Photo 2

There were 146 participants from Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, and CARAGA convened last July 24-26, 2018 at The Ritz Hotel in Garden Oases, Davao City to assess the Philippines’ progress in biodiversity conservation and protection from 2014 to 2017. The assessment focused on 20 targets and 35 indicators in the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) 2015-2028, the country’s roadmap in conserving biodiversity. The results will form part of the Sixth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity to which the Philippines is a member-party. The regions also localized the PBSAP through the drafting of a Regional Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (RBSAP).

The multi-stakeholder dialogue was organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR – BMB) and attended by representatives from national government agencies and their field offices, LGUs, NGOs, academe, indigenous peoples, and the private sector.

DENR Region XI Assistant Regional Director, Atty. Ma. Mercedes Dumagan, said that “…this event is also an opportune time to support national interests and biodiversity conservation priorities that will be beneficial to the economic development of our nation.” DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau
Assistant Director Armida P. Andres quoted President Duterte’s recent pronouncement in his latest SONA that exhorting “… all concerned agencies and local government units to uphold the concept of inter-generational responsibility in …the protection and preservation of our biodiversity, anchored on the right to a balanced and healthy ecology”, congratulated the regions for their achievements and challenged them to step up in localizing the PBSAP.

Learning from the past

The regions shared their accomplishments and challenges in biodiversity conservation and protection. The Central Mindanao University in Region X reported new sightings of pitcher plant and fern species in Mt. Kitanglad, and the involvement of local communities in the monitoring of the Critical Habitat for Rafflesia schadenbergiana and the Magsaysay Critical Habitat for Hawksbill Turtles. Region XI reported an increase in Philippine eagle sightings in Davao Oriental, and in biomass of small pelagic fish species in the Davao Gulf. The CARAGA Region also reported an increase in the population count of migratory birds and the establishment of two additional Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and MPA Networks in Surigao del Norte.

However, the participants also expressed that the lack of baseline data and data consolidation mechanisms made it difficult to assess progress in biodiversity conservation. As such, the issue must be addressed to provide more comprehensive and accurate information for regional and national reporting.

Stronger partnerships with NGOs must also be established and utilized to complement the ongoing efforts of the DENR. Linkages with the academe are also beneficial as these inform science-based decisions, policy formulation, and biodiversity conservation program design. The regions also shared the need for financial and technical assistance, capacity building, and better equipment and facilities for biodiversity monitoring and assessment.

Planning for the future

Photo 1 copy

In response to the challenges that surfaced during data generation for the 6NR, the regions crafted their RBSAPs and identified Communication, education, and public awareness (CEPA) activities as vital in mainstreaming biodiversity in land use and development plans. They also advocated for the strict enforcement of environment laws, establishment of more MPAs, local conservation areas, and critical habitats, to ensure that biodiversity and their ecosystem services are more effectively managed and protected. They noted the need for stakeholders to take ownership over the protection of their environment and natural resources.

In closing, Compostela Valley Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Chamberlain Babiera called for stakeholders to work together to ensure a healthy and vibrant biodiversity as “at stake is our next generation’s very existence in this world which essentially depends on the health and quality of our biodiversity.”

By Marianne Allison Lee

FISHBASE Information and Research Group Inc (FIN) and representative from the SMARTSeas Project, Knowledge Management and Coastal and Marine divison of BMB held a one-day complementation Conference at the Khush Hall of IRRI, Los Baños, Laguna last June 25, 2018.

Representatives from FIN presented updates on the their current projects with BMB such as the development of the SMARTSeas Portal and the customized fish database portal that will be linked to the Philippine CHM website. BMB representatives presented updates on current information systems including the CMEMP database of the Coastal and Marine division. Also discussed on the workshop are strategies and modes on the complementation and linkages of BMB projects with FishBase and SealifeBase, live links, regular updates and data sharing, and  discussion on the options for the long-term maintenance including hosting, hardware personnel options. As part of the agreement, the SMARTSeas Portal will be turned-over to BMB including all related documents including the submission of a Quick Reference guide or Users Guide for the Smartseas Portal project.

Roundtable Discussion on Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Urban Setting was conducted by the Biodiversity Management Bureau on May 29, 2018, at the Microtel by Wyndham, UP Technohub, Quezon City.

urban bio 1

It aimed to (1) raise awareness on the City Biodiversity Index and its importance in assessing biodiversity in urban setting; (2) provide a venue for sharing expert opinions on biodiversity in urban areas and efforts at mainstreaming into development planning and practice; and (3) initiate discussion towards a more comprehensive program on urban biodiversity.

urban bio 2

DENR Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Service, Corazon Davis, opened the RTD with her welcome remarks and stated the need to promote green spaces in urban areas. She said that “We should all look at ways on how we can efficiently and effectively utilize the services that the urban biodiversity provides. Moreover, we should start accelerating efforts and gear up towards a healthier environment”.

