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

July 7, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Mindoro Island hosts Mangyan indigenous peoples.

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2021    

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 1, 2021

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

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

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

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

Bukidnon coffee. Credit-PIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bukidnon coffee farm. Credit- PCB

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

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

PHOTO Bukidnon coffee plantation. Credit-PCB

PHOTO Bukidnon coffee. Credit -PIA

DENR enters MOU with AFoCO for value added wood production from Negros Oriental, Agusan del Sur forests, project to generate jobs for grassroots communities

June 28,, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has entered an MOU with the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO) for the production of value-added wood products from forests in Negros Oriental and Agusan del Sur which will generate jobs for grassroots communities.

    A vertical integration project (VIP) for wood processing will produce value-added wood products using raw materials harvested from Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) areas being managed by People’s Organizations (POs)  in Negros Oriental and Agusan del Sur.

   Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the project will be co-financed with AFoCO for US$1.118 million.

   DENR will implement the project through the Forest Management Bureau and DENR’s field offices in Regions 7 and 13.

   Unlike now when only logs are produced from these CBFM areas, the vertical integration project is seen to produce value-added, semi or finished products (such as construction materials or arts and crafts).

DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu signs Memorandum of Understanding with AFoCo on vertifical integration-wood processing project

   Income of POs is expected to improve with the products’ increased value.

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

   He stressed the economic importance that raw materials will come from CBFM, and POs in the grassroots will benefit.

   “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 the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signing.

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

   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, 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), among others.

   Each project site shall undergo capacity building activities on product’s value-addition.  The project sites will be provided with access to machineries and equipment in support to value adding activities.  They will be provided with access to funds and will be assisted in establishing links with potential wood product buyers/traders in the domestic market.

   Moreover, the experience and lessons learned from the two pilot sites shall be consolidated/integrated to come up with policy recommendations. By the end of the project, the initiative is expected to contribute in the development of an enterprise/livelihood that would lead toward the sustainable management of the forest under the Community Based Forest Management Program; and shall likewise to be translated into enabling policy guidelines which can further be used and replicated by other Asian countries.

   In  relation to the Department’s intention to strength 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)

E vehicle technology in “low carbon cities” adopted by Philippines to cut greenhouse gas emission, reduce air pollution

June 25, 2021

By Melody M. Aguiba

The Philippines is adopting low carbon, energy efficient electric (E) vehicle technology in “low carbon cities” under a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-7 project in order to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emission and reduce air pollution.

    As mobile transportation accounts for a sizable chunk of GHG emissions and air pollution, the government is pursuing the   “Accelerating Adoption and Scale up of Electric Mobility for Low-Carbon City Development in the Philippines.”

    It is funded by GEF with a $4.28 million grant with a counterpart from the Philippine government of $46.725 million.

   Being GEF’s Operational Focal Point (OFP), DENR is optimistic that the new project will be successful given collaborations on the development of a viable business model for EVs.

   “It is a welcome development that we are one of 17 developing countries to deploy E vehicles at scale in support of air improved quality and reduced fossil fuel dependency,” said DENR Undersecretary Analiza R. Teh during an inception workshop.

    Teh said it important to develop a green transport technology that benefits the mass of people (like E jeepneys, E buses). The Department of Energy (DOE) is being eyed   to lead the implementation of the project with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

   “We need to ensure that our project fits within a broader low (GHG) emission transport strategy that has public transport at its heart,” she said.

Dream of a green, low carbon city with less pollution-emitting Electric vehicles

    Both regulations and incentives will be established for the envisioned E Vehicle industry to become a reality, she said.

    “We can look at possibilities regarding emission regulations and incentives. We have to look at investing in charging (E vehicle charging stations like gasoline stations) infrastructure,” she said.  “We can look at opportunities for a future with limited auto pollution and clean energy alternatives.”

 The upcoming E mobility project is expected to identify pilot cities to demonstrate the E vehicle industry’s viability. This so-called GEF child project is part of the United Nations Global E-Mobility Programme under which Pasig City receives support as one of the demonstration sites.

