The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through its Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), has reported significant strides in the areas of protected area management, cave management and wildlife conservation as the country moves toward the post-pandemic era.
BMB Director Natividad Bernardino said that these achievements are “a testament that the importance of conserving wildlife and their natural habitats are now prioritized by communities and policymakers.”
“While we are treading into the post-pandemic era, the BMB—together with DENR field offices—continues to be at the forefront of protecting, conserving, and sustainably managing the country’s flora and fauna,” Bernardino said.
In 2022, the BMB made substantial progress in terms of protected area management with the establishment of seven more protected areas (PAs) under the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS), which brings to 248 the total number of PAs in the country with an aggregate area of 7.78 million hectares.
All seven PAs were legislated and each was covered by a Republic Act (RA). These are Mt. Arayat Protected Landscape (RA 11684), Mt. Pulag Protected Landscape (RA 11685), Naga-Kabasalan Protected Landscape (RA 11686), Tirad Pass Protected Landscape Act (RA 11687), Banao Protected Landscape (RA 11688), Tugbo Natural Biotic Area (RA 11806), and Sicogon Island Wildlife Sanctuary (RA 11933).
The legislation of new PAs also contributes to the achievement of the Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which calls for improvement and increase in the number of PAs among the parties including the Philippines.
On top of this, 131 PAs have established and maintained ecotourism facilities and amenities to promote ecotourism in these areas. A total of 171 PAs have also established the Integrated Protected Area Fund pursuant to the NIPAS Act.
For the past five years, an estimated P386.8 million was generated, wherein 75 percent of the amount was retained to the PAs, which translated to more funds for the sustainable management of these areas.
In terms of cave management, the BMB has so far identified 3,432 caves, of which 292 are within PAs.
Existing or known caves must be identified, and shall be supported by providing information such as the local name, general description (elevation, accessibility, etc.), and location using topographic and other maps available.
Among the identified caves, 1,411 were assessed and 864 of which were classified according to their beneficial use.
Meanwhile, intensified wildlife protection efforts and the sustainable management of ecosystems brought 12 species to an improved conservation status.
The Asian giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii) has moved from “endangered” to “other threatened” species, while four more species—the Negros horned tree frog (Platymantis negrosensis), Cordilleras cloud frog/ Mt. Data Forest frog (Platymantis subterrestris); Mindanao bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba crinigera); and Luzon water redstart (Rhyacornis bicolor)—were moved from “endangered” to “vulnerable” species.
Seven species, on the other hand, moved from “vulnerable” to “other threatened.” These are the Mindanao fanged frog (Limnonectes magnus); Basilan caecilian (Ichthyophis glandulosus); Mindanao caecilian (Ichthyophis mindanaoensis); Cuming's monitor lizard/ Yellow-headed water monitor (Varanus cumingi); Luzon monitor lizard/ Marbled water monitor (Varanus marmoratus); West Visayan monitor lizard (Varanus nuchalis); and Isarog shrew mouse (Archboldomys luzonensis).
Wildlife Rescue Centers (WRC) also play a crucial role in wildlife protection, as these provide temporary shelter for mistreated and rescued wild animals.
To date, there are 34 DENR-established WRC and 36 DENR-designated WRC maintained by the DENR field offices.
From 2010 to 2022, the DENR conducted 302 enforcement operations involving 601 violators, with 202 cases filed and 45 convictions secured.
As the “center of the center of marine biodiversity,” the BMB—together with DENR field offices—continues to work on the establishment of the Verde Island Passage (VIP) under the NIPAS. A Protected Area Suitability Assessment (PASA) within the VIP is ongoing to identify and appraise status of various ecosystems, flora and fauna located in Mindoro, Batangas, Marinduque, Romblon and Quezon.
The country’s 1.3 million hectares of corals harbor 500 species of corals and 1,763 reef species. Corals contribute to 70 percent of the fishery productions in the world valued at around P207 billion per year.
Moreover, the country also has 311,400 hectares of mangrove forest with 42 mangrove species, 498,341 hectares of seagrass beds, and 19 identified seagrass species which contribute 55 percent of the total number of that species in Asia.
“With this immense valuable role of our coastal and marine resources, we should ensure threats to biodiversity are addressed and policies on conservation are enforced,” Bernardino asserted.
The Philippines ranks first in the World Risk Index 2022, with risks identified ranging from earthquakes, hurricanes/typhoons, floods (both coastal and riverine), drought, sea-level rise, tsunamis, and conflict.
Most, if not all of the biodiversity sector’s major activities, are characterized as nature-based solutions. By ensuring natural ecosystems are protected and wildlife conserved, the country’s resiliency against climate change and disaster risks is strengthened. ###
- Published: 27 December 2022