DENR project eyes to tap ecotourism potential of Bukidnon’s Mt Kitanglad Range Natural Park

July 31, 2021

A government project eyes to tap the ecotourism potential of Mt. Kitanglad– a favorite trekking site due to its magnificent scenery and terrific landscape– in an aim to generate sustainable livelihood for the watershed communities and help conserve its biodiversity.

   In a long term aim to protect the Upper Bukidnon River Basin (UBRB), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’s (DENR) Integrated  Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP) has been implementing forest protection over an area of 16,188 hectares around the  UBRB.

   The forest management has a significant impact in the lives of the (indigenous people) IPs  in UBRB.  There are nine groups of IPs.

The many beautiful moods of the Mt. Kitanglad peaks

  

By creating ecotourism activities in Mt. Kitanglad, the IPs will then be able to further contribute to sustainable development of the forests and of the river basin. 

   DENR Protected Area Superintendent Daniel F. Somera said DENR and the local government unit (LGU) in Bukidnon has poured huge funds for infrastructure to develop Mt. Kitanglad’s ecotourism potential. 

   Improvements made so far include a canopy walk, hanging bridge, improvement of biking/camping trails, and repair and renovation of existing buildings to cater to hikers’ and tourists’ needs.

   Among the famous site-seeing opportunities hikers go for in Mt Kitanglad are the sight of its rich biodiversity.  

   “Within the reserve is a nesting site of the Philippine eagle which is probably the nearest eagle site in terms of proximity,” said Somera.  “Within the park’s bufferzone is Cinchona Forest Reserve (CFR) located in Kaatuan, Lantapan, Bukidnon. It was once a trial planting site of Quinine (covering 1,900 hectares) which is a known plant to cure malaria.”

   Somera said mountain climbers choose to reach the three highest peaks of the park– Mts. Kitanglad, Dulangdulang and Maagnao.

   Mt. Dulangdulang, with an elevation of 2,938 meters, is the second highest mountain next to Mt. Apo.

   To ensure their safety, hikers are oriented on basic park rules by DENR’s Protected Area Management Office (PAMO). They also go through a ritual performed by a tribal leader to ask spirits for a safe travel.

   “These hikers are regularly being escorted by trained local guides serving as their tour guides and porters.”

   Tourists also delight in visiting buildings occupied by Japanese garrison during the World War II.  It was later recovered by Filipino and American soldiers.  

   “This area is being promoted as one ecotourism destination given its rich historical value, presence of century old natural forests, series of waterfalls, rafflesia flower and rare and endemic flora and fauna.”

   Somera said another booming activity within the park is ethno and agro ecotourism. This ethno-tourism appreciates the rich culture of the  indigenous peoples (Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon tribes) who dwell within the park.    

   There is also a popular, national awardee demonstration farm covering 22 hectares run by a family that showcase diversified upland farming system.

   “With their amenities established at site, the farm is also regularly visited by farmers who wish to emulate their success stories and nature lovers who wish to commune with nature,” he said.

   Mt. Kitanglad has been recognized by DENR and international agencies as a Key Biodiversity Area, Conservation Priority Area, and Important Bird Area.

   With the protection of the UBRB by indigenous people that benefit from the agri-tourism area, the important river systems in Mt. Kitanglad will also be protected.

   The river systems that drain from Mt. Kitanglad include the rivers of Pulangi, Manupali, Cagayan and Tagoloan rivers in North and Central Mindanao.

Rafflesia, world’s biggest flower

   The INREMP is funded by the Asian Development Bank, Climate Change Fund, and Global Environment Facility.

   One of the objectives of INREMP is to partner with the forest communities who hold ancestral domain rights over the areas.

   INREMPS’s sub-project called   the Community-Based Protection and Monitoring (CBPM) is anchored on “community aspirations, customary law, ancestral domain sustainable development plan, and forest protection plan.”

   Because of “positive reciprocity,” DENR”s forest management work with IPs has become successful.

Agri-tourism house in Mt Kitanglad

   “Incentives are provided to the indigenous people through alternative sources of income such as vegetable gardening, cut flower production, heritage site conservation, and eco-cultural tourism. In return, they help protect the natural forest that provides them vast amount of ecosystem goods and services,” said DENR.

   DENR also  has a program for capability building  —  training in project operations and financial management —  under the Livelihood and Enterprise Development (LED) program. 

   This training  is for forest guard volunteers who are responsible for monitoring and reporting any environmental threats  to their area. 

