phaseout commitments.
       The CCIH, the physical platform of the DENR’s Global Partnership for Improving the Food Cold Chain in the Philippines (FCC) project, will serve as a venue for global partnership among the public and private sectors and technology providers.  
       CCIH will play a key role in TESDA’s (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) upskilling of the labor force in green industries and green jobs of the commercial and industrial refrigeration sector.
       The building features a workshop and exhibit area, training room and a cold storage room for technology display. This initiative is made possible through the FCC project that is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), TESDA, and the DENR.
       The event showed various technologies from the industry such as the Hydrocarbon Freezer and Chiller Display Cases for Commercial Food Retail (Epta), the R600a Solar Driven Refrigerator (Vestfrost Solutions), and the Selection of Tools and Machines (Magic-Aire Industries, Inc.).
       These would form part of the initial batch of equipment to be showcased in the hub to demonstrate energy efficient and climate-friendly refrigeration with low to zero global warming potential.
       Several batches of equipment and refrigeration systems are expected to arrive in the CCI Hub until September 2022, all of which exemplify “next generation” cold chain solutions.
       The launch also presented networking and collaboration opportunities through exhibits by Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Technicians for Development of the Philippines (RACTAP), Women in Refrigeration and Air-conditioning (WOVRAC), Magic Aire Industries, DELSA, Danfoss Philippines, Mayekawa Philippines Corporation, GEA Philippines, Epta Refrigeration Philippines, Cold Front Technologies Asia, Unimagma Philippine, Koppel, and American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

    FASPS’s Orolfo noted that while cold chains are vital for the economy, it must be developed in a sustainable and climate-friendly way and aligned with the country’s commitment to the Montreal Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
       TESDA Director General Isidro S. Lapeña highlighted the role of the hub in providing livelihood for Filipinos by training and upgrading their skills in priority sectors that include commercial and industrial refrigeration.
       UNIDO Country Representative Teddy G. Monroy underscored the role of innovation in the cold chain sector to address the challenges in food and energy security due to global events such as the war in Ukraine, the Covid 19 pandemic, and climate change.
       The Philippines has a commitment under the  Montreal Protocol to phase out the production of  ozone depleting substances which includes chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) which has been banned since 1990s.  Also restricted refrigerant are hydroflourocarbons (HFCs) that contain chlorine, like CFCs, which are destroying the ozone layer.
       The FCC is financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a co-financing from the Philippine government.     (FCC Project/ Mae Valdez)  

    Photo: TESDA Director General Isidro S. Lapena (Left) and DENR-FASPS Director Al O. Orolfo (Right) hold the ribbon to mark the launch of the CCI Hub

    PBBM urged to help restore demand for bamboo by compelling DepEd to use it for school chairs so as to boost largely private-led $4.6 million investment

    September 5, 2022

    The Philippine Bamboo Industry Development Council (PBIDC) has urged government to restore EO 879 mandating Department of Education’s use of bamboo for school chairs–spurring demand for the crop that generates $4.6 million largely private-led investments.

    PBIDC, chaired by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but has yet to convene since the start of President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr.’s term, also pressed Marcos to pick bamboo as the symbolic tree to plant.

    On September 13 2022, Marcos will celebrate his first birthday as Philippines’ president and as customary will have a tree planting ceremony.

    PBIDC OFficer Deogracias Victor Savellano said PBIDC hopes Marcos will use bamboo for the symbolic tree planting as this will stress bamboo’s high valuation as an indigenous highly-marketable Philippine product.

    “Bamboo is important. You can’t have fishing boats without bamboo outriggers. You can’t have fishpens without bamboo poles. Banana or export will yield to the ground without bamboo poles to prop it up,” he said during a Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI) press briefing that Savellano hosted at his family-run Victorino’s.

    “Labong can only be harvested if there is enough bamboo. Maybe now that PBBM is the DA Secretary, bamboo can be given due focus and its large potential realized”.
    Investments in the bamboo industry has been largely private sector-led. The PBIDC hardly had any budget and “could not fully function because of lack of budget,” according to PBIDC.

    PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said government should support bamboo planting considering its versatility in use. Demand should also be encouraged as it is not only DepEd that’s mandated to use it, but even government offices.

    “Garlic (like other commodities) has been allocated with a budget of P100 million. But the budget went missing. With bamboo, there is no budget that was lost. Why? Because there is no budget at all,” according to Fausto.

    Executive Order (EO) 879 which created PBIDC mandates that 25% of all desks and tables of the Department of Education (DepEd) schools shall be made of bamboo.
    However, there is limited supply to meet the 25% threshold. Thus in 2021, the DepEd unilaterally removed bamboo as part of acceptable material in teacher and student chairs and tables.

    The industry has yet to take off and realize its full potential.

    “This is the fastest growing tree that can be harvested in three to four years. Hopefully before PBBM steps down in 2028, it is already a huge industry,” said Savellano.

    Edgardo C. Manda, PBIDC president, also said during the PCAFI briefing that he hopes PBIDC will soon convene in order to revive the industry. This is considering that Philippines is fifth largest bamboo and rattan product exporter in the world and faces even bigger export potential.

    PBIDC’s members include secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, Department of DepEd, Department of Science and Technology, and Department of Labor and Employment.

    Bamboo’s many uses

    Bamboo is climate smart crop and useful in controlling erosion. It grows faster than hardwood trees and is considered a renewable resource as it is grown as a plantation crop.

    “Bamboo propagation battles climate change and global warming by growing faster than hardwood trees and absorbing more carbon to support agricultural productivity and sustainablity,” said Manda.

    It can be used as timber for major construction and building uses, along with its many uses for food and beverage.

    For food it is cooked as “labong,” baked bamboo shoots, braised bamboo shoots, spicy pickled bamboo shoots. Bamboo culm is used to make wine and beer. Bamboo leaves are used as food for livestock.

    The special flavor of a fresh culm is used for cooking rice and fish. Bamboo is used for vegetable fruit garden stakes and hangers, pole to support banana trees, and as tobacco curing barns.

    Bamboo is used for irrigation as poles carrying water. It is used as planter and container for rural food products, basket for crop harvesting, structure for animal cages, farm fence material, katig in boats, fish cages in fish ponds, and fish traps.

    Bamboo takes many forms as crafts and rural home utensils, material for bridges in rural communities, and bahay kubo and resthouses. Bamboo wagons are used to transport farm goods. It is even used as a musical instrument, textile, and Christmas decor. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

    Mt. Hamiguitan beekeeping project taps farming expert Green Solutions to bring expertise in the industry teeming with international market potential

    August 24, 2022

    A beekeeping project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Mt. Hamiguitan sanctuary has tapped the Green Solutions Agricultural Farming Training Center (GSAFTC) to bring beekeeping expertise in the industry teeming with international market potential.

    The Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (MHRWS) looks forward to improved crop production for its honey enterprise in its farms in Brgys. San Isidro and General Generoso, Davao Oriental.

    A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed between MHRWS Protected Area Management Board and GSAFTC to expand collaboration on trainings, marketing-promotional work, experimental, and technology -demonstration on beekeeping.

    The beekeeping livelihood program is a special project called “Beekeeping as Bio-diversity-Friendly Community-Based Enterprise in MHRWS” of the DENR as part of forest conservation.

    Mt. Hamiguitan is a wildlife sanctuary recognized by UNESCO (Unied Nations Educational Scientific & Cultural Organization) to have a universal value. It is home to globally threatened flora and fauna eight of which are found only Mt. Hamiguitan itself.

    The beekeeping project in Mt Hamiguitan ensures the surrounding communities have a livelihood so that they do not resort to illegal forest activities around Mt. Hamiguitan.

    Beekeeping is also known to have the very important “pollinating” function in the ecosystem, enhancing environmental balance. It contributes to rapid generation of forest reserves.

    The government sees a good market potential for beekeeping products (pollen, propolis, beeswax, and value added products including honey wine, honey and propolis-based soap, massage oil, shampoo, and ointment). The Philippines even imports honey. Local producers may be able to fill that import volume.

