Local conservation areas
It is interesting to know that the Provincial Environment Management Office of Negros Occidental has facilitated and is still facilitating the establishment of Local Conservation Areas, or commonly known as LCAs.
As reported in this paper, the PEMO has provided technical assistance to 11 local governments in passing ordinances declaring certain areas as LCAs, and six others are on the process of doing the same. This effort of the PEMO and local government units is another trailblazer in the field of conservation, not only in Negros Occidental but the entire country as well, in as much that it prompted a good number of LGUs to actively participate in protecting diverse ecosystems and habitats.
The 11 LGUs that have already declared LCAs are the towns of Cauayan, Ilog, Binalbagan, Hinigaran, Pontevedra, San Enrique, Valladolid, and Pulupandan, and the cities of Kabankalan, Himamaylan, and Bago. It is expected that the cities of Silay, Cadiz, and Sagay, and the towns of E.B Magalona, Manapla, and Hinobaan shall also declare their own LCAs. Some of these LCAs are within the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area that was listed as Wetlands of International Importance under the RAMSAR Convention.
I had the opportunity to conceptualize and implement the LCA when I was leading a Darwin supported project in the Polillo Group of Islands in Quezon province, from 2006 to 2008. More than 8,000 hectares of biodiversity important sites had been simultaneously declared as LCAs by three municipalities within the mainland of this group of islands. The development of the LCA was motivated in providing alternative modality to biodiversity important landscape or seascape that may not be large or big enough to become protected areas. These areas may include forest patches, including mangroves, micro-watershed, freshwater ecosystems, caves, marshes and swamps, coastal areas, and marine ecosystems, among others. These sites offer numerous ecological services and benefits.
The establishment of LCAs involves participatory and local processes and approval, from site identification and selection, to final legislation and management planning. I used the Local Government Code of the Philippines as the main policy framework for the development of LCAs, since under this law, the LGU is provided with authority to enact ordinances for the establishment and management of conservation sites. Specifically, section 447.5.i of the LGC states, “The Sangguniang Bayan shall approve ordinances to provide for the establishment, maintenance and conservation of communal forests and watersheds, tree parks, greenbelts, mangroves and other similar forest development projects”.
What is interesting about the LCA is the local ownership and accountability, because it is collectively managed by local stakeholders in partnership with concerned national government agencies and the LGU as the lead agency. In a way, it espouses a co-management regime among local stakeholders and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. This model obliges the LGUs to allocate regular funds for the management of LCAs.
The DENR has launched this concept during the National Conference on LCAs, held in Metro Manila in 2014, of which I was designated as a technical advisor. From then on, several LGUs in the country adopted this conservation model. The LCA is now becoming a generic description for locally declared conservation sites in the Philippines.
Along with Negros Occidental, the provincial government of Agusan del Sur has similarly implemented the LCAs in areas adjacent to the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. The provincial government, through its local environment office, has provided technical assistance to the different LGUs in the establishment of LCAs, which is similar to what the PEMO is doing in Negros Occidental.
The Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. is likewise implementing the LCA on some of its priority project sites, particularly in the Calamianes Group of Islands in Palawan.
The manuscript I prepared detailing my experiencein developing the LCAs in the Polillo Islands has been published in 2013 in the Kalikasan Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Development Series of the Foundation for the Philippine Environment with a title “Scaling-up Local Conservation Initiatives: Stories from Polillo Islands”. In 2014, my abstract about this innovation was accepted for poster presentation at the World Parks Congress, which only happens every 10 years, in Australia, but unfortunately I was not able to proceed because of some personal circumstances.*
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