SouthCot to restore biodiversity sites in Mt. Matutum

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/26 January)– Environment personnel are set to embark on a massive reforestation program to rehabilitate portions of a declared biodiversity corridor in two municipalities straddled by the critical Mt. Matutum in South Cotabato province.

Siegfred Flaviano, South Cotabato Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) chief, said the initiative aims to increase the biodiversity within the corridor, which covers 10 barangays in Tupi and Tampakan towns.

He said the biodiversity or wildlife corridor is located within the 14,000-hectare Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape (MMPL).

In October last year, Flaviano said they started the revegetation or planting of various tree and plant species along the boundary areas of the biodiversity corridor.

He said the trees will also serve as boundary markers of the areas covered by the corridor to prevent possible poaching and other related activities.

“Our focus right now is the revegetation of the main corridor area with trees and plant species that are indigenous there,” he said.

The official said the local government has allocated an initial P300,000 this year for the expanded revegetation activity, which is initially targeted to start in June.

Aside from this, he said another P400,000 was set aside for the establishment of two wildlife restitution centers within the corridor area.

Flaviano said the restitution centers, which will be constructed in April, will serve as rescue facilities for wildlife species like heron and the famed tarsiers that are thriving in the area.

“A number of these species usually end up dying when they are found or rescued by some residents because of the lack of proper facilities,” he said.

The official said they are also planning to launch a livelihood program for the area’s residents to stop them from converting lands there for agricultural use and engage in the destructive kaingin or cutting and burning of trees.

He said among the initial livelihood ventures being planned for the area is the establishment of tree nurseries to complement with the reforestation or revegetation program.

“We’re studying right now the other existing (livelihood) practices there so we can come up with proper plans for them,” he added.

Local stakeholders earlier pushed for the establishment of the biodiversity corridor within the MMPL to strengthen efforts to preserve and protect the remaining watershed and wildlife in the area.

The move was aimed to address the “continuing wildlife extinction” within the declared protected landscape due to habitat loss.

Dr. Nelson Pampolina, associate professor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, earlier said the establishment of a biodiversity corridor is essential to ensure wildlife preservation and the protection of the remaining watershed in the MMPL.

The Mt. Matutum watershed is considered as an important water source as it supplies 30 percent of the water requirements of this city and the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani. (MindaNews)