    Beekeeping at Mt. Hamiguitan

    With a more dependable livelihood and income, residents of the buffer zone of Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (MHRWS) are turning to become strong forest guards who help conserve forests and biodiversity of the protected site.

    People’s Organization to be benefited by the project are the Progressive Organic Farmers and Fisherfolks Towards Ecology Conservation of Talisay (PROFTECT) of San Isidro, Davao Oriental and PO Sergio Osmena Rattan Association of Serbio Osmena, Governor Generoso.

    The beekeeping project has been financed under DENR’s special project fund supervised by the Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS).
    The project already identified two potential expansion sites in Sto Rosario, San Isidro and Macambol, City of Mati.

    The project was compelled to transfer the beekeeping activity to the GSAFTC site which serves as the recovery area for the propagation of the bee colonies. This is because an infestation of the small beehive beetles occurred due to the erratic whether. This caused the decline of colonies from 241 to 89.

    Part of the project’s target is to come up with local policies on biodiversity friendly enterprise and sustainable honey production. As such, an ordinance for the preservation, habitat protection, and collection of bee products from the wild has been drafted together with the legislative members from municipal and barangay levels, Davao Oriental State University, Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and municipal tourism offices.

    The DTI and Department of Science & Technology (DOST) also facilitated a training of beneficiaries on handling and packaging of bee products.

    Mt. Hamiguitan

    Mt. Hamiguitan is being strictly protected as it faces threats of conversion of land for agriculture. There are also mining threats outside the site.

    Potential risks from climate change and increasing tourism are now being addressed by DENR.

    Mt. Hamiguitan is known for its highly diverse mountain ecosystem that makes it home to a number of endemic species known only in Mindanao and particularly found only in Mt. Hamiguitan.

    “The combination of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within the boundaries of the property and the large number of species inhabiting each makes the MHRWS home to a total of 1,380 species with 341 Philippine endemics,” according to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

    That includes critically endangered species — the iconic Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi). Also considered endangered are the Philippine Cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), the trees Shorea polysperma, Shorea astylosa and the orchid Paphiopedilum adductum.

    “Its high level of endemicity is well exemplified by the proportion of its amphibian (75% endemic) and reptile (84% endemic) species. The fragile tropical ‘bonsai’ forest that crowns the MHRWS epitomizes nature’s bid to survive in adverse conditions,” UNESCO said.

    Scientists believe there may be more undiscovered unique flora and fauna in the mountain range.

    “In the lower elevations the agro-ecosystem and remnants of dipterocarp forests house some 246 plant species including significant numbers of endemics such as the globally threatened dipterocarps of the genus Shorea.”

    “The dipterocarp forest ecosystem is characterized by the presence of large trees and is home to 418 plant and 146 animal species, which include threatened species such as the Mindanao Bleeding-heart dove (Gallicolumba crinigera) and Philippine warty pig (Sus philippensis).” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

    People’s organization Greener Pasture Ad Holnad produces farm-to-table tablea under JICA-funded forestry project in Hingyon, Ifugao

    August 19, 2022

    A people’s organization in Hingyon, Ifugao, the Greender Pasture Ad Holnad Inc. (GPAHI) is now benefitting from an agroforestry farm-to-table tablea (chocolate-cooking delicacies) enterprise that they developed under a JICA-funded forestry project.

    Actual site monitoring activities in Hingyon, Ifugao was held by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) delegates in its funded projects, particularly the Forestland Management Project (FMP) in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

    JICA was earlier constrained to do site monitoring by the Covid 19 pandemic for two years. After a long wait, JICA resumed its project site visits starting in the Ifugao, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

    FMP has enabled GPAHI to produce farm-to-table tablea using cacao from its plantations. It has also established a cacao processing facility for enterprise development.

    GPAHI has been one of the successful people’s organizations (PO) supported by JICA.
    From 2013, GPAHI has established and maintained a Site Development (SD) area of 200 hectares– kickstarted livelihoods such as ginger production, and established swine and chicken raising as additional sources of income.

    “The PO’s vision for the future carries an intergenerational value – for the future generations to benefit from their efforts. Therefore, sustainability is integral to their strategic plans for the conservation and sustainability of our natural resources while uplifting women in their communities,” according to the DENR project “Save our Watershed.”

