DENR to intensify studies on invasive shrub in SouthCot watershed

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 17 April) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 is set to launch intensive field studies regarding the proliferation of the invasive shrub buyo-buyo (Piper aduncum) in portions of the critical Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve in Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato.

Datu Tungko Saikol, DENR Region 12 executive director, said the initiative is part of the agency’s efforts to control the onslaught of buyo-buyo and other “invasive alien species” (IAS) that pose potential adverse impacts to the environment, especially the forests.

He said the watershed area of Lake Sebu town was earlier chosen by the DENR central office as site for pilot study on the control and management of buyo-buyo, which was described as a highly aggressive plant that is linked to the degradation of natural forests.

“This (buyo-buyo) has been spreading in some parts of Lake Sebu these past years. We will study how we can effectively control their growth and eventually eliminate them,” he said.

Saikol said the study is a component of a project entitled “Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in the Production and Protection Forests in Southeast Asia,” which is funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

He said the DENR’s Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) was designated as the project’s implementing agency.

A project briefer cited that buyo-buyo was not only to the degradation of natural forests but was also found to suppress natural regeneration of forests in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

It was found to have already invaded and colonized vacant agricultural areas, logged-over areas and in gaps within natural forests in the Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve.

“It has also invaded banana and cassava plantations and has become a dominant species in regenerating natural forests in the pilot site,” it said.

Saikol said the local implementation of the project “would see partnerships with local communities in managing the buyo-buyo with techniques in weed management, appropriate biological control, and habitat restoration.”

He said they recently held consultations with local officials and stakeholders of Lake Sebu town in preparation for the project’s implementation.

The meeting was spearheaded by PAWB director Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, who had been designated as IAS project head, as well as Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau acting director Dr. Portia Lapitan.

The Philippines was one of four Southeast Asian countries that had committed to strengthen regional cooperation to effectively combat the onslaught of various invasive alien species in the region.

The four-year project has an overall cost of US$ 6.8 million or almost P280 million, with around US$375,000 or P15 million allotted to the Philippines. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)