   In selecting pilot cities, the four-year project will gather data and statistics on commuters’ profile, traffic jams, workers, previous deployment of 3-wheelers, and renewable energy generation.

    “It is envisioned to have charging infrastructure and renewable energy installations in selected pilot cities (estimated 300 chargers supplied by PV–photovoltaic or solar energy– installations approximately15 megawatt) mostly targeting locations with large transport flows. Deployed infrastructure will be for private cars and the 2&3 wheelers (private and commercial light transport),” according to a project briefer.

   The project’s first component will put up policies and institutional framework for the integration of the E-mobility program planning at local levels. Along with this is the integration in local planning for renewable energy and energy storage (batteries) in cities adopted.

   It will also set up an accounting system for GHG emissions in the transportation sector. It will also come up with a master plan on EV (electric vehicle) charging (of batteries) infrastructure.

    The second component is the development of business models for E-mobility.  It will involve the private companies which are expected to venture in the new E vehicle industry.  The GEF program will also extend financing to private companies.  Therefore, they will be oriented regarding business models and creditworthiness.

   The project will also explore other financing options for the entire EV-LCC program. There will be climate smart capital investment plans.

    The third component involves deployment of the E vehicle technology eco-investments and infrastructure.  This also includes renewable energy, energy storage, and deployment of two-three-wheeler vehicles. 

    The last component of the project is its scale up. Under this, more partnerships with private sector investors will be put together.

  “Co-financing from the private sector will be solidified through the PPG (project preparation grant) phase through further consultations and analysis of which companies best align with project components. DFIs (development financing institutions) such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC) are engaged in supporting (investment options).” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

LGUs urged to co-invest in the beautiful Manila Bay-Bataan restoration, capiz shell industry in Samal, Bataan restoration seen

June 23, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has pressed local governments to co-invest in the beautiful Manila Bay-Bataan restoration using their increased income arising from the Mandanas ruling.as this investment will churn back into sustainable jobs  and ecosystems services.

   Not just a fancy idea, but investing in the restoration of the Manila Bay to Bataan coastal areas will bring back to life key biodiversity areas (KBA) that will boomerang into sustained livelihood for people. 

   A key result should be the restoration and sustainability of  the windowpane oyster (capiz) industry in Samal, Bataan, according to DENR Undersecretary Analiza Teh.

   “Bagac and Morong (Bataan) abound with numerous fish species.  And the locally known capiz or  windowpane oyster shells used to be abundant in Manila Bay. It still can be found along the coast of Samal,” said Teh during the Manila Bay-Bataan Coastal Strategy project workshop.  

   Once a flourishing industry, the windowpane oyster shell industry in Samal declined.  This must have been due to the receding supply of the oyster shell as a result of illegal and destructive fishing.

   Given an increased investment of local government units (LGUs) all over Manila and Bataan into the coastal areas’ restoration, this will result not only in natural resources preservation but economic benefits to people.

   “The Mandanas ruling will increase internal revenue allotment (IRA) of LGUs by 56%.   So there’s an opportunity for us to engage the LGUs to invest more  on natural resources protection.  We can convince LGUs to undertake co-management of Protected Areas with the community,” said Teh. 

View of Manila Bay from Bataan by Fernando Amorsolo. Credit- Artnet

   “Sustainable land management in Bataan promises long term benefits to the ecosystem and the economy,” Teh said during the project’s inception workshop.

   Similarly, Teh said the private sector should be persuaded to also invest in this project.

   “There is also an opportunity for us to rally the private sector to invest.  :Let’s see how we can provide incentives to them so they can participate actively not only as part of CSR (corporate social responsibility) but investment on natural resources protection,” she said.

   Teh noted that on top of livelihood benefits, fisheries production, and tourism (as Bataan has pristine beaches from Morong, Bagac up to Subic Bay), these natural resources automatically become Filipino people’s health protection.

   “Natural resources are our vaccine to any health crisis.  We need to show how we can contribute to our economic recovery and to helping solve the pandemic,” she said.

   The Manila Bay-Bataan Coastal Strategy project is a comprehensive five-year project financed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

   It covers three phases:  Phase 1—Cleanup and Water Quality Improvement; Phase 2—Rehabilitation and Resettlement; and Phase 3-Education and Sustainment.