    During the JICA site monitoring in Ifugao in June this year, the Boliwong Organization of Muyung Protectors, Inc. (BOMPI) also showcased the PO’s fruit trees intercropped with bananas which are both bearing fruits at this stage.

    A line up of activities was prepared by FMP-CAR for the visit which mainly involves a turn-over ceremony of an FMP-funded access road to the local government unit of Brgy.Montabiong in the municipality of Lagawe.

    A monitoring of banana plantation and enterprise development activities of a partner PO of the Lagawe subwatershed was also made.

    The JICA team also and inspected the Subproject Site Management Office (SUSIMO) of the Lagawe subwatershed and Provincial Project Management Office (PPMO) of FMP Ifugao.

    The main purpose of the three-day site visit is for JICA to witness first hand project gains at the field level to further support the decision of the funding agency in granting the request for project extension of an additional year or until July 2023.

    Consequently, DENR’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) led by its new director, Al Orolfo, made sure its technical assistance to the activity to affirm its support to the project in the region.

    The turn-over ceremony of the Rehabilitation of the Montabiong Access Road was further graced by the Embassy of Japan contingents led by its First Secretary, Tachikawa Junpei.

    Part of the ceremony’s key message of JICA representative, Hashizume Takuya, is urging “LGU officials and partner POs to take care and maintain the 4.5–kilometer infrastructure in order to ensure longer utilization of the subproject” and achieve “improved access to our critical subwatershed in order to sustain reforestation, conservation, and protection efforts”.

    Further, Engr. Ralph C. Pablo, the Regional Executive Director of DENR-CAR, reminded the community people of Montabiong to “strike a balance” between socio-economic and watershed rehabilitation and conservation activities as in the end humanity cannot survive a heavily degraded environment with the emphasis that “there is no planet B”.

    FMP is a 10-year project of DENR ending in 2022. It integrates conservation and development activities beneficial to local communities. Its beneficiaries are 147 People’s Organizations (POs) within 24 sub-watershed areas including those in Ifugao. The total project investment cost is estimated at P5.870 billion.

    ADB commissions SEARCA for 10-year agriculture modernization plan that needs a multi-trillion budget

    August 17, 2022

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has commissioned the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) for a 10-year plan in an aim to catapult Philippines to be a major agricultural producer, probably a farm produce exporter.

    This endeavor apparently aligns with the pronouncements of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. about Philippines’ pursuing food security aims, even agriculture modernization, having himself taken on the task as secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

    SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio told a press orientation that the “National Agriculture and Fisheries Organization and Industrialization Plan” has an indicate implementation schedule for 2021 to 2030.

    The press orientation was in conjuction with the lauch of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Young Generation (SHARING) Cafe.

    “We have already submitted our recommendations to the Department of Agriculture (DA),” said Gregorio.

    The industrialization plan has a nine-point track to carry out:

    1. Consolidated production and post harvest facilities (commodity systems-oriented
    2. Construction of critical infrastrucutre spatially integrated within agri-fisheries industrial business corridors (AFIBCs
    3. Modernized food terminal facilities and similar facilities linked to transport nodes in urban and peri-urban areas.
    4. Smart irrigation and water impoundment or retention systems serving two or more commodities
    5. Other large-scale infrastructure (waste management facilities, fish ports, ICT (Information Communication Technology) including high-speed connectivity
    6. Scaled up mechanization and adoption of other commercial scale-oriented technologies
    7. Large-scale production and distribution of biologically safe technologies including biopackaging
    8. State-of-the art R&D (research and development) facilities linked to PAFES (province-led agriculture and fisheries extension systems) networks
    9. Development of agri-fishery enterprises and business incubation initiatives linked to large investors.

    Gregorio said the 10-year industrialization plan requires a budget of P5.03 trillion.

    “The budget should come from the public sector, P2.5 trillion, while the other P2.5 trillion will come from the private sector,” he said.

    SEARCA itself has launched its own programs inspiring investments in the knowledge economy which taps on the economy’s intellectual resources in order to generate wealth.

    For one, the SHARING Cafe provides for creative learning experience that can lead the young generation to contribute to farm industrialization.

