Animals, some rare, now threatened by poisonous chemicals in Davao watersheds

April 29th, 2013 by

Davao City  –  A team of wildlife researchers from the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEF) has found that the remnant of lowland dipterocarp forests in the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan (TL-PT) Watersheds, the current and future source of Davao’s drinking water, is the habitat of  some  twenty eight species that can only be found in the Philippines.

“We were able to document 171 vertebrate species, 28 of which are endemic to the Philippines”, said lead researcher PEF Conservation Director Jayson Ybanez who presented the study at the Ateneo de Davao University last April 15, 2013.

The survey  is part of the TL-PT Watershed Resource and Socio-Economic Profile, which aims to provide technical information to help stakeholders identify and plan the most cost effective way to protect and manage the watersheds.

The study revealed that the TL-PT Watersheds is home to the Philippine eagle, the Tarictic hornbill, the rare Mindanao montane racquet tail, the Mindanao scops forest owl, the Mindanao fruit bat, the Philippine flying lemur and the Philippine pygmy squirrel.

The team also observed at least two critically endangered tree species as classified by the IUCN. These are the White miranti and the Tanguile species.

The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) which commissioned the study under a grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) and the  United States Agency for International Development (USAID) said that the findings underscore the importance of the TL-PT watersheds.

“The richness of the biodiversity in the remaining forest cover of the watersheds should impel every Dabawenyo to protect the watersheds. As reservoirs of biodiversity, these forests are essential to the survival of our endemic species.”, said IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes.

However, unsustainable agriculture, illegal logging and population pressure continue to threaten these fragile habitats and may force twenty eight of these species into extinction, according to the report.

“One of the threats that we found out is that slowly, banana plantations and farms are slowly encroaching towards the forest, even in areas which are considered environmentally critical areas as defined in the Watershed Code.”, said Ybanez.

In addition, with only the Malagos watershed as the sole remaining lowland forest that can support these species, it may take some time before the current reforestation initiatives bear fruit and allow these species to thrive again in the watersheds.

The proponents of the research urge that a more holistic and inclusive  approach should be undertaken in order to conserve the remaining species and habitats and to sustainably rehabilitate the deforested slopes.

This include the use of convergence-building efforts which promote  open, participative and effective  processes in addressing issues of conservation and resource management.

“Adaptive management would be a good scheme, wherein interventions are considered experiments where you refine your way of doing conservation and through that, all of your partners  learn through doing.”, said Ybanez. ( MINDANAO DAILY MIRROR)

Plant, animal species at risk in Davao watershed areas

April 23rd, 2013 by

DAVAO CITY — Twenty-eight species of plants and animals inhabiting forested areas in the city limits — particularly those in Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan watersheds — remain at risk due to deforestation, an environmental group said.

In time for yesterday’s Earth Day observance, the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) has renewed its call for the conservation of watershed areas.

The 28 species under threat were identified through a survey and study commissioned by IDIS to the Philippine Eagle Foundation under a grant from the Foundation for the Philippine Environment with a budget of P750,000.

Based on the survey, dipterocarp forest of hardwood and tropical trees are the most threatened as the areas examined continue to attract illegal loggers and small farmers. The study also showed that watershed areas are now penetrated by plantations that resulted in the discovery of banned and harmful pesticides.

According to the study, the researchers recommended an integrated approach that include achieving clear biodiversity conservation results and utilizing systematic monitoring strategies. It also recommended the tapping of the community-based residents and natives as primary stakeholders to insure inclusion of indigenous communities in watershed management initiatives.

The Talomo-Lipadas and the Panigan-Tamugan watersheds are the chief sources of water for this city’s 1.5 million dwellers. While water supply in the city has remained adequate, both civil society and the Davao City Water District have expressed concern on water quality in the near and medium terms.

Mary Ann V. Fuertes, IDIS executive director, said the study was presented last week to the Environmental Management Bureau, the city council’s committee on health, schools, and other civil society groups.

“This is to highlight or a call for reflection on what we have done to nature. Watersheds are under threat and there is a need for immediate action for a long-term and sustainable management plan for our watersheds,” she said. (Maya M. Padillo, BusinessWorld)

Pesticides: Deadly persistence

April 23rd, 2013 by

THE air and water of Davao City’s Panigan-Tamugan and Talomo-Lipadas watersheds may not be as pristine as they seem.

