Negros, a conservation hotspot
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
It is quite encouraging that no less than the provincial government of Negros Occidental, under Governor Alfredo
Marañon Jr., has emphasized the need to protect the already threatened environment of the province, which is being considered as one of the biodiversity hotspots of the Philippines. The European Commission has provided funding support, amounting to P22.4 million, to further boost the conservation initiatives of the provincial government.
The EC fund shall be provided with P3.9 million by the provincial government to implement a two-year project entitled “Effective Natural Resources Governance through Inter-Local Government Alliances”. As the project title clearly implies, this effort is geared toward enhancing the capacity of the different multi–sectoral groups in delivering conservation outcomes in the different cities and municipalities of the province.
As reported in this paper last week, these alliances include the management of the Northern Negros Natural Park,
Northern Negros Aquatic Resources Management and Advisory Council, Central Negros Council for Coastal Resources and Development (LGUs from Bago to Binalbagan, the Kabankalan, Himamaylan, Ilog-Integrated Coastal Management Council, and the Southern Negros Coastal Development Council) towns of Cauayan and Hinoba-an along with Sipalay City).
The support of the EC for this project is very crucial to ensure that local governing bodies are provided with necessary capacity to implement concrete measures in protecting the environment, particularly the forest, coastal, and marine ecosystems. Just like the terrestrial natural forest of Negros Occidental that is barely four percent of the province’s total land area, the mangrove forest left is only limited to a few thousands hectares or less. In general, the coral reef in Negros Occidental is in bad state and confined also in a limited space.
The degradation of the different ecosystems of Negros Occidental is already alarming with a good number of endemic
species, especially the forest-dependent species, included in the list of threatened species. The protection of the remaining forests, particularly the Northern Negros Natural Park, the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park and the forest patches in southern Negros Occidental, is crucial to the survival of these globally important species. It is therefore important that effective protection measures are carried out to ensure the survival of these species, some of which are only available in Negros and nowhere else in the world.
Similarly, the protection of the coastal and marine ecosystems is not only necessary to maintain ecological balance, but including the sustainability of the fishery production and food security. Through the years, fishery production has declined because of the wanton destruction of mangroves and coral reefs, which serve as important spawning grounds of numerous and commercially important species.
On the other hand, the forest degradation in Negros Occidental is so severe such that forest rehabilitation and restoration efforts have to be intensified not only for the purpose of protecting threatened species but in ensuring the continuous freshwater supply. Many of the critical watersheds of the province are in serious state of denudation and the declining water supply has been felt in several areas, especially during summer. However, forest rehabilitation should make sure that the tree plantations being established have a semblance of what is really a natural forest by planting diverse endemic species. Some tree plantations are not really meant to renew the real forest because they involve planting of exotic species, like gmelina, mahogany, and eucalyptus, which according to experts are not actually watershed appropriate species.
The pronouncement of Marañon that the provincial government under his stewardship will prioritize even more environmental protection is encouraging and many are hoping that illegal activities in forest, coastal, and marine ecosystems, which are still rampant in several areas, shall be dealt accordingly. (This article also appeared in the August 02, 2010 issue of the Visayan Daily Star in Bacolod City, Philippines)*
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