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)

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 groups look forward to continued engagement with DENR on envi issues

August 30th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY –  A month after the former Regional Executive Director  of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources was replaced,  local environmentalists are eager to continue their engagement with the agency  under its new Executive Director,   Joselin Marcus Fragada.

Interface Development Interventions, Inc. (IDIS) Executive Director Ann Fuertes said that the series of discussions begun by DENR earlier in the year  should be continued so that the issues and concerns which were identified by environmental civil society organizations  (CSOs) would be monitored with regards to their resolution.

“Understandably, the regional DENR is in transition , following the assumption of the new Regional Director. But we look forward to the immediate  resumption of DENR’s Interfacing Dialogue with CSOs so that we can follow up the agreements previously agreed upon so that we can track if these have been resolved.”, said Fuertes.

Last January, the DENR XI had begun  an interfacing activity with various environmental  CSOs to find ways of collaboration among stakeholders for the management and protection of the natural resources in the region. The output of those discussions was the adoption of a matrix of issues and concerns , with their corresponding action points, which was constantly updated at every interfacing meeting.

“There was a positive vibe coming off from that activity because it allowed us CSOs to thresh out and clarify issues with the DENR in a participative and collaborative manner.”, recalled Fuertes.

“More importantly, it provided an opportunity for a convergence of activities from both sides, all for the goal of protecting the environment.”

Among the issues identified for resolution in the matrix  were qualified CSO representation in the Multipartite Monitoring Team (MMT) for banana  plantations in Region 11  and access of CSOs to MMT reports submitted  to the regional  Environmental Management Bureau  (EMB-XI) in the past five years.

Also in the  matrix  is a commitment from DENR XI to take care of the remaining budget needed for the Watershed Management Council (WMC) activity of delineating the city’s watershed areas.

“With the implementation of the Watershed Code already underway, it is imperative that the delineation of the areas protected by law should begin. Now that the City Government has already provided its own fund counterpart, it is about time that we follow up on the DENR’s commitment to  provide its own share of technical and financial support as agreed upon during the discussions.”, said Fuertes.(#)

Grassroots paralegal group calls for enforcement of buffer zone

February 24th, 2012 by

DAVAO CITY – A paralegal group composed of farmers and residents from the third district reiterated their call for the City Government to implement proper buffer zones in the upland areas even as the Watershed Multipartite Monitoring Team (WMMT) finished last Tuesday  its plans  to monitor violations of the provisions of the watershed code.

The 122-strong Kinaiyahan Amumahon Panalipdan Panggaon ug  Irespeto (KAPPI) said that plantations in the uplands have not been complying with the buffer zone requirements and called for the WMMT to investigate and penalize violators.

“We welcome the formation of the WMMT and we hope that it will do its function of monitoring violations.’, according to KAPPI Advocacy Campaign Officer Rey Sapid .

Under the Watershed Code, the WMMTs  are  legally appointed bodies which will monitor the implementation of the Watershed Code.  Its membership includes representatives from the  government , the academe, the civil society  and the local barangay unit. There are three WMMTs , each in charge of monitoring one cluster zone in the watershed area.

Last Tuesday, the WMMT  had just finished its annual work plan for the implementation of the Code.  Among its tasks are to enforce the establishment of  proper buffer zones,  identify and secure landslide-prone communities, conduct ground monitoring and recommend filing of cases for violators.

The Watershed Code of Davao mandates that   40-meter buffer zones must be established around recharge zones, riverbanks, rivers, springs, wells, and other critical areas.  Meanwhile, areas with residential houses, schools and other community infrastructure must have 30-meter buffer zones from surrounding plantations.

KAPPI noted that most plantations have not been complying with the provisions.  “Buffer zones should be planted with trees to catch the drift from pesticides but most of the plantations are only content to establish shrubs along the edges of their plantations and call it a proper buffer zone.” , said Sapid.

“The WMMT should investigate these cases promptly and penalize violators. They should not wait for residents to complain  before acting on the problem.”, he said.

KAPPI is prepared to assist the WMMT in monitoring the grassroots implementation of the Code. “ Our members are present in all the 14 barangays in the 3rd district.  We know firsthand how plantations have disregarded the environment in their drive to expand their areas.”

Even before the Watershed Code was drafted, environmentalists have long lobbied for the proper establishment of buffer zones.  Buffer zones are important areas because they safeguard the sources of water and rural communities from the toxic effects of chemicals used by monocrop plantations.  During heavy rains, they minimize flooding as they absorb the surface run-off.  ( #)