Windowpane oyster shells found in Samal, Bataan used as home decor material

   Budget is $2.7 million from GEF (Global Environment Facility) and $15.5 million co-financing from the Philippine government.

   The project will train provincial government people in Sustainable Land Management (SLM).

  “Interventions include the  identification and uptake of biodiversity friendly agriculture and sustainable  fisheries.  (These livelihood should ) reduce pressure on the  biodiversity and ecosystems (especially in  uplands and address soil erosion and excessive sedimentation  downstream in the riparian areas and coastal zones,” according to a project briefer.

   By 2022, soil loss in Manila Bay will have been reduced.  Existing biodiversity areas within Manila Bay region protected and conserved.

  The project will be co-implemented by DENR’s-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) and the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Soils and Water Management (DA-BSWM). (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

DENR aims to bag $4M int’l project to enhance the protection and sustainable management of Philippine Rise (Benham)

June 16, 2021

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Conservation International are now preparing the design of a $4 million project to be funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to conserve and protect the Benham Bank and sustain its near pristine condition.

   The proposed five-year project, titled Philippine Rise Integrated Conservation for

Enduring Legacies through Ecosystem Support Services (PRICELESS) will be financed under the 7th Replenishment Cycle of the Global Environment Facility (GEF-7).  It will be executed by the DENR in partnership with NGOs (non-government organizations), Conservation International and Rare Philippines.

   GEF-7 will provide a $4 million grant, with an expected co-financing from the Philippine government, conservation partners, and other key stakeholders in the Philippine Rise Region.

   GEF-7 PRICELESS aims to address the need to ramp up and build capacity to

protect and manage the waters, reefs, and natural resources in the Philippine Rise

Marine Resource Reserve (PRMRR). 

hilippine Rise

Philippine Rise: Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area. Credit-DA

The PRMRR is composed of the Benham Bank and its surrounding waters, being the first National Integrated Protected Areas System Marine Protected Area (NIPAS MPA) in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

   Given the vast, offshore areas in the Philippine Rise, the project also aims to strengthen coordination and partnership between the DENR, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources,  Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, among many others.

   It has been a long way since the discovery of pristine coral reefs, expansive seaweed (Caulerpa sp.) meadows, and other benthic habitats lying 40-80 meters beneath the surface in the Benham Bank.  It was the result of the first two inter-agency expeditions in 2014 and 2016 of the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP MSI), UP Los Baños, and the DA BFAR.

   These habitats are a haven for marine biodiversity in the Philippine EEZ —  the Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis) and the Big eye Tuna (Thunnus obesus) both classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species.  Found there too are the billfish, butterflyfish and other commercially important fish,  rays, and schools of sharks.

Philippine Rise. Credit-flipscience.ph

   Alongside the discovery of the rich biodiversity of the Benham Bank was the

granting, acceptance, and recognition by the United Nations Commission on the

Limits of the Continental Shelf of Philippines’ Extended Continental Shelf in the Philippine


   The PRMRR was also declared as an Ecologically and Biologically Significant Area or

EBSA by the Convention on Biological Diversity back in 2016, granting the area the

international recognition it deserves.

   However, it is through the issuance of Presidential Proclamation No. 489 in 2018

that PRMRR is being managed and operated.

   The DENR has initiated that the PRMRR be declared a full-fledged NIPAS Marine Protected Area.

   DENR’s effort to upgrade its status as a NIPAS MPA started with multiple Management Planning and interim PAMB (Protected Area Management Board)  meetings from 2018 to 2021, leading up to the upcoming deliberations of a proposed PRMRR Bill through the House Committee for Natural Resources.

   There is much more to be discovered in the depths of the Philippine Rise, from its

marine biodiversity, geological history, and full potential to provide ecosystem services, food security, for Filipinos all over the country.

   The reefs, habitats and biodiversity there, while still in the near pristine condition when they

were first discovered  must be closely monitored to observe any changes.

  PRMRR should be given stronger protection given the growing interest brought about by its rich fisheries resources and other possible threats from climate change and unsustainable fishing practices.