   The forest guards use a technology called Landscape and Wildlife Indicator (LAWIN).

   “LAWIN is a Forest and Biodiversity Protection System that eliminates the manual process of encoding of field data by usingART and CyberTracker applications installed in smartphones.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Revenue sharing to be implemented in Cordillera agro-forestry, watershed to host Chico pump irrigation project

July 26, 2021

A revenue sharing scheme will be implemented in a flourishing watershed and agro-forestry management in Cordillera which will ensure water replenishment for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project that will irrigate more than 8,000 hectares of farmland.

   As part of a long term sustainability plan, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will ensure compensation of Indigenous People (IP) who now maintain the forests of Chico River Basin.

Chico Pump Irrigation Project to irrigate more than 8,000 hectares of farmland. Credit-Clickr

   “The revenue will make sure a PO (people’s organization) member gets his share from whatever activity he contributes such as growing seedlings.  The government also wants to earn from its management of the natural resource,” said according to Marilyn Malecdan, regional project coordinator of the Chico River project.

   The Cordillera provinces—Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao— will host the Chico River Pump Irrigation project touted to be flagship project of the government. If not for the Covid 19 pandemic, it was originally planned to be completed by end of 2021 or early 2022.

   It is estimated to irrigate 7,530 hectares of farm in Tuao and Piat, Cagayan and 1,170 ha in Pinukpuk, Kalinga. To be benefitted are an estimated 4,350 families.

   The watershed management project of DENR includes a 5,056-hectare revenue-earning agro-forestry sites (grown with fruit-bearing trees, vegetables).

Intercropping of coconut, rambutan, and banana in the sloping Cordillera mountains

   It was approved in 2012 and was originally conceived to preserve and conserve the Upper Chico River Basin that straddles through Mt. Province, Kalinga, Apayao, and Ifugao provinces.

   The project, under the Integrated Resources Environmental Management Program (INREMP), is in its final year of completion. 

   Therefore a sustainability plan with a revenue-sharing scheme is now being mapped.  

   “Chico River Basin has vast potentials for development.  It has potential for electric power, irrigation, domestic purposes, and recreation. The river harnesses the major irrigation systems to water its vast rice lands. As a result, Kalinga has been promoted as a rice granary of the region,” said Engr. Ralph C. Pablo, INREMP-CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) project director.

   While environmental protection is the primary aim, INREMP has successfully generated livelihood for the upland residents.

   Through collaboration with other agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Agriculture (DA), the PO partners are able to process and market their coffee. The DENR project provided them with coffee dehullers, roasters, grinders, and other packaging tools.  

     The people also now produce muscovado sugar, wine from various fruits such as Bignay, and of course rice and corn. Provision of rice mills, hand tractors, and multi-purpose pavement for drying products made the lives of farmers in far flung communities of the Cordillera easier.

Sugarcane wine produced by Indigenous People
Special Arabica coffee made by Indigenous People of Cordillera

      “Our rural infrastructure projects have greatly helped them in transporting their products.  With our project we’re able to help people in the farflung areas that used to be inaccessible (due to mountain barriers),” she said.

    INREMP’s rural infrastructure support, in partnership also with Department of Agriculture, includes rehabilitated access roads of 42.32 kilometers  and a foot trail of 10,000 meters. 

   The infrastructure support helped the natives of Cordillera to cut on hauling costs and increase productivity of the lands. Also, women were freed from the burden of fetching water from far communal water sources.    

   INREMP has so far established 3,701 hectares of reforestation area (deforested but replanted) and 5,056 hectares of agroforestry (vegetable and fruit crops with dipterocarp trees planted).    

   Tree species planted include narra, Benguet pine, and dipterocarp trees (broad-leafed, lowland tropical trees) such as white lauan.

   It has also established a total of 6,533 hectares of assisted natural regeneration area — naturally-growing young trees (regenerants) that are cleaned and trimmed. The areas are supported to grow trees with ring weeding,  thinning to avoid crowding, fertilizer application, and planting of open spaces. 

   A separate 955 hectares of commercial tree plantation (CTP) have been grown by the IPs using fast-growing tree species such as Benguet pine, Gmelina and Mahogany (harvestable from eight to 20 years).

   An area called conservation farming —  where contouring and other agro-forestry techniques are used to eliminate soil erosion in sloping areas – now total to 690 hectares.