urban bio 3

Dr. Leonora P. Gonzales, a licensed environmental planner, gave the overview and the specific objectives of the RTD. She also stressed the need for the conservation, protection, and rehabilitation of biodiversity and emphasized that urban expansion exhausts the available resources, which eventually puts the ecosystem at risk.

urban bio 4

BMB OIC Assistant Director, For. Armida Andres, stressed that “We are not conserving biodiversity for the biodiversity alone but also for the ecosystem services they provide.” She also reiterated the integration of biodiversity conservation in the local land use, planning, and development programs and projects of the LGUs.

urban bio 5urban bio 6
Lectures on City Biodiversity Index (CBI) and Procedures in the Conduct of Assessment of Urban Biodiversity
were provided by Dr. Mary Jean Caleda (left) and EnP Argean S. Guiaya (right).

Dr. Caleda, mentioned that CBI is a self-assessment tool for cities to evaluate and monitor the progress of their biodiversity conservation efforts against their own individual baselines. She also stated that there are efforts in the Philippines to localize the CBI. EnP Guiaya reiterated that the guidelines will provide DENR offices with the standards/procedures in assisting local government units in assessing the condition of their existing urban biodiversity to be able to update bio-physical profiles and incorporate the assessment results in the CLUP, Zoning Ordinance, CDP and other development plans and programs of the LGUs.

urban bio 7urban bio 8urban bio 9

Initiatives on urban greening and biodiversity in various cities in Metro Manila, viz. Pasig City, Quezon City, and Makati City, were also presented by LGUs representatives Mr. Aaron Acedillo, For. Amalia Nalangan, and Mr. Louis John Angelo Reaño (from left to right). Generally, the presentations discussed the incorporation of green architectural designs, establishment of green recreational areas in all cities, and the role of the youth in the protection and conservation of biodiversity.

 urban bio 10

EnP Delia Josef, member of the Board of Directors for Alliance for Safe, Sustainable, and Resilient Environment (ASSURE), discussed about the Public Parks and Open Spaces. She mentioned that the guidelines is an advocacy tool to encourage the cities and towns to provide adequate and better planned, designed, developed and managed public parks and open spaces. Further, this will assist local communities, local government units (LGUs), real estate developers, and planners in both the private and public sectors in the planning, design and development of sustainable public open spaces that meet the leisure, recreation and sport needs of Philippine towns and cities.

urban bio 11

EnP Julia Nebrija, Project Manager of the Green, Green, Green Program of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), facilitated the discussion of the said program. EnP Nebrija said that the Program is a fund assistance that aims to make the country's 145 cities more livable and sustainable through the development of public open spaces. She mentioned that the Green, Green, Green Program will help city governments create forest parks, botanical gardens, improve livability of urban areas and transform streetscapes through installation of eco-friendly street furniture, fixtures, and shading. She also encouraged the LGUs to submit their proposals because the national government allotted Php 2.5 billion for this program.

urban bio 12

The second half of the RTD covered an open forum where questions from the participants were raised. (From left to right: EnP Jean Caleda, Ms. Amalia Nalanga, EnP Delia Josef, EnP Julia Nebrija, Mr. Louis John Angelo Reaño, Mr. Aaron Acedillo, and Asst. Dir. Armida Andres).

Key points that were emphasized included the importance of engaging academic and research institutions in the floral and faunal assessment, the consideration of the idea of clustering of settlements in urban areas or metropolitanization, the call to LGUs to craft their own biodiversity action plan that mirrors the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), and the establishment of connectivity through corridors among fragmented plots.

Some of the challenges raised were the integration, and mainstreaming of biodiversity in the plans and programs of LGUs and other institutions, the transformation of streetscapes and walkways to support pedestrian activities like cycling was also viewed as an emerging challenge for the LGUs.

Among the suggested resolutions include the creation of Urban Biodiversity Network, development of protocol for urban biodiversity assessment, and baselining for biodiversity in urban areas.

2018 Philippine Eagle Week
June 4-10, 2018

Theme: “Ipagdiwang ang Pagkakaisa para sa Malayang Agila”

Philippine eagle week web2018 n

Every June 4-10 of each calendar year, we celebrate the ecological importance and social significance of the Philippine eagle through the Philippine Eagle Week (PEW). Twenty years after Presidential Proclamation No. 79 was signed into law declaring the observance of the PEW, we reflect back on these years of continued collaboration with our fellow champions in Philippine eagle conservation.

