4 sites in Region 12 eyed for USAID-funded project

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/24 July) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 has identified four critical landscapes and seascapes in the region as target sites for the implementation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Protect Wildlife Project.

Reynulfo Juan, DENR Region 12 director, said Monday they are pushing for the rollout of the project at the Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape and Allah Valley Watershed Reservation in South Cotabato and the Sarangani Bay seascape and Busa Mountain Range in Sarangani.

He said the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and DENR-12 have already completed the assessment of the potential sites and possible partners for the project’s implementation.

The four sites were identified based on the results of the assessment and the recommendation by the BMB, he said.

On Monday, project stakeholders gathered at a hotel here for a joint consultation and planning workshop with DENR-12 and USAID.

“We’re here to identify and agree on the set of strategies and major activities for the implementation of the project,” Juan said.

The official said the workshop outputs will be used in the preparation of the project’s work plans.

Protect Wildlife, which was launched in March, is a five-year, P1.2-billion project that seeks to address biodiversity loss and rampant wildlife trafficking in the Philippines.

Project implementers earlier pushed for its expansion in Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces, which it identified as host to “some of the most biodiverse yet vulnerable natural habitats and species in southern Mindanao.”

USAID and DENR-12 initially gathered representatives from local governments, academe and civil society groups for a workshop to identify various threats to biodiversity in the two provinces, as well as possible solutions.

Among those cited were the need to strengthen wildlife law enforcement, provision of livelihoods to local communities, and rollout of behavioral change campaigns.

Mt. Matutum, South Cotabato’s highest peak, and the Allah Valley Watershed Reservation are home to various wildlife species, among them the tarsiers, as well as rare flora and fauna.

These areas were known habitats of the Philippine deer, tarsiers, civets, bats, among others.

A portion of Mt. Busa complex is considered a habitat of the Philippine Eagle while sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins and whales had been sighted along the Sarangani Bay seascape. (MindaNews)