DENR wants ‘much bigger role’ for LGUs in biodiversity conservation

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is hosting a two-day national conference for some local government units (LGUs) to prepare them for a much bigger role in biodiversity conservation.

The National Conference on Local Conservation Areas, to be held at the Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria in Pasig City on October 23-24, will address the theme “Diversifying and Strengthening Participatory Governance in Biodiversity Conservation.”

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the agency’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) will bring together representatives from LGUs and key conservation groups in a bid to develop more effective operative models for the establishment of local conservation areas (LCAs) and critical habitats.

The environment chief said the conference will also pay tribute to LGUs and their leaders who have exhibited good practice in managing conservation areas, and are willing to share their experiences for other LGUs to emulate.

“The conference is a big boost to biodiversity conservation as we intend to produce more LGUs recognizing that an umbilical cord exists between their local economy and the health of their ecosystems,” Paje said.

During the conference, case studies on the challenges and opportunities in conservation of key biodiversity areas will be presented, highlighting current and future initiatives in LCAs.

There will also be a wide-ranging discussion on the issues of tourism, incentives to LGUs to take proactive roles in biodiversity conservation, and biodiversity-friendly practices in agriculture and fisheries.

Expected to grace the event include senior officials from the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Tourism, DENR and some 200 local executives.

LCAs are areas that are not within protected areas pursuant to the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992, but have been set aside for conservation purposes through ordinances, with the local government taking the lead in implementing conservation and protection activities.

These sites are located within key biodiversity areas identified by the DENR-BMB, the Conservation International Philippines and the Haribon Foundation.

LCAs include areas of high biological diversity or those vulnerable to climate change and geological hazards, and locally significant areas with ecotourism potentials like the Chocolate Hills in Bohol province. #  



Rebel returnees to help ‘green’ Negros forest


After laying down their arms, rebel returnees in Western Visayas are now ready to take on new roles as earth savers.

The rebel returnees, who once were regulars of the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade-Tabara Paduano Group (RPMP-RPA-ABB-TPG), have been tapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for reforestation activities under the Aquino administration’s National Greening Program (NGP).

DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje said the former rebels, who now have organized themselves into a legitimate group known as “Kapatiran Para sa Progresibong Panlipunan (KAPATIRAN),” have agreed to reforest some 100 hectares of forest land in Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, starting this year up to 2016.

He said the DENR-Kapatiran deal forms part of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a government peace and development program and framework aiming to reduce poverty, improve governance and empower communities through community-driven projects that address people’s needs while promoting peace.

“The NGP and the PAMANA are working toward a common goal and that is to reduce poverty. Allowing these rebel returnees to take part in the NGP would help them lead a normal life and earn a living,” Paje said.

In April last year, some 700 former RPMP-RPA-ABB-TPG combatants formed themselves into a legitimate socio-economic and political organization under KAPATIRAN in keeping with the requirements of the peace agreement which it signed in 2002.

DENR Region 6 Executive Director Jim Sampulna said it was Paje’s initiative that the provision of forestry-based livelihood activities be made available to KAPATIRAN members as part of the strategy of PAMANA to support former and current rebels who desire to integrate into communities and be transformed into productive citizens.

“Grassroots actions in conflict areas greatly contribute to the overall peacemaking efforts of the national government,” Sampulna said.

According to him, more rebels would soon avail themselves of the PAMANA program, which aims to help former insurgents live peaceful and productive lives.

“Just think of the goodwill this project can generate between both sides, and the peace it can spawn particularly for us here in Western Visayas,” Sampulna said, noting that the agreement would contribute to building confidence and trust between the government and KAPATIRAN.

Under its agreement with DENR, KAPATIRAN shall produce and plant some 55,000 seedlings in the first year with a stock density of 500 seedlings per hectare, and maintain and protect the plantation its members have established for the succeeding years.

KAPATIRAN members are also tasked to conduct foot patrol and establish firebreaks in designated NGP planting sites.

The DENR has earmarked P1.45 million for the three-year program, which will be released in three tranches.

NGP is a flagship reforestation program of the Aquino administration, which seeks to cover 1.5 million hectares of forest lands with trees for a period of six years, ending in 2016. It is also a national effort that aims to address food security, poverty reduction, environmental stability, biodiversity conservation and a mechanism for climate change mitigation strategy to enhance the country’s forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide. #  



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