A study conducted by Interface Development Interventions Incorporated (IDIS) revealed that 18 pesticides and breakdown products have been detected in the area’s air and that 17 pesticides and breakdown products were detected in the area’s water. Traces of 12 banned pesticides or breakdown products were found in both the air and water. Banned pesticides found to be polluting the area are Alrdin and Dieldrin, DDT, Gamma Chlordane and Lindane. Researchers were unable to pinpoint the exact sources of the pesticides but plantations upstream are most likely the culprits.

IDIS revealed the results of their study last Monday in the Board Room of Ateneo de Davao University’s Jacinto campus.

Dr. Romeo Quijano, adviser for the study, explained the presence of the banned pesticides as they were classified as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which are chemicals that can take years before they fully degrade.

The pesticide residue, as explained by the research, spreads through natural environmental occurrence, as traces of the pesticide can be found in surface water, which can then reach other places by evaporating and then being deposited in land once more through rainfall. This cycle, coupled with pesticide’s persistent nature, makes it a dangerous presence in a land dominated by agricultural activity, such as the Davao region.

It is alarming then, that two of Davao’s watersheds are polluted with pesticide sentiments that cannot be easily detected by plain human senses. People could be ingesting large amounts of pollutants everyday without even realizing it.

Take for example, the amount of pollutants IDIS found to be in the air. IDIS set up sampling stations in three schools to identify potential threats of pesticide pollution in the air. Using a drift catcher, IDIS found that the Baguio High School of Agriculture in Tawantawan, Vinzons Elementary School in Manuel Guianga and the Baracayo Elementary School in Daliaon Plantation were under great risk.

Traces of seven of the pesticides found in the air were found to have exceeded the Reference Exposure Level (REL) at least once during the 24 day sampling period. The REL determines the “acceptable” amount of exposure of people to pesticides, and the air surrounding the three schools was found to be polluted beyond what the RELs deem acceptable.
Moreover, the samples rarely contained traces of just one pesticide. Findings of the study show that there is an average of at least two kinds of pesticides present in the air collected from the sampling stations in the schools, while the air in Baracayo Elementary School yielded traces of a whopping eight pesticides, seven of which are banned.

The multiple pollutants cause a threat which researchers are unable to draw conclusions upon, as there have been no studies to determine risk from exposure to multiple pesticides. Anne Fuertes, executive director of IDIS noted that it is possible that in the presence of other pesticides, a single pesticide may react and yield greater toxicity. Taking into account the persistent nature of the pesticides, it is even more fearful that people are subject to long-term exposure to the pesticides.

Even the watershed’s rivers showed long-term pollution from the pesticides. Over an eight-month period of water sampling, the Tamugan and Panigan Rivers showed the presence of six and seven pesticides, respectively. Four pollutants were also detected in the Panigan-Tamugan junction while six pollutants were present in the Wines-Gumalang river junction. Finally the Gumalang River yielded the highest number of pollutants with 11 pesticides detected. Risk assessment could not be made for pesticides in water, however, as only short term studies on it have been made.

Even without risk assessment, however, pesticides level in air has already been shown to exceed RELs. Moreover, the traces of persistent pesticides in the water put the surrounding areas at risk of exposure to multiple pesticides from multiple sources. For a region that thrives much on agriculture, the amount of pollution in the watershed poses a great threat to the production of crops, but more importantly, the amount of pollution poses a great threat to its people.

The people in the region, especially those living close to the sources of pollution are vulnerable and IDIS has come up with policy recommendations to counter these problems.

IDIS will be moving on to long-term monitoring of the polluted areas to come up with more comprehensive data for policy makers. Until the policy makers make a definite move to clean up the pesticide-laden practices of farmers, however, the seeming clean air and water around the Talomo-Lipadas and Panigan-Tamugan will remain a threat to the communities surrounding them. (Ed Lactaoen, Sunstar Davao)

Davao’s watersheds home of PH’s endemic bird species

September 28th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY – SEVENTY percent of the Philippine inventory of endemic bird species has been confirmed to be living in the Mt. Talomo-Panigan watershed area.

Results from a recent study conducted by the Philippine Eagle Foundation, Inc. (PEF) revealed that the watershed is home to at least 124 bird species as studied in a series of field surveys conducted from 1997-2012.

