BATANG MINDANAW: Conservation on Privately-Managed Lands

by Alma Jo C. Latada

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 May) — It has become clear that biodiversity is the cornerstone of our existence on Earth. It is also important to conserve biodiversity for the sake of our own curiosity and aesthetic appreciation.

I have witnessed the beauty of nature both within private and public properties. In some cases, biodiversity is destroyed when placed in the hands of the public. When no one privately owns a land, resources within the place can become the “property” of everyone.

The Government often cannot properly monitor public domains. Boundaries are not set, so some people tend to cross the line, and sometimes without them noticing it. This leads to the “tragedy of the commons” dilemma where individuals working independently of one another will overuse a common-property resource for short-term benefits while decimating the resource for long-term use (Hardin 1968). Different methods are used to help conserve biodiversity and privatization and decentralization can be one of them.

I believe that lands under management by private entities can help conserve biodiversity. I have witnessed how EDC (Energy Development Corporation) took on that role at the Mt Apo Geothermal Reservation at Illomavis, Kidapawan City. Because of the responsibility given to them, they are somehow entitled to take care of the land and in return get benefits from it. Active security protocols by EDC resulted to biodiversity conservation. I have witnessed how strict they were. They needed to protect their company, which eventually led to the protection of the place itself.

Another solution to the tragedy of the commons problem would be enhancing and supporting ecotourism close to natural habitats. Ecotourism has an explicit interest in conserving wildlife for it to stay in business and attract tourists. Just like the Agco Mahomanoy Resort at Illomavis, the ecotourist lodge became a key for conservation since the people living there are entitled to take care of the place as their source of livelihood. This is just like hitting two birds with one stone. (But hitting birds literally are bad).

Biodiversity is the life support system of our planet — we depend on it for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Wetlands filter pollutants from water, trees and plants reduce global warming by absorbing carbon, and bacteria and fungi break down organic material and fertilize the soil. It has been empirically shown that native species richness is linked to the health of ecosystems, as is the quality of life for humans.

The public must support and recognize private entities that actively conserve biodiversity within lands they own or manage. The connections between biodiversity and our sustainable future appear closer and closer the more we look. We need all the help we can get because in the end, we can’t do this alone.

Alma Jo C. Latada studies Architecture at the University of the Philippines Mindanao. She’s from Cotabato City.