Philippines: Phase 2 of Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) begins

Launching the second phase of Samar Island Biodiversity Project
(SIBP). Led by Environment Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi and United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) country director Renaud Meyer, a
stakeholder meeting was held to come up with a strategy that will
ensure the sustainable development of the 333,000-hectare Samar Island
Natural Park (SINP). Gerochi said the stakeholders’ meeting will help
identify areas of intervention for the DENR and the UNDP, which funded
the SIBP through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) as part of
its effort to help the community to benefit from the sustainable
management of their natural resources.

The SIBP, with a total project
cost of $5,759,000 million, started in 2001. Phase I of the project
ended last year and it is only now that the second phase, which is
expected to end in 2011, formally started. The objective is to sustain
the gains of the first phase, which paved the way for the signing of
Proclamation 422 by President Arroyo, establishing the SINP, which
ably protects the forest and its wildlife. As part of the launching of
the project’s second phase, Gerochi and Myer led the inauguration
rites of the SINP building here and the unveiling of the marker.Meyer,
in a brief speech, vowed to continue to provide financial and
technical support to local communities on the island, which covers
three provinces, including Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar.
The Phase 2 of the Project has a funding of $1.58 million and will
benefit forest edge communities. There are around 180,000 people
living within the SINP. He said considering the success of the
project’s Phase I with the local communities being more aware of the
importance of biodiversity conservation and the benefits of

sustainably managing natural resources, he expressed confidence that the UNDP’s project will succeed. “The UNDP will be here as long as we
are needed. But it is the local communities that need to take care and
help in the sustainable management of their resources for their own
benefit,” Meyer said, adding that over the past five to six years that
UNDP conducted the project’s Phase I, they were able to make the
various stakeholder aware of their duties and responsibilities in
protecting the environment. “What’s needed is for the communities to
get more involved, as well as the local government units and the
barangays,” he said. The signing of Proclamation 422, which declared
what used to be a mere forest reserve as a protected area under the
National Integrated Protected Areas Systems Act, prevented mining,
logging and other destructive forest activities within the park,
considered as the country’s last frontier in terms of biodiversity.
However, mining and logging and other destructive forest activities
continue to threaten the park, which has become the challenge for the
UNDP, the DENR and the various stakeholders. There are two existing
minerals processing sharing agreements and a big logging concession
that was extended by the DENR, which are all located within the park.
Although Gerochi said there’s no mining or logging activities within
the park today, stakeholders fear that mining and logging companies
might pursue their prior rights to exploit the forest for minerals and
logs in the future.

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