The Philippines has currently 169 endemic bird species on record, 45 of which are found only in Mindanao. According to the report, 66 of the 124 species which were covered by the research study are Philippine endemic, while 24 of them are Mindanao endemic. This led the study authors to conclude that the watersheds hold an “impressive” percentage of local avian fauna.

The study was commissioned by the Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) using funds coursed from the USAID through the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE).

IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that this significant find underscored the importance of Davao’s watersheds in protecting and sustaining a rich biodiversity of organisms that can only be found in the Mindanao region.

“Healthy watersheds are a vital reservoir of biodiversity which must be protected in order to sustain our local flora and fauna,” she said.

Other than the Philippine Eagle, the report also identified that the Tarictic or Mindanao hornbill, Penelopides panini, is the second most threatened bird in the watersheds due to illegal pet trade and because it is also being hunted for food. According to the report, “four species are ‘vulnerable’, including the Silvery kingfisher Alcedo argentata, an inhabitant of clean and forested streams, and the Mindanao scops owl Otus gurneyi, a forest owl found only in Mindanao.”

Dwindling forest cover has contributed much to the decline of the local populations.

“While deforestation continues to be a major factor in the degradation of the bird habitats, the presence of unsustainable and unregulated economic, domestic and agricultural activities has also contributed to the destruction of these birds foraging and breeding areas.”, Fuertes said.

The Talomo-Panigan watershed areas along with the adjacent Lipadas, are also the sites of aquifers which provide the current and future water supply of Dabawenyos. In recent years, corporate plantations have expanded into the area, clearing the fertile forest land to grow bananas and pineapples for export.

Fuertes hopes that this discovery will spur more Dabawenyos to actively protect the remaining forest cover and to rehabilitate the cleared-out areas.

“It’s important that Dabawenyos should come together to produce a collaborative multi-stakeholder watershed plan wherein different and sustainable courses of action will be identified by stakeholders to ensure an environmentally and economically healthy watershed,” she said.

Among the potential economic benefits resulting from this study is the development of community led ecotourism activities along the watershed area.

“Bird watching tours have been touted as the next best thing in attracting international and domestic tourists,” she said.

In 2010, the Department of Tourism has announced that birdwatching tours are the next best thing in Philippine tourism. As a biodiversity hotspot, the Philippines has over 600 bird species with a high concentration of bird species per kilometer.

Envi org lauds latest Bukidnon LGU resolution against plantation expansion

September 20th, 2012 by

Davao City – The Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS)  welcomed the latest resolution from the Municipality of Maramag in Bukidnon calling for a moratorium on the expansion of bananas and pineapple plantations in the area.

“More and more Mindanawons are slowly realizing that watersheds are a valuable resource that is vulnerable to contamination from the harmful pesticides that these monocrop plantations use.”, said IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes.

Fuertes pointed out that , like Davao City, plantations have been blighting the upland areas of Bukidnon. “Too much reliance on agro-industries like these will result in the irreparable damage to the environment by way of floods and contamination of water aquifers. This effect can be felt even in Davao City because the local watersheds here are part of the Davao River Basin ecosystem, which starts from Bukidnon and ends in Davao.”, she pointed out.

The Davao River Basin system is one of the eight major river basins on Mindanao island. So important is  this  that the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has made it one of its priorities  in its island wide program on  watershed management and rehabilitation.

Fuertes called the Maramag resolution “a step in the right direction.” “ But to give it more teeth, LGUs should follow it up with an ordinance so that this moratorium can be implemented with the full backing of the law.”, she added.

On a national policy level, Fuertes said  the Aquino administration should repeal Executive Order 807, issued by former president, Macapagal-Arroyo, to stop plantations from further exploiting the precious forest resource.

“The root cause for this unrelentless expansion is because the previous administration has lifted the restrictions in the allowable size for banana plantations.”, she said, citing Executive Order  807 which lifted the limits for allowable hectarage for banana plantations.

The restrictions on expansion were previously defined  by laws (LOI 58 and LOI 709)  made during the Marcos era which specifically puts limits to banana plantation areas to protect the country’s agricultural and forest lands. But EO 807 changed all that.

“Now we are seeing the effect of unregulated expansion.  From problems with pesticide contamination to soil erosion causing floods, by replacing our precious forest with monocrops, we are endangering the lives of our  present and future generations.”

“If we are to truly protect our watersheds on a long term basis, we  should call for the repeal of EO 807 and impose limits on monocrop plantations .”, she said. (#)