bwiser capacities IPs 300x213Bai Jerlina Owok, Bagobo-Tagabawa Tribal Chieftain from Digos City, Davao del Sur describes enforcement efforts for Mt. Apo Natural Park.Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in some of the country’s ASEAN Heritage Sites are now able to effectively protect forests and ancestral lands after being equipped with more knowledge and skills on environmental law enforcement and forest management. Various members of tribes, such as Council of Elders and tribal chieftains of the Bagobo-Tagabawa of Mount Apo Natural Park and the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon of Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park have been trained by DENR-USAID’s Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program on forestry and wildlife laws and law enforcement procedures, along with more than 500 individuals from DENR, LGUs, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) across B+WISER’s seven priority sites. IPs are generally known to have an inherent commitment to protect their ancestral lands within PAs, and strengthening their capacity to play this role is a big boost to the protection of threatened species and unique, natural ecosystems, where there is a big deficit in terms of enforcer to patrol area ratio of up to more than 60%.

More so, the Program has awarded a grant to the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs, Inc. (KIN) on August 9, 2015 in Bukidnon, to support the documentation of tribal customs in the conservation, protection and use of biodiversity and natural resources in Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park.

“This has been a life-long dream. I would like our customs and traditions to be documented so that our children and their children will learn to appreciate what we have done and will know what to do when it comes to sustainably managing our tribal homeland,” said Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway, Chief of the Mount Kitanglad Council of Elders.

The indigenous management practices will be presented to the Mount Kitanglad Protect Area Management Board for adoption, and to serve as a model for integrating local knowledge and traditions in protected area management.

B+WISER also made considerable progress on the technology, user-testing and policy aspects of its Landscape and Wildlife Indicators (LAWIN) management tool as it continued to pilot the tool in priority sites. It enhanced the user-friendliness of the CyberTracker app—used for recording field data on observations of wildlife and threats—by including photo and sound recording capability, a picture guide of key species and an enhanced sequence of application screens. Pilot-testing has so far covered more than 180,000 hectares—including 18,000 hectares of recently degraded forests—of conservation areas in Mount Kanlaon Natural Park, Mount Kitanglad Natural Park and Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Conservation targets have been identified and coaching sessions were conducted with resource managers, data managers and patrollers to improve patrolling and data analysis procedures. Furthermore, the Program refined the Technical Bulletin and Manual of Procedure for LAWIN through discussions with the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB). The innovative LAWIN approach will enable timely response to observed threats to natural forests and help inform the management strategy for the protection of forests.

The Program also supported the drafting of the Ecosystem Restoration Action Plan of the Philippines Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (PBSAP). The Ecosystem Restoration Action Plan forms part of the PBSAP, and B+WISER helped draft the plan which aims to restore critical ecosystems, including 500,000 hectares of degraded forests. #

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