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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, April 9, 2018
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with Errol A. Gatumbato
OPINIONS

Negros biodiversity planning
(1st of two parts)

Rock & Refuge

In what could be considered as another milestone for biodiversity conservation in Negros Island, more than a hundred stakeholders gathered last week to craft the first ever Negros Island Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan.

Organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, through its United Nations Development Program – Global Environment Facility funded Biodiversity Financing Initiative, Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., and provincial governments of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the event also ushered in the localization of the fourth iteration of the Philippines Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, which according to Anabelle Plantilla, BioFin program manager, is the first of its kind initiative in the Philippines thus far. The activity was supported by the USAID, through its Philippine-American Fund managed by the Gerry Roxas Foundation.

Representatives from local governments in Negros Island, academic community, nongovernment organizations, and some national government, private and business institutions collectively set quantifiable targets to address numerous threats and challenges on biodiversity in the two provinces. These targets, once implemented, would also contribute to the compliance and commitment of the Philippines to the Aichi goals of the Convention of Biological Diversity of the United Nations. During the planning workshop on April 4-5 at L’Fisher Hotel in Bacolod City, participants identified the current state of the island’s biodiversity and the corresponding efforts and gaps.

As early as in the 1980s, the conservation movement in Negros started to evolve with the Save Negros Forest Movement composed of a group of individuals who campaigned for the imposition of the total logging ban in the island. The movement was later on transformed into the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation Inc. In the early 1990s, the 1 st Negros Environment Summit was held in Canlaon City that was initiated by former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael Coscolluela, who similarly launched the environment war as one of the centerpieces of his agenda. Negros Occidental was one of the early provinces in the country that immediately organized the Provincial Environment Management Office following the passage of the Local Government Code in 1991. Negros Oriental has its own local environment office, too.

The biodiversity conservation in Negros was further boosted when the former Mount Canlaon National Park, with boundaries shared between the two provinces in the island, was included among the 10 priority sites for the World Bank supported Conservation of Priority Protected Areas in the Philippines Project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources from 1995 to 2002. This project paved the way for the declaration of the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park under the National Integrated Protected Areas System of the country. Although the proclamation of the MKNP in 2001 was quite controversial with the slicing of 169 hectares of the original boundary of the MCNP for geothermal energy development, the fact remains that is it only one of the 13 protected areas legislated by Congress, as of this time. The Diocese of Bacolod, activist group Green Alert Negros, and other concerned organizations protested the inclusion of the geothermal development project in the declaration of the MKNP.

Since the passage of the NIPAS Act in 1992, aside from the MKNP, several other protected areas in Negros had been declared. These include the former Northern Negros Forest Reserve as Northern Negros Natural Park and the Sagay Marine Reserve in Negros Occidental, and the latter also has a site-specific act, like the MKNP. In Negros Oriental, the protected areas under the NIPAS are the Lake Balinsasayao Twin Lakes Natural Park and Apo Reef Protected Landscape and Seascape, while the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape partly shares boundaries with the two provinces.* (To be continued)

 

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