   With the CTP, the IPs are able to generate construction materials for their own needs such as for housing and do not have to illegally cut trees.

   “Mt. Province has become the home to high value crops yielding legumes/beans, carrots, root crops and other cash crops. White water rafting along the Chico River is another potential attracting local as well as foreign tourists. There are still untapped prospects that include gold, sulfur, copper, gypsum, clay and gravel and other quarry resources,” said Pablo.

   INREMP is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank.    ADB has allocated a restructured loan amount of $57 million for INREMP.  INREMP  is receiving a grant of $2.5 million from the Global Environment Facility. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Campaign stepped up to save the critically endangered Tamaraw and its ASEAN Heritage Site habitat Mt. Iglit-Baco

April 29, 2021

The government has stepped up a campaign to save the critically endangered Tamaraw and its equally endangered habitat, the  Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park (MIBNP), an ASEAN Heritage Site, even as conservation funds shrank in light of the Covid 19 pandemic.

.   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), together with the Biodiversity Finance Philippines (Biofin), has sustained a program to conserve the Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis) even as poachers have taken advantage of the government travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

   Not only is Tamaraw a rare dwarf buffalo (four feet tall at the shoulders) found only in Mindoro Island.  Its decrease in population became alarming since the 1900s.  Tamaraws are one of the 11 remaining wild cattle species of the world.   The Mt. Iglit-Baco, its habitat, has also gone through serious deforestation with less than 3% of primary forest preserved.

   “Sadly,  Now, only 23 TCP (Tamaraw Conservation Program) rangers and three MIBNP wardens are expected to patrol a core area of 2,500 hectares inside the 106,655 hectare MIBNP, which hosts at least 480 of the world’s 600 remaining tamaraws,” according to the DENR.

   The “Together for Tamaraw” campaign is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the DENR’s office in MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), and the DENR’s attached agency Biodiversity Management Bureau.

   The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Tamaraw as a critically endangered species, the highest level of threat on conserved flora and fauna.

   From a population of 10,000 Tamaraws in the 1900s, the buffalo recorded a slump in population to 120 in 1975, largely owing to poaching and illegal trade.

   With conservation efforts, its population rose to 370 in 1987 and to its present population of 600.

The Tamaraw of Mindoro. Credit- Outoftownblog.com

   The endangered buffalo benefited from having been globally recognized as endangered.  Countries that are signatory to the  Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora contributed to preventing its illegal trade.

   Tamaraw’s endemism in the Philippines is indicated in its name mindorensis, with “ensis” the Latin meaning it belongs to the island. 

   DENR reported that 35 countries have cooperated in the Together for Tamaraw online fund raising endeavour.

   There is now a 10-year Protected Area Management Plan for Mt. Iglit-Baco.  The plan integrates efforts of the indigenous people (IP) and their cultural and development needs as part of the conservation of Tamaraw.

   Part of this is to secure the rights of the IPs who have ancestral domain rights over the protected area.  As such, it strengthens their right of the IPs to protect the mountains and its endangered animals against cattle ranching and wildlife poaching.

   The natural park  encompasses “large tracks of the ancestral lands of the Tau-buid and Buhid indigenous tribes, making them key stakeholders in any decisions related to management of the park,”  according to the Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC).

   The Tau-buid and Buhid Indigenous People have participated in the zoning, management planning and Population and Habitat Viability Assessment (PHVA) workshops for the conservation of Tamarw and MIBNP.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Private sector support for PPP sought to fund P24B yearly biodiversity strategy program up to 2028

April 24, 2021

The government’s Biodiversity Financing Initiative (Biofin)  is luring possible direct investment  in a PPP (public private partnership)  to fund the P24 billion yearly budget for the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP).

   A program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Biofin’s aim is to close a gap in financing the PBSAP, now being funded at just P5 billion yearly.  That presents a high 80% gap.

    The PBSAP  is a complex roadmap to sustain biodiversity, Protected Areas (PA), and the country’s natural resources.  This is critical as it has serious consequences not only on the environment but the sustainable supply of raw materials for complex industries.  It started in 2015.

   PBSAP supports Philippines’ thrust for sustainable development as it is one of world’s 17 megadiverse country in flora and fauna resources.  However, such rich biodiversity faces threats with 93% of original forest cover lost since the 1900s.

   PBSAP taps 50 national and attached agencies as responsibility centers to collaboratively implement biodiversity conservation programs.  The academe and civil society organizations (CSOs) are also co-implementors.

