The Philippines Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), made significant strides in Philippine conservation efforts before ending the year 2014.
Notably, the Program made valuable contribution in the preparation of the Biodiversity Management Bureau's 2nd Stocktaking Report—the first stage of an ongoing process to prepare the National Protected Areas Master Plan, which intends to provide a more strategic direction in the assessment and rationalization of the PA system that supports broader national development goals. It has also actively supported the signing of the Joint DENR-Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Circular on RA 10629 in September 26, 2014, which mandates the retention of 75% by the Protected Areas of revenues they generate and only 25% will be remitted to the National Treasury to help generate incentives for conservation.
Meanwhile, Post-Yolanda (international name Haiyan) mangrove assessments that led to the allocation of PhP1 billion government funds for the Philippine Mangrove and Beach Forest Development Program was followed by technical assistance to the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau's (ERDB) crafting of technical guidance on restoration.
In October 2014, B+WISER's groundwork facilitated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among public and private partners to rehabilitate the 145-hectare Pagbilao Mangrove Experimental Forest in Quezon province, the country's most botanically diverse mangrove area.
B+WISER has introduced a forest restoration strategy for the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park—the country's largest contiguous natural forest aiming to restore 8,700 hectares of forest in the Protected Area. The strategy's interventions, based on the Program's recently concluded ecological assessment and analysis of forest cover change from 2003 and 2010, and threats analysis include setting up the innovative B+WISER-developed monitoring and forest protection system called Landscape and Wildlife Indicators (LAWIN) to strengthen the protection of high conservation value areas (HCVA), implementing restoration initiatives guided by Forest Management Unit planning, and validating and monitoring of the DENR's National Greening Program sites.
The LAWIN tool, which involves regular, responsive and threat-focused patrolling paired with improved environmental law enforcement, will not only improve management of the HCVAs and the Protected Area as a whole, but also facilitate restoration of degraded forest area through natural regeneration. The Program has started delineation of the HCVAs and patrolling selected areas in the Protected Area in December 2014. Similarly B+WISER is developing the restoration strategies for its six other sites.
The Program's various activities in forest restoration, environmental law enforcement, capacity development, enhancement and harmonization of resource management plans, and strengthening policy and governance have fed into the formulation of the restoration strategies, which are expected to provide a more contextualized approach toward improving environmental resource management in significant Protected Areas in the country. #