From its humble beginnings, conservation of Philippine eagles commenced with the Monkey-Eating Eagle Conservation Program (MEECP) by the government that later paved the way to the establishment of the Philippine Eagle Center that is managed by the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) through a formal arrangement with the DENR since 1987, and the creation of the Philippine Raptors Conservation Program (PRCP) that replaced the MEECP in 1990. A scientific advisory body, the Philippine Eagle Working Group (PEWG) was likewise established in 1994 to help direct conservation efforts for the perpetuity of the species by developing the Philippine Eagle Integrated Conservation Plan (PEICP). In 1995, eleven (11) Regional Eagle Watch Teams (REWTs) throughout the country were organized. Alongside the DENR, dedicated men and women from the academe, NGOs, and the private sector driven by a mission and passion to help save these birds from the brink of extinction followed shortly. These partnerships slowly developed to gain knowledge and understand the true meaning of co-existing harmoniously with nature, to respect and appreciate the uniqueness of the Philippine eagle.

Following the discovery of the Philippine eagle in the Island of Paranas, Samar in 1896, the Haribon Foundation, the pioneering NGO in Philippine eagle conservation initiated field studies with the DENR to determine the location of breeding pairs and nests in the wild. Regular field surveys formed part of the conservation efforts of the PEF and DENR since the 1990s, along with community engagement and public awareness activities. Recently, the UP-Diliman, Institute of Biology (UPD-IB) joined the network of Philippine eagle researchers with its DNA profiling of Philippine eagles and field studies in Samar and Leyte. Secretary Roy A. Cimatu valued this sharing of resources and expertise, which proved beneficial with the re-discovery of extant populations in Leyte and Samar where our National Bird was once thought to be extirpated; confirmation of new distribution records in the Cordilleras that documented eagle breeding pairs and nesting territories and culminated in the discovery of the 1st active nesting site of these eagles in Apayao; and, documentation of a family of these birds in Gabaldon and Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. Underscoring the team’s accomplishments, Sec. Cimatu commended the group’s cohesive endeavor, which demonstrates that incredible things happen when partnerships are forged and nurtured, and that such alliances can change and motivate everyone to work for the common good.

Habitat conservation was also initiated to safeguard the remaining wild population of the Philippine eagle. This included the declaration of Critical Habitats (CHs), as well as Indigenous Peoples’ Conservation Areas (IPCAs), and Local Conservation Areas (LCAs) in identified Philippine eagle territories that are protected and managed by Indigenous Peoples’ (IPs), local communities and Local Government Units (LGUs) as an opportunity to establish solid foundations for accelerated expansion of protected terrestrial habitats in the Philippines. On a similar note, the PEF also launched an adopt-a-nest scheme providing nest finders a modest in-kind incentive to the community through regular monitoring activities until the egg hatches and young eagle fledges. Conservation breeding of the species by PEF has also registered success with twenty eight (28) captive-bred eagles produced at the Davao-based Philippine Eagle Center from 1992 to 2016.

BMB Director Crisanta Marlene P. Rodriguez emphasized how continuing researches unlocked opportunities for experimental releases on captive-bred eagles with the aid of telemetry devices. The data obtained revealed how these birds used their habitats and their vulnerability in the wild. Protocols for rescue, retrieval and releases were refined, adopted, and employed to avoid imprinting and dependency towards humans, especially among captive-bred eagles. Such was the case of a female Philippine eagle, “Kalabugao” which, after rehabilitation at the Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) for three (3) months, was successfully released on 30 March 2015 and later discovered to have laid an egg in March 2018. The DENR and UPD-IB partnership on genetic profiling/DNA study on Philippine eagles has also yielded significant results. Analyses of samples (tissue, blood, feathers) taken from dead, rescued Philippine eagles from Luzon, Samar, and Mindanao showed that said eagles were genetically homogenous. The UPD-IB has also conducted microsatellite assays to determine the eagles’ parentage, with resulting data to be used as scientific basis in the possible reintroduction of captive-bred eagles in other islands.

Each time we celebrate the PEW, let it be a reminder for us that we must not forget the crucial role that Philippine eagles play in our fragile ecosystems. With each celebration of the PEW, this critically endangered bird of prey upholds the ecological balance in the forests where, as natural predators, regulate the population of other animals such as snakes that can pose danger to humans. As the Crown Jewel of Philippine Biodiversity, the Philippine eagle also serves as an ecological barometer. Its commanding presence speaks of a healthy and sustainable ecosystem, one that is able to sustain life and provide for our needs.

The eagles’ challenges have been presented before many of us and as perilous as the eagles’ fate seems, we must act now. “Government alone cannot do it. Together we must not lose sight of what we have attained, to push further and sustain the efforts we have started for ourselves, for our children and future generations”, said Secretary Cimatu. The tasks that lay ahead may be daunting, but an enlightened, conscious and committed citizenry can weave together a spirit of solidarity towards achieving a balance.

wmbd2018 1

The year 2018 marks a new start for World Migratory Bird Day as it now unifies the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, or flyways, namely the African-Eurasian, the East Asian-Australasian, and the Americas flyways. Furthermore, to make celebrations even more successful and relevant to bird supporters all over the world, WMBD will now have two peak celebration days in the year - the second Saturdays of May and October - and can in addition still also be celebrated all around the year, whenever migratory birds are present in a given locality.