   The PRICELESS Project is indeed something to look forward to and will play a

critical role in strengthening the PRMRR’s status as a NIPAS MPA. 

   Its Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) should be constituted to secure the

sustainable management and protection of the fisheries and natural resources in the

entire Philippine Rise Region for the benefit of present and future generations. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

JICA asked to extend the P5.87 B Forestland Management Project, 71,300 hectares of agroforestry plantation successfully put up

June 12, 2021

The government has asked Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)  for an extension of the P5.87 billion Forestland Management Project (FMP)   which was halted due to the Covid 19 pandemic while having successfully established 71,300 hectares of agroforestory plantation.

   The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) needs time to complete  maintenance works for the protection of established plantations over the mandated three river basins of FMP.

   Originally aimed to strengthen forest management in three critical river basins of the Philippines, FMP is about to end in 2022 after having helped the grassroots  communities in the uplands. 

   Traditionally the poorest of all farmers due to their far distance from markets, the upland farmers of FMO, represented in 149 people’s organizations (PO),  have benefitted economically from FMP.

   The POs have also become stronger protectors of the watersheds in the three critical river basins—Upper Magat and Cagayan River Basin (Quirino, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ifugao); Upper Pampanga River Basin (Nueva Ecija); and Jalaur River Basin (Iloilo).

   “We have a pending request for an extension on one year to complete activities on maintenance and protection of established plantations, construction of agroforestry support facilities, and implementation of the sustainability action plan,” said Marlon Atienza, FMP project manager.

 .”The request is made in view of the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic starting the first quarter of Calendar Year 2020. The request was given approval by the ICC Cabinet Committee through ad referendum and endorsed to Department of Finance.”

   Atienza noted the achievements of FMP over its almost 10-year duration.

  Forestland Management Project successfully put up 71,300 hectares of agroforestry plantation

“Majority of the project’s deliverables have already been completed– preparation of management plans, organization and strengthening of 149 POs, establishment of 71,300 hectares of tree and agroforestry plantations, organization of watershed management bodies.”

   “These deliverables are all indicators for measuring achievement of project objectives. However,  we still have to make an assessment of the indicators (increase in forest cover, PO income and decrease in soil erosion).”

   DENR is still completing several road and bridge projects even as it is supposedly in the last year of FMP implementation.

   Contractors of the P72M Reinforced Concrete Deck Girder (RCDG) bridge in the area of Alimit Langayan Banao (Ifugao) just held in the last week of May a “concrete pouring” ceremony for the bridge.  It is a go signal for its construction.

    Another FMP project that will benefit the Peoples Organization (PO) of Alimit Langayan Banao Farmers Organization (ALBAFO) is the 3.867 kilometer Brgy. Montabiong Access Road.     

   Worth P48 million, it is now undergoing construction.     It will take 270 days to complete the access road.

   “This road concreting will strengthen the connectivity between the Alimit West and Lagawe subwatersheds,” said Atienza.

   The Brgy. Montabiong Access Road just also started construction with a groundbreaking ceremony last June 3, 2021.

   Aside from ALBAFO, the immediate beneficiary of this access road is the PO Iphodan Di Alah Ad Montabiong Inc. (IDAMI) and DENR-Ifugao Field Implementing Units.

   FMP is funded by JICA through a P4.708 billion loan component.

    The pineapple-agroforestry  enterprise of ALBAFO is expected to benefit significantly from these infrastructure projects.

Thick forest covered Mt. Singit in Janiuay, Iloilo. The DENR’s ENGP is aimed at enhancing the country’s forest cover as it provides us with valuable supply of water, food, medicine and many other ecosystem services. Credit- DENR, Ramon Ramirez

   With farmer-training from FMP,  the upland dwellers have become more intensive growers of agroforestry products like timber (gmelina, mahogany and narra) and fruit trees (guyabano, cacao, mango).   

   They have expanded their farming and has reached new markets through FMP’s marketing assistance and promotion.

