By LANIE JEAN S. ALERIA
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) — Mt. Apo is home to many endemic organisms like the Philippine Eagle. It is where the eagles forage for food, reproduce, and live with their own partners. However, these organisms do not solely own Mt. Apo; they share ownership with humans since their home is also a human resource.
A portion of Mt. Apo is privately-managed land by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), specifically by its Mt. Apo Geothermal Business Unit (MAGBU). They utilize the geothermal heat produced by Mt. Apo to provide electricity for the consumption by human communities. People would think that the company disturbs the biodiversity of the area. However, during our biodiversity class field study, I learned that EDC has something in the box for biodiversity conservation.
During a tour brief and an orientation about the company’s various environmental programs, we were shown a list of the endemic and “threatened” species found within the 701-hectare geothermal reservation they manage. To help conserve these species, EDC has applied certain environmental standards and operation protocols to prevent these organisms from getting disturbed and harmed.
Remarkably, EDC efforts are not only concentrated on the conservation of the reservation’s flora and fauna, but on the surrounding villages as well. EDC manages programs, such as HELEn, to benefit local and Indigenous communities living close to the reservation. HELEn is a holistic program that focuses on health, education, livelihood and environment. EDC has also employed its BINHI program with the following forest restoration objectives: to provide (i) tree for life – benefit biodiversity, (ii) tree for leisure – aesthetic benefits for people, (iii) tree for food – agroforestry, and (iv) tree for the future – preservation of native and endangered “mother” trees.
Along with the BINHI program, residents are taught organic farming, including how to make different types of organic fertilizers. We visited the place where they process organic fertilizers and were also given the chance to plant seedlings and apply the earthworm and waste-based organic fertilizer they made.
I can’t help but be amazed with all the things I learned. Who would have thought that the wastes we generate in our kitchens, such as discarded fish intestines, can be converted into fertilizer?
The programs were truly impressive, as I saw firsthand what EDC is doing to help conserve Mt Apo’s precious biodiversity conservation.
In retrospect, there are three reasons why I think privately-managed properties like the EDC-managed geothermal reservation can contribute to biodiversity conservation.
Privately-managed lands contribute to biodiversity conservation by placing the whole area under tight protection. In this case, people cannot easily enter the area without consent from the owner, therefore preventing wildlife crimes (i.e. timber and wildlife poaching, and kaingin) from happening. Wildlife crimes often occur in forests where public entry is unregulated and where residents have little knowledge and regard about threatened species and their welfare. Within the geothermal reservation, protection of the area is ensured since the security is very tight. Thus, individuals without EDC consent cannot access and disturb the area.
Through partnership with environmentally-concerned individuals, protection of the area can be easily implemented. EDC staff and village partners are apparently conservation-literate. Thus, it is not hard for the company to employ such biodiversity conservation efforts because its workers and beneficiaries already know what’s the right thing to do.
Biodiversity conservation is not also cheap. But since “ for-profit “ corporations have the funds and other resources, conservation as part of corporate social responsibility can be undertaken.
EDC is really putting in their best to conserve biodiversity while generating renewable energy for the people. Certainly, public forests under management by renewable energy corporations can potentially contribute to biodiversity conservation.
(Batang Mindanaw is the youth section of MindaNews. Lanie Jean S Aleria of Baganga, Davao Oriental is studying Biology (BS) at the University of the Philippines Mindanao)