   “By2028, biodiversity is restored and rehabilitated, valued, effectively managed and secured, maintaining ecosystem services to sustain healthy, resilient Filipino communities,” according to DENR.

   DENR plans to issue a DENR order  on PPP (public private partnerships) so more private companies can directly invest or co-manage the development particularly of environmental resources.

   Private companies are also encouraged to allocate a budget for biodiversity programs under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.

   “Research on potential PPP activities and modalities will be undertaken and results will be inputs into proposed policies on PPPs and at the same time, BIOFIN intends to pilot these modalities in selected protected areas,” according to DENR’s Biofin program.

   The European Union and the governments of Germany, Switzerland, Flanders and Norway has extended a $2.5 million grant for Philippines to mainstream the biodiversity program into national budget.

   The PBSAP cuts across  eight thematic areas of biodiversity.  The following are the original budget requirements for each:

   Access and benefits sharing, P1.8 billion   

   Invasive alien species, P4.19 billion

   Urban biodiversity, P3.72 billion

   Inland wetlands, P77.745 billion

   Forest/Terrestrial, P214 billion

   Agrobiodiversity, P13.091 billion

   Cave and cave systems, P7.626 billion

   Coastal and marine, P69.89 billion

    It is estimated that protection measures can prevent annual loss of $1billion in illegal unreported unregulated fishing alone.

    “Biodiversity and ecosystems are key to lifting people out of poverty, contributing to our economy, and strengthening our resilience to climate change,” said DENR.  “These plans are likely to affect people’s access to ecosystem services, the governance context in which they live, the ways in which they create and sustain livelihoods for themselves.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba) PHOTO Credits- Youtube

“Reward” system pays off in restoring resource-rich but highly threatened Chico River watershed under an ADB project

April 25, 2021

The government is optimistic of a “reward” system’s success in restoring the resource-rich but threatened watershed of the Chico Upper River Basin as it carries out an Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded forest project.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is arresting degradation of the forest resources of the Chico Upper River Basin (CURB), a river system in the Cordillera teeming with significant potential for electricity, irrigation, and domestic water use.

Chico River Pump Irrigation Project. Credit- NIA-CAR

   Through the Integrated Resources Environmental Management Program (INREMP), DENR has been securing the support of the community by giving them incentives for co-managing the forests.

    The “Payment for Ecosystems Services” (PES) is believed to be working out in compelling the Chico River communities to shift to agroforestry and conservation farming.

   The PES is an incentive system given to farmers and indigenous people in the watersheds for sustaining their ancestral lands that can produce valued economic and ecological products.    

   Among these products of nature are crops, livestock, aquaculture fisheries; fiber (timber, cotton, silk); genetic resources (biochemical, pharmaceuticals); fresh water, air, climate regulation, erosion control, and even health and recreation as defined by the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment.

   “This will provide incentives for indigenous peoples and resource-poor communities to help reduce and reverse degradation of watersheds.  It will also provide incentives to local government units and DENR for improving natural resource management,” said DENR.

    INREMP has three other priority river basins for forest management.

   These are the Wahig-Inabanga River Basin in Region 7 (Cebu City); Upper Bukidnon River Basin; and Lake Lanao River Basin in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, according to DENR.

The winding Chico River straddling across Mt Province, Ifugao Kalinga, Apayao

   These watersheds are critical due to the  kaingin or deforestation activities of illegal intruders or the same people living in the area. 

   However, the PES is enabling DENR and partners like the World Agroforestry to turn people around in favour of adopting nature-friendly farming practices and forest management.

   ADB has allocated a restructured loan amount of $57 million for INREMP, according to DENR. It is receiving a grant of $2.5 million from the Global Environment Facility.

   The Chico river basin has been hounded by environmental problems.

   Among these are conversion of mossy forest in Mt. Data to vegetable gardens; decreasing water discharge due to drying up of water sources; destruction of biodiversity due to kaingin, illegal cutting, forest fires and chemical pollution; river siltation due to soil erosion and landslides; water pollution from households.

   Nevertheless, it has the potential for tourism with water rafting activities. The rice terraces in Kalinga is touted to become a rice granary for premium organic rice as the Chico River supplies water for irrigating its big rice lands.

   With Chico River there, the Mt Province itself is a watershed known to produce high value crops including legumes/beans, carrots, root crops.