   The total project investment cost is estimated at P5.87 billion of which P1.162 billion is shouldered by the Philippine government. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

P120M road and P72M RCDG bridge projects bring hope of easier market access for pineapple farmers of Ifugao

June 10, 2021

A P120 million road and a P72 million RCDG bridge projects of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are bringing hope of easier market access for pineapple farmers of barangays Alimit, Langayan, and Banao of Ifugao province. 

   This is precisely the objective of DENR’s Forestland Management Project (FMP) – to make a success of upland farmers as entrepreneurs, according to Marlon Atienza, project manager of DENR’s FMP.

   Consequently, the farmers become protectors of the watershed and the river basin of Ifugao— and abandon forest-degrading kaingin (slash and burn) practices. 

   “We are excited to see our project gradually but surely materialize on the ground.  This is what FMP means when we say ‘Agroforestry Support Facilities.’ The growers of these pineapples and other agroforestry products are strengthened,” said Atienza.   

   “Connectivity of their plantation to the market and other communities (is becoming possible).  The bridge will facilitate easy transport and marketing of the agroforestry goods and contribute to the increase in income of upland communities.”

   As the FMP is about to end by 2022, Atienza said DENR has requested FMP’s funder, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), for a one year extension.

   “We need to complete activities on maintenance and protection of established plantations, construction of agroforestry support facilities, and implementation of the sustainability action plan.The request was made in view of the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic,” said Atienza.

   FMP has been successful in achieving its objectives in its almost 10-year duration.

   It has strengthened the management of 149 People’s Organizations (PO). It established 71,300 hectares of tree and agroforestry plantations.

   Pineapple harvest by the Alimit Langayan Banao Farmers Organization (ALBAFO) in Ifugao

Contractors of the P72M Reinforced Concrete Deck Girder (RCDG) bridge just held in the last week of May a “concrete pouring” ceremony for the bridge.  It is a go signal for its construction.

    Another FMP project that will benefit the Peoples Organization (PO) of Alimit Langayan Banao Farmers Organization (ALBAFO) is the 3.867 kilometer Brgy. Montabiong Access Road.     

   Worth P48 million, it is now undergoing construction.     It will take 270 days to complete the access road.

   “This road concreting will strengthen the connectivity between the Alimit West and Lagawe subwatersheds,” said Atienza.

   The Brgy. Montabiong Access Road just also started construction with a groundbreaking ceremony last June 3, 2021.

   Aside from ALBAFO, the immediate beneficiary of this access road is the PO Iphodan Di Alah Ad Montabiong Inc. (IDAMI) and DENR-Ifugao Field Implementing Units.

   The FMP is a 10-year program up to 2022 aimed at strengthening forest management in three critical river basins— Upper Magat and Cagayan, Upper Pampanga, and Jalaur (Panay Island). 

Bridge to connect Ifugao’s fruits and vegetable produce to the market

   It is funded by JICA through a P4.708 billion loan component.

   A highly-valued accomplishment of FMP is the increase in forest cover and a decrease in soil erosion).  However, these benefits have yet to be quantified based on science practices.

    The pineapple-agroforestry  enterprise is funded too under FMP with a budget of P100,000.

   FMP’s poverty reduction benefits to the grassroots have been so pronounced as it involved 149 POs within the identified 24 sub-watershed areas.

   With farmer-training from FMP,  the upland dwellers have become more intensive growers of agroforestry products like timber (gmelina, mahogany and narra) and fruit trees (guyabano, cacao, mango).   

   They have expanded their farming and has reached new markets through FMP’s marketing assistance and promotion.

   The total project investment cost is estimated at Php 5,870.64 million of which P1,162.26 million is shouldered by the Philippine government. 

      FMP has carried out  reforestation through collaborative and comprehensive Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM) strategies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Govt, private agencies urged to “invest in nature” as this generates $350B per year in improved ecosystem services, eliminate future pandemics

June 8, 2021

Biodiversity financing strategist Biofin Philippines has urged government and private agencies to “invest in nature” as this will generate globally $350 billion per year  in improved ecosystem services and contribute to elimination of pandemics.

   As the International Day for Biological Diversity is celebrated this year, BIOFIN, a project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), prodded policy makers to contribute to financing the Philippines’ 13-year biodiversity plan.