    SEARCA conducts sessions on Lego education robotics at its SHARING Cafe

    “The SHARING Café is an interactive component of the SHARING innovation spaces, which aims to provide a creative learning experience geared towards Agriculture 4.0 in Southeast Asia,” said SEARCA.

    “The SHARING Café will be an innovative venue for ‘play-to-learn’ activities for guests and fun learning modules for K-12 students in the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

    JICA graced turnover of access road and banana plantation project in Brgy. Montabiong, Lagawe, Ifugao

    August 16, 2022

    The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has graced the turnover of an access road and a banana plantaiton and development enterprise project in Brgy. Montabiong, Lagawe in Ifugao Province showing significant gains in its funded Forestland Management Project (FMP).

    Actual site monitoring activities by JICA to its funded projects such as the Forestland Management Project (FMP) was constrained by the Covid 19 pandemic for two (2) years. After a long wait, JICA resumed its project site visits starting in the Ifugao, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) on June 13, 2022.

    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has led the project implementation of FMP.

    The access road plays an important role in the socio-economic progress of the town as it leads to the center of Brgy. Montabiong. It also serves as a farm-to-market road.
    Beneficiary and partner of the banana enterprise and road are peoples organizations (POs) of the Lagawe subwatershed.

    JICA also had an inspection of the Subproject Site Management Office (SUSIMO) of the Lagawe subwatershed and Provincial Project Management Office (PPMO) of FMP Ifugao.

    The main purpose of the three-day site visit is for JICA to witness first hand project gains at the field level to further support the decision of the funding agency in granting the request for project extension of an additional year or until July 2023.

    Consequently, DENR’s Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS) led by its new director, Al Orolfo, made sure its technical assistance to the activity to affirm its support to the project in the region.

    The turn-over ceremony of the Rehabilitation of the Montabiong access road was further graced by the Embassy of Japan contingents led by its First Secretary, Tachikawa Junpei.

    Part of the ceremony’s key message of JICA representative, Hashizume Takuya, is urging “LGU officials and partner POs to take care and maintain the 4.5 km infrastructure in order to ensure longer utilization of the subproject” and achieve “improved access to our criticalsubwatershed in order to sustain reforestation, conservation, and protection efforts”.

    Further, Engr. Ralph C. Pablo, the regional executive director of DENR-CAR, reminded the community people of Montabiong to “strike a balance” between socio-economic and watershed rehabilitation and conservation activities as in the end humanity cannot survive a heavily degraded environment with the emphasis that “there is no planet B”.

    The subsequent activities focused on visiting the PO office and tree and agroforestry plantations of the Greener Pasture Ad Holnad, Inc. (GPAHI), specifically beholding how agroforestry farm-to-table tablea are made possible by the organization through its cacao plantations all the way to its established enterprise development cacao processing facility.

    A PO member Mr. Stewart of BOMPI shows the JICA Visit team their agroforestry plantation intercropped with banana crops

    The Boliwong Organization of Muyung Protectors, Inc. (BOMPI) on the other hand, showcased to the honored guests the PO’s fruit trees intercropped with bananas which are both bearing fruits at this stage.

    Inspection of project offices and interviews with project staff gave JICA a glimpse on how day-to-day operations are made by the DENR to pursue project activities albeit now in a more fast-paced manner in view of tight project implementation timeline.

    From these, issues and concerns were discussed and recommendations by the site visit team were formulated to overcome them.

    Undoubtedly, the lessons learned gained from the visit such as PO field practices on project implementation, their networking and linkaging efforts and most of all their enduring visions for their communities and the environment highlighted the event. Takuya, as part of his concluding field impressions, cannot help but convey his congratulations for the exemplified humble but growing successes of the project in the region.

    Pablo is pleased that CAR has been selected as JICA’s postpandemic pilot area for its project site visits which is also in time for FMP’s 10th year of implementation.

    With the naturally long-term nature of forestry projects and with the promising results seen on the ground, the region hopes to have provide appropriate impetus for the funding agency, JICA, to affirm the request for project extension soon. – Ara Gendrano (PEO, FMP CAR).