   Over 200,000 hectares of protected area in the four river basins have been monitored for sustainability. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Land use plan mapped for Mt. Mantalingahan

April 30, 2021

A Land Use Plan (LUP) has been mapped for the protected Mt. Mantalingahan in Palawan to ensure its preservation and the optimum development of its resources economically valued at $5.5 billion.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that 206,567 hectares of Mt. Mantalingahan’s protected landscape had already been zoned.

    This is under DENR’s technical assistance program called “Protect Wildlife Project” funded by the United States Agency for International Development ((USAID). 

   The zoned area also includes forest land outside the protected area of 153,836 hectares.

   DENR said mapping of Mt Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL) is a powerful tool in defining which activities are appropriate for each zone.  It prescribes what is allowed in each area.

Mt. Mantalingahan. Credit- Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape

   With its 120,457 hectares of forest, Mt. Matalingahan is the headwater for 33 watersheds.

   It is  important to preserve the habitat of many important species of animals in Mt. Matalingahan–the Philippine cockatoo, the talking mynah, the blue-naped parrot, and the Philippine Pangolin, and many other highly endangered wildlife.

   Production area totaling to 82,469 hectares of protected area and 71,367 hectares of conservation area have also been designated under the FLUP (Forest Land Use Plan) of Southern Palawan.

   DENR said the Protect Wildlife Project targets to conserve around 750,000 hectares of biologically significant sites.  These are protected areas, forestlands, watersheds, mangrove forests, and coastal and marine areas.

   “The project leveraged P368 million of commitments from private and public sector partners to fund conservation activities including support for sustainable livelihood, and social enterprises,” said DENR.

   Mt. Matalingahan is the highest peak in Palawan. It straddles around the towns of Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Rizal, Quezon, and Sofronio Espanola.

   It plays an important role as a deterrent to flashfloods  and other destructive forces. 

   Moreover, Mt. Matalingahan even faces natural and man-made threats from illegal logging, wildlife poaching, mining, and kaingin (slash and burn).

   It also faces risks of high poverty incidence that cause people to destroy the forest; unclear or inconsistent regulatory policies on resource uses; communities that lack tenure rights; weak enforcement systems; and the vulnerability to climate risks such as drought and intense rainfall, according to the USAID.

Tribal people in Mr Mantalingahan harvest ube for yam processing. Credit- Palawan News

   The Protect Wildlife Project aligned the Land Use Plan with prevailing policies.

   “Protect Wildlife found that there were several areas where actual land uses differed from what policies prescribe, thereby causing much of the degradation within the protected area and adjoining forest lands,” said USAID.

   The LUP is now compliant to the policies on Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) strategy for Palawan, National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act, Forestry Code, the Local Government Code, and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.

   Land use includes forest lands which are designated into protection, conservation, and production areas.  Production areas are further divided into sub-zones such as agriculture, tourism, and special areas.

  “Each zone and sub-zone has corresponding evidence-based land and resource use prescriptions—the rules for how an area of land may be legally used. Zoning decisions are derived from spatial analysis but also consider socioeconomic and political realities,” reported USAID.

   “Land use zoning provides a solid basis for LGUs (local government units) and the DENR to make informed decisions for investments on natural assets enhancement, restoration, basic infrastructure, social services and enterprises.” 

   DENR said the project  has partners for livelihood programs.  These are Lutheran World Relief, Abraham Holdings, Inc., and Sunlight Foods Corporation.  They are supporting establishment of enterprises in five LGUs in the MMPL. 

   Also participating now in an ube (purple yam) production are upland communities in tenured areas in Bataraza, Brooke’s Point and Sofronio Española.

   Fourteen communities with a total of 1,500 households are into conservation agriculture and agroforestry.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

64,498 hectare forest management area in Chico River turns in livelihood opportunities in coffee, wine enterprises for IPs

July 20, 2021

A 64,498 hectare forest management area originally conceived to protect the watersheds of the Upper Chico River Basin has turned in coffee and wine enterprises for the indigenous people (IP) in farflung Mt. Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao.

   As the project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Chico River Basin is about to be completed, a sustainable plan is now being drafted to ensure IPs will continue to thrive in their newfound livelihood.

   A revenue-sharing scheme will be a major component of the sustainable program now being mapped by DENR, according to Marilyn Malecdan, regional project coordinator of the Chico River project.

   “The revenue will make sure a PO (people’s organization) member gets his share from whatever activity he contributes such as growing seedlings.  But the government also wants to earn from its management of the natural resource,” said Malecdan.