   The Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), which started in 2015 and will last until year 2028, will cost P24 billion yearly.  A budget deficit of P19 billion yearly exists.

    “According to Campaign for Nature, Protecting the world’s land and ocean resources outweighs financial costs at least five-to-one. Globally, this can lead to $250 billion in increased yearly economic output, plus $350 billion in improved ecosystem services annually,” said Angelique Ogena of Biofin.

   The other critical reason for investing in nature is human health itself.  When watersheds and forests–the habitat of wild animals — are destroyed, direct interaction between human and the wildlife that carries diseases unknown to man becomes imminent.

   “The International Day for Biological Diversity puts us at the center of conservation efforts in the fight to save biodiversity amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ogena.

   “Seventy-five percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans originates from zoonotic pathogens.  That is enough reason to revisit and reprioritize resources toward the improvement of natural resources management especially in protected areas to prevent future pandemics.”

   Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN), co-implemented by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in the Philippines, seeks to raise awareness on the economic and ecological values of PAs (protected areas). 

    The campaign aims to  increase BIOFIN’s revenue by establishing partnerships with the private sector and other agencies that can have common mission to support PAs.

   BIOFIN is pushing for a proposed Presidential Proclamation to proclaim June 2021

to May 2022 as the “Year of the Protected Areas” and June of each year as “Month of Protected Areas”.

   Both are in in support of Republic Act 11038 or the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Law (NIPAS).

   “Nature is a reliable provider of our daily basic needs such as clean water for drinking, air forbbreathing and other resources such as medicine, jobs, and climate change mitigation to create a more resilient nation,” said Ogena.

   “If we zoom in to the ecosystem and species levels, national parks are at the top tier when it comes to natural wealth and therefore the most in need of protection and sustainable management.”

   According the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a global network of protected areas can store at least 15 percent of terrestrial carbon, boosting the value of conserving protected areas to new heights.

   Nature-positive solutions follow a wholistic approach, which is highlighted in an opinion piece written by the biodiversity finance legislative champion, Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato.    

   Sato,  representative of the lone district of Occidental Mindoro, aims to “spur ideas to generate resources and jobs for conservation of nature.” 

BIOFIN for Nature. Credit-BIOFIN Thailand

   “This will help in the allocation and implementation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF)’s P1.3 trillion stimulus and recovery package,” according to Sato.

   Part of the stimulus package equivalent to P650 billion has been allotted for the Enhanced Build, Build, Build Program. This includes construction of climate-smart and resilient infrastructure where biodiversity and ecosystem enhancement can be mainstreamed.

   “”The stimulus package is heavy on economic provisions and budget appropriations to enable the country to recover faster, but with proper environmental considerations” Cong. Ramirez-Sato said in her opinion piece.

   “Nature-positive solutions can create stable jobs and protect our planet,” she added.

   Sato suggests a seven-step approach to build back greener from the pandemic.  These are: 1) Include Protected Areas (PAs) and key biodiversity areas (KBAs) as key elements of nature-based solutions; 2) Invest more in PAs and KBAs; 3) Fast-track the passage of biodiversity conservation-related policies; 4) Embrace Agrobiodiversity; 5) Leverage partnerships and private sector engagement for PAs; 6) Strengthen human resources; and 7) maximize technology and citizen engagement.

  “Our actions now to address the pandemic should not amplify the risks of future outbreaks and crises. The UN World Health Organization predicts that ‘reducing the environmental and social factors people are exposed to, nearly a quarter of the global health burden could be prevented.’”

   Post-COVID19 recovery plans must be inclusive and sustainable, taking into prime

consideration biodiversity conservation and financing to prevent future pandemics. Moving forward to the ‘new normal,’ business as usual is no longer an option.

   Putting the environment at the core of what all agencies do should be the new paradigm of doing business so building back can be greener and better from this pandemic.

   While the economic losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exist, both  public and private sectors should also pay attention in long-term solutions – one of which is investing in nature. Such investment will take quite some time before returns are realized in theform of an e quitable, environmentally-sound and sustainable growth. As a an old saying goes,“what soever man sows, he shall also reap.” (Angelique Ogena)