Errol Abada Gatumbato

Developing the West Visayas Integrated Biodiversity Conservation Program

BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO

Mimie Ledesma, PBCFI Education Officer, conducts training on bat survey*

The Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. is now in full-gear to embark on a more unified regional biodiversity conservation program in the entire West Visayas Bio-geographic Region, also known to science as the Negros-Panay Faunal Region. The WVBR is comprised of Negros, Panay, Cebu, Masbate and nearby islands, and according to scientists, these islands were one landmass millions of years ago. These islands are priority conservation sites of PBCFI because they contain a good number of species endemic only to this region, and could not be found elsewhere in the world. Unfortunately, much of these endemic species are already threatened to extinction in the wild, primarily due to habitat destruction and over- exploitation. It is also in this region that problems on deforestation and forest conversion are so pronounced with most of the primary lowland forests already gone. One of the priority agenda of the PBCFI is to develop and implement an integrated conservation awareness and education program that would highlight the importance of the WVBR in the global biodiversity conservation. The focus of this campaign includes disseminating information on the importance and benefits derived from biodiversity, as well as threats and challenges and the corresponding measures that may be implemented individually or collectively.

The West Visayas regional program will also cater to habitat protection and restoration employing participatory and community-

Habitat restoriation is a priority concern in West Visayas Bio-geographic Zone*

based approaches. This initiative is very necessary in as much that there are already captive-bred species waiting for reintroduction in safe and suitable sites. The captive breeding program is the other component of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Program of PBCFI. Site suitability assessments and other preparations are underway to pilot the first ever wildlife reintroduction in the region. To further advance conservation initiatives, PBCFI is looking into the possibility of developing and implementing conservation areas, especially in biologically important sites with no existing institutional and management arrangements. The purpose of this is to establish a network of conservation sites that is managed by local stakeholders. Various conservation strategies based on appropriate and useful policies shall be used. One approach is to establish conservation sites through local processes and approval with local governments as key players. This is to advocate the further decentralization of environment and natural resources management in the Philippines. On the other hand, biological surveys and conservation needs assessments are integral components of the PBCFI program, because these will provide scientific basis to whatever initiatives.

The surveys will not be limited only to flora and fauna inventory, but may further proceed with thematic researches on various aspects of ecology. As a matter of strategy, PBCFI is working with local organizations and institutions in delivering conservation outcomes. It provides technical assistance in program development, implementation and monitoring with local partners from both government and non-government institutions. In Negros Island, the Negros Forest and Ecological Foundation in Bacolod City and the Silliman University in Dumaguete City are PBCFI’s main partners. Similarly, it will further engage conservation partnerships with other relevant institutions. These initiatives in the West Visayas Bio-Geographic Region are part of the nationally coordinated Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Program administered by the PBCFI. Other priority sites of PBCFI include Mindoro, Polillo Group of Islands, Palawan and some islands in Mindanao, among others.*

(This article also appeared at the Visayan Daily Star, Bacolod City, Philippines, November 30, 2009 issue, http://www.visayandailystar.com)

December 3, 2009 - Posted by | Conservation Initiatives

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