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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

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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