'The integration of modern technology that is easy to use, affordable, reliable, and which fosters transparency and collaboration for forest and biodiversity protection is what makes LAWIN innovative.'
In March 2016, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) signed a technical bulletin, officially launching the national implementation of the LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System which was jointly developed with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program. In May, the DENR issued Special Order No. 2016 – 226 authorizing capacity building to implement and operationalize LAWIN, making the protection system an integral part of its national strategy to protect the country’s remaining natural forests. In June, LAWIN received yet another seal of approval, this time from the United Nations (UN). LAWIN was one of 270 entries submitted to UN’s Call for Innovations and one of the 12 chosen to be presented during the first UN Multi-stakeholder Science, Technology and Innovations Forum for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) at the UN Headquarters in New York.
But what exactly is LAWIN and what is innovative about it? LAWIN is a forest and biodiversity protection system. Its goal is to address forest degradation in the Philippines and protect the natural ecosystem vital for urban and rural communities. While this goal is not a new one, LAWIN’s approach to achieving it is. LAWIN uses modern technology to support forest managers to identify hotspots for forest protection, define conservation goals, and measure progress towards these goals. For example, LAWIN uses an open-source software to create a forest monitoring app tailored for the Philippines. Installed on android tablets, the app replaces paper-based forest monitoring and makes data gathering on forest conditions, indicator species, and threats to forest health easier for forest patrollers. Back in the office, patrollers no longer have to transcribe their observations into a computer. Instead, they can seamlessly share geo-referenced data recorded in the field with forest technicians and resource managers to analyze the data and visualize it in maps and tables. This enables decision-makers to quickly focus forest protection efforts where they are needed most, in the hotspots around the country where man-made or natural threats to forest health are high. Analyzing trends from patrol data over time also allows them to review and assess the effectiveness of their protection measures, such as environmental law enforcement or policy formulation. The integration of modern technology that is easy to use, affordable, reliable, and which fosters transparency and collaboration for forest and biodiversity protection is what makes LAWIN innovative.
The DENR has allocated more than PhP 320 million for forest protection activities throughout the Philippines, including resources to train DENR staff and forest rangers to implement LAWIN. To date, more than 850 DENR personnel in Region 2, 5, 10, 11, 13, and in the Negros Island Region have been trained nationwide. The hands-on training focuses on all aspects of the LAWIN system: formulating conservation area plans and measurable conservation targets, developing forest protection and patrol plans, actual patrolling and data gathering in the field, data analysis and report generation, as well as linking threats monitoring to environmental law enforcement mechanisms to systematically address observed environmental violations. Throughout the coming months, all remaining regions in the Philippines will undergo LAWIN training and coaching sessions. This means that the remaining 6 million hectares of natural forest in the Philippines and the wildlife within these areas will be placed under improved protection. In doing that, the Philippines is contributing to the UN’s SDG 13, taking climate action, and SDG 15, protecting life on land. #