Agro-forestry farming in slopes that produce food and eliminate soil erosion

   The Chico River is one of the four river basins aimed to be protected and preserved under DENR’s Integrated Resources Environmental Management Program (INREMP).  

   “Chico River Basin has vast potentials for development.  It has potential for electric power, irrigation, domestic purposes, and recreation. The river harnesses the major irrigation systems to water its vast rice lands. As a result, Kalinga has been promoted as a rice granary of the region,” said Engr. Ralph C. Pablo, INREMP-CAR (Cordillera Administrative Region) project director.

   While environmental protection is the primary aim, INREMP has successfully generated livelihood for the upland residents.

Through collaboration with other agenciees like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Department of Agriculture (DA), the people’s organization (PO) partners are able to process and market their coffee. The DENR project provided them with coffee dehullers, roasters, grinders, and other packaging tools.  

Special Arabica coffee made by Indigenous People of Cordillera

     The people also now produce muscovado sugar, wine from various fruits such as Bignay, and of course rice and corn. Provision of rice mills, hand tractors, and multi-purpose pavement for drying products made the lives of farmers in far flung communities of the Cordillera easier.

Sugarcane wine produced by Indigenous People

      “Our rural infrastructure projects have greatly helped them in transporting their products.  With our project we’re able to help people in the farflung areas that used to be inaccessible (due to mountain barriers),” she said.

   INREMP’s rural infrastructure support, in partnership also with Department of Agriculture, includes rehabilitated access roads of 42.32 kilometers  and a foot trail of 10,000 meters. 

  The infrastructure support helped the natives of Cordillera to cut on hauling costs and increase productivity of the lands. Also, women were freed from the burden of fetching water from far communal water sources.    

   INREMP has so far established 3,701 hectares of reforestation area (deforested but replanted) and 5,056 hectares of agroforestry (vegetable and fruit crops with dipterocarp trees planted).    

   Tree species planted include narra, Benguet pine, and dipterocarp trees (broad-leafed, lowland tropical trees) such as white lauan.

   It has also established a total of 6,533 hectares of assisted natural regeneration area — naturally-growing young trees (regenerants) that are cleaned and trimmed. The areas are supported to grow trees with ring weeding,  thinning to avoid crowding, fertilizer application, and planting of open spaces. 

   A separate 955 hectares of commercial tree plantation (CTP) have been grown by the IPs using fast-growing tree species such as Benguet pine, Gmelina and Mahogany (harvestable from eight to 20 years).

   An area called conservation farming —  where contouring and other agro-forestry techniques are used to eliminate soil erosion in sloping areas – now total to 690 hectares.

   With the CTP, the IPs are able to generate construction materials for their own needs such as for housing and do not have to illegally cut trees.

Intercropping of coconut, rambutan, and banana in the sloping Cordillera mountains

   “Mt. Province has become the home to high value crops yielding legumes/beans, carrots, root crops and other cash crops. White water rafting along the Chico River is another potential attracting local as well as foreign tourists. There are still untapped prospects that include gold, sulfur, copper, gypsum, clay and gravel and other quarry resources,” said Pablo.

   INREMP is co-financed by the Asian Development Bank.    ADB has allocated a restructured loan amount of $57 million for INREMP.  INREMP  is receiving a grant of $2.5 million from the Global Environment Facility. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Export-oriented industries, jobs to be created from pilot project, tap unused wood from 4,047 hectare community forests in Negros, Agusan

July 12, 2021

A wood processing project is seen to create jobs and new export-oriented industries producing furniture and veneer that will tap unused wood from a 2,115 hectare  community forest in Agusan del Sur and 1,932 hectares in Negros Oriental.

   The pilot “vertical integration” project is envisioned to be replicated in logging areas all over the country once proven successful under a project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

   It is funded for $1.118 million by the South Korea-based Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO).

   Participating farmer groups are the Nalundan United Farmers’ Association (NUFAI) in Brgy. Nalundan, Bindoy, Negros Oriental and Mindanao Timberland Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative (MATILFAMCO) in Brgy. Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

More than 600 hectares of Falcata plantation will be the raw material source for a veneer wood processing plant

   DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said the project with AFoCO will be the start of a sustainable forest management project in the two provinces.

   Cimatu stressed that the wood processing plants to be put up will tap raw materials from CBFM areas (community-based forest management). 

