Legarda in 1st Episode of PA Talk: Protect and follow the lead of IPs and their indigenous knowledge of protected areas

June 23, 2020

MANILA, 22 June 2020 — “When we protect the trees, when we protect our source of water, we should also protect the inhabitants and those who were there ahead of us, and know their culture, their practices, their prayers, their language, and their food,” said House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda, during the first episode of the online webinar “PA Talk: Protected Areas for a Protected Future” streamed via Facebook Live on June 22. The webinar is a joint collaboration between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) and the Office of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, together with the Climate Change Commission (CCC).

“Sa ating pangangalaga ng ating mga protected area, hindi lang po ang kalikasan, ang mga hayop, ang mga bulaklak, ang mga puno, ang malinis na hangin, ang lupa, at ang ating biodiversity ang pinapangalagaan. Pati rin po ang mga tao na nauna pa sa ating lahat at ang mga may karapatan sa lupa—ang ating mga katutubo. Ang kanilang kultura, kasama na ang kanilang pananamit, ang kanilang kinakain, mga gamot na ginagamit mula sa mga herbs at mga halaman, at pati na rin ang kanilang mga dasal at religious practices ay dapat din nating pangalagaan,” added Legarda

Together with DENR-BMB Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon, Dr. Rex Cruz of the CCC National Panel of Technical Experts (NPTE), and DENR lawyer Atty. Ipat Luna, Legarda convened the virtual discussion which featured stories and insights from Regional Executive Directors (RED), and Protected Area Superintendents (PASU) from the first batch of six (6) featured protected areas, namely:

• Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental;
• Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape in Surigao del Norte;
• Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park in Negros Oriental;
• Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape in Cagayan;
• Mt. Isarog Natural Park in Camarines Sur; and
• Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park in Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro.

The first episode was launched in celebration of the second anniversary of the passage of the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (ENIPAS) Act of 2018, and in celebration of the month of June as Philippine Environment Month.

Asec. Calderon emphasized that with the ENIPAS Act, there are now 107 legislated protected areas, covering around 7.76 million hectares, from just 13 areas before the enactment of the ENIPAS.

“Kung makikita ninyo po, in terms of land area, meron po tayong 15.7% ng ating kalupaan set aside for protected area at meron po tayong 1.4% of territorial waters set aside as protected area. Ito po ay ayon sa ating Convention on Biological Diversity na dapat po para maging maayos ang ating biodiversity at ang ating protected areas. Meron po dapat tayong 17% of our land area as protected area and 10% of our marine waters should be declared as protected area, to ensure the continuous supply of food, and at the same time, continuous management of our biodiversity,” said Asec. Calderon.

DENR-Davao RED Asec. Ruth Tawantawan and CENRO and PASU Martiniano Rotol highlighted how mossy-pygmy forests represent a complete set of an intact mountain ecosystem. They also showed “camera trapping” or surveillance cameras placed along the trails of Mt. Hamiguitan to document the movement of wild animals or human intruders.

Legarda mentioned that she filed House Bill 6973, a “DENR Enforcement Bill” which aims for the creation of the Environmental Protection and Enforcement Bureau (EPEB) in order to apprehend and defend against violators of environmental laws.

For Mts. Iglit-Baco Natural Park, RED Ma. Lourdes G. Ferrer and PASU Roberto P. Duquil also showed the Tamaraw Core Zone Habitat and how the indigenous peoples living within are contributing to the conservation of the protected area.

Legarda also called for the establishment of science and heritage museums in each of the 107 protected areas and pushed for mapping the environment, biodiversity, and culture and heritage therein, which could be done through a partnership among the DENR, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), and the CCC.

DENR-Central Visayas RED Paquito Melicor, Jr. and PENRO and PASU Nestor Canda highlighted that there are 427 flora and fauna species in the Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park, which include critically endangered and vulnerable species of plants and animals, making the park the second most biodiverse area in the country next to Palawan. The park is also a popular venue for trekking and bird watching.

DENR-Cagayan Valley RED Gwendolyn C. Bambalan and PASU Tito M. Mangantulao shared accounts of how their law enforcement team maintains security to prevent illegal activities in the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape, which houses unique and endangered species of eagles.

DENR-Bicol RED Antonio A. Abawag and PASU Vicencio M. Cabanayan, Jr. stated how the Mt. Isarog Natural Park, nicknamed as “Vulcan de Agua,” provides an abundant water supply to its surrounding communities, and discussed the challenges they faced in terms of forest protection because of kaingin, encroachment and hunting, and seeking approval for Special Use Agreement in Protected Areas (SAPAs).

DENR-Caraga OIC Hadja Didaw D. Piang-Brahim and PASU Joseph E. Langanlangan said that they have an existing Ecotourism Management Plan in all of the ecotourism sites within Siargao, including the Siargao Island Protected Landscape and Seascape. They are also collaborating with the LGUs to make sure that the conservation of biodiversity in the protected area is balanced with sustainable tourism and livelihood activities.

Dr. Rex Cruz, as an expert on Environment and Ecology, gave insights on the impacts of climate change in protected areas.

“Consequences of climate change related to biodiversity include species migration, pest and disease outbreaks, deforestation, forest and habitat degradation, and species extinction. There are also impacts of geohazards, like landslides and floods, in addition to the impacts of increasing temperature and variability of rainfall,” said Dr. Cruz.

He suggested expanding the network of PAs which had earlier started through government funding with the aim of conducting long-term monitoring of climate impacts on ecosystems and watersheds in the country.

In closing, Legarda reiterated the importance of knowing the carrying capacity of the country’s 107 protected areas and ensuring the strict implementation of environmental laws, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

PA Talk is a monthly webinar series that aims to feature the country’s legislated protected areas and the efforts to preserve and protect these from environmental degradation, adverse effects of climate change, and other threats.

The series is organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB), Office of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, and the Climate Change Commission (CCC). ###