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Ilonggo Network

Protected areas poorly to fairly managed First of two parts

I attended the National Conference to Present the Management Effectiveness and Capacity Assessment Report of the Protected Areas in the Philippines at the Ortigas Center, Pasig City, recently, and, as I expected, the presentation once again pointed out the bleak situation of the different protected areas in the country.

Commissioned by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit, or GIZ, on behalf of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of the Federal Republic of Germany, the report claimed that, generally, the 61 sites covered by the study are poorly to fairly managed due to numerous factors and circumstances.

The assessment report, that was presented by GIZ to Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje and Director Theresa Mundita Lim of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (formerly the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau), also contains several recommendations to address the pressing issues and concerns of the various protected areas. The MECA was initiated under the auspices of the Protected Areas Management Enhancement Project, jointly implemented by BMB and GIZ.

The assessment used the Protected Areas Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool, or MEET, an internationally-recognized assessment methodology developed by the World Commission on Protected Areas. The study sites represent roughly 25 percent of the 240 protected areas in the Philippines.

Lim underscored the importance of the assessment, and assured the implementation of appropriate measures to enhance the management of the different protected areas. Paje announced that the 2014 budget of the BMB has increased by 300 percent compared to its last year's allocation, which was only 5 percent of the total budget of the DENR during the period.

One of the findings of the assessment showed that most of the protected areas covered by the study generally lack the necessary funding, personnel and expertise to effectively manage these sites, that are also identified as key biodiversity areas of the country.

The national government, through the DENR, was hardly investing for qualified personnel and sufficient funding to ensure that these biodiversity important sites are actually protected from destructive activities. This is particularly important because the study further attests to the continuing loss of the Philippines' closed canopy forest cover.

It was estimated that only P39 is allocated annually per hectare of protected areas, and one personnel is assigned for every 2,300 hectares of protected areas.

Since the enactment of the National Integrated Protected Areas System, or Republic Act 7586, in 1992, only eight out of the 61 assessed sites are covered with specific legislations enacted by the Congress. The report viewed that it is important for Congress to declare the remaining sites, since that would establish the permanent boundaries of the protected area and will boost support in terms of budgetary allocation from the national government.

In the recent rationalization of the DENR's structure, the permanent position for Protected Area Superintendent has been included in the 12 Congress-declared protected areas, to include the Mount Kanla-on Natural Park and the Sagay Marine Reserve in Negros. (To be continued) *

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