Protected areas confabs set in Negros Occidental

20 May 2013

Two national conferences on the management of protected areas will take place in Negros Occidental this week.

The conference for the development of protected areas competency standards opens today at the Nature’s Village in Talisay City, with United Nations Development Programme-Philippines country director Toshihiro Tanaka gracing the opening rites. Representatives from the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau and regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources are expected to join in the forum, along with representatives from academic institutions offering courses on natural resources management and some experts on protected areas management.

The conference is sponsored by the UNDP-Global Environment Facility-supported New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project of the DENR, through the PAWB, in partnership with the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity and the College of Forestry and Natural Resources of the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

It aims to validate the required competency standards for the management of the different protected areas in Visayas, and protected area superintendents from the region are invited to provide insights on actual experiences in the management of protected areas.

On May 22, the Business Planning Workshop for four protected areas in the Visayas will start, also at Nature’s Village. It is under the World Bank-funded Environment and Natural Resources Project of the DENR-PAWB, and aims to develop the financing sustainability of three protected areas in Negros Island – the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park, Northern Negros Natural Park and Sagay Marine Reserve, and the Central Cebu Protected Landscape.

The business planning for protected areas is an offshoot of a study claiming that many of protected areas in the Philippines are not effectively managed mainly due to lack of funds and other necessary resources. Most, if not all of protected areas in the country, still heavily rely on government funding, in spite of their numerous potentials in generating funds through users’ fees and payment of environmental services. Generally, the benefits derived from protected areas, such as water and other ecological services, remain free.

Protected areas in the Philippines are known to contain diverse habitat types and assorted species of flora and fauna. Many of these species are endemic only in the Philippines and could not be found elsewhere in the world.

Through time, however, the natural environment of our protected areas had deteriorated because of numerous anthropogenic disturbances. A large part of several protected areas has already been converted into other uses, particularly settlement, agricultural development and to some extent, industrial uses. Communities residing within protected areas have become political units and are enjoying permanent residency.

While there are more than 200 protected areas in the Philippines, there are also other areas that are similarly important in terms of biodiversity. Some of these are still open access and require protection mechanisms.

It is, therefore, necessary that, aside from protected areas, we have to explore other institutional arrangements in managing the biodiversity important sites of the country. The New Conservation Areas Project of the DENR is piloting the implementation of other modalities in biodiversity conservation. - Errol Gatumbato, The Visayan Daily Star