   It will raise the income and livelihood levels of POs (people’s organizations) in the grassroots.

   “The Philippines needs five million cubic meters of wood or lumber per year.  Only one million is from the Philippines.  The rest is imported. Those that come from the Philippines are from private forests, not CBFM,” Cimatu said during a project launch

   At present, NUFAI and MATILFAMCO only earn from round timber (lumber of Acacia mangium and of Falcata)  since they do not yet have wood processing plants.

   Lumber of Acasia mangium only sells at P7 per board feet or P84 per 12-foot length, according to Richard Fabre,  city environment and natural resources officer (CENRO) in Bindoy, Negros Oriental.

   Given the presence of a factory, NUFAI expects its farmers to become traders themselves of their own value-added products.

   “With the wood processing plant from the AFOCO project, we will be able to produce furniture. PO members  will go through training under TESDA (Technical Education and Skills development Authority) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry),” said Fabre.

   Despite their small earnings from logs, it is just good that through DENR’s initiative NUFAI (with 160 beneficiaries)  was supported by the Department of Agriculture with another livelihood source, a 200-head cattle inventory.

   “This is the reason why NUFAI was chosen in the AFOCO project—because they have been successful in using the CBFM area  government  gave them,” said Fabre.

   MATILFAMCO  has a CBFM contract over a total of 2,115 hectares in Agusan del Sur and NUFAI, 1,932 hectares in Negros Oriental.

   NUFAI presently has a harvestable Acacia mangium area of 300 hectares. But only 75 hectares has a cutting permit.

   In Agusan del Sur, MATILFAMCO farmers look forward to producing finished product veneer wood from Falcata trees, according to Forester Leonito Ramos of DENR-Caraga.

Nalundan CBFM area of 1,932 hectares in Bindoy, Negros ORiental

   Veneer is an engineered wood where thinly sliced wood is bonded with a  substrate to produce higher-end solid wood used in interiors or as construction material.  Raw materials for veneer wood will come from Falcata trees currently planted on 680 hectares in Brgy Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

   “The farmers will enjoy a 60% increase in their net income once the wood processing plant is constructed,” said Ramos.   “Right now 40% of their income from selling logs goes to traders.”

   At present, MATILFAMCO sells their raw logs (26 centimeter diameter), called “export”, at P150,000-P180,000  per 30 to 35 cubic meter-truck.  The Falcata logs called “pulp” (24 centimeter diameter and below) sell at P80,000 to P100,000 per 30 to 35 cubic meter truck.

   The MATILFAMCO farmers also earn from growing rubber, corn, and saba or lakatan banana.

   However, with the wood processing plant, the farmers will be able to enjoy additional income from tapping a separate 100-hectare Falcata plantation. This new area was planted with an assistance from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

   “They wanted to harvest this 100-hectare  Falcata area as early as in 2019. But we told them to wait for the wood processing plant of the AFOCO project so they will earn higher,” said Ramos.

   With the wood factory, MATILFAMCO farmers (with 84 beneficiaries) will be able to also produce packaging boxes for bananas and other fruit-vegetable products from the scrap.

   Cimatu expressed satisfaction  that after a two-year delay due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the project will now start. It will be implemented over five years until 2026,

   More especially, it is with partnership with AFoCO which is based in South Korea, a leader in reforestation. It was noted that Korea once had very low forest cover due to a civil war. But it bounced back as one of the countries in Asia with the highest forest cover due to its aggressive reforestation that Philippines can emulate.

   In the implementation of the AFoCO project, there will also be collaboration with other national government agencies like the DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (FPRDI) and Local Government Units (LGUs).

   The POs will  undergo capacity building on product’s value-addition.  They be provided with access to machineries and equipment for the wood processing plant. They will be assisted in establishing links with potential wood product buyers/traders in the domestic market.

   In relation to the DENR’s intention to strengthen forest management, Cimatu said that the DENR will also push for the legislation of a forest law enforcement arm. DENR will create at least a 2,000-strong forest guard workforce. Similar to Korea where illegal loggers are automatically driven away by the presence of forest guards in uniform, Philippines will employ this practice.

   That will be along with other practices in South Korea that may be somewhat difficult to emulate, such as its robust aviation force patrolling forests, but not impossible. For one, Philippines employs high-technology forest monitoring devices in what is called the LAWIN. It is an innovative forest monitoring technology capable of geo-spatial analysis of collected data indicating forests’ condition and threats to trees and wildlife. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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)