A workshop embodies government’s firm resolve to preserve the country’s ecosystems and address its various concerns.

Held recently at the Sulu Riviera Hotel, Quezon City, the workshop aimed to develop an action plan that will identify restoration activities for specific ecosystems.

Specific ecosystems, as identified in the workshop, include lakes, rivers, forests, and mangrove, among other areas.

The action plan which will integrate the said restoration activities will serve as an annex to the updated Philippine Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (PBSAP).

The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) together with other concerned agencies attended the workshop.

Dr. Felix Gaschick of the B+WISER Program, a U.S. Agency for International Assistance (USAID) initiative, explained certain imperatives to ensure a successful restoration effort.

“There is a need to apply the best science and identify certain aspects towards restoration such as its scope, desired ecosystem conditions, and the appropriate restoration interventions,” explained Gaschick.

Gaschick also emphasized the need for restoration activities to consider human and ecosystems interactions.

The B+WISER Program is a five-year initiative of USAID and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to help the Philippines conserve and manage its forest biodiversity & watersheds.

Different ecosystems restoration initiatives were also presented during the workshop. These include the National Greening Program, Rainforestration program, Filipinovation on Coral Reef Restoration, Restoration of seagrasses, Pasig River rehabilitation, Rehabilitation of inactive/abandoned mines, and the Rehabilitation of Laguna Lake.

The National Greening Program of the Forest Management Bureau aims to have 1.5 billion trees planted to cover about 1.5 million hectares of land from 2011 to 2016.

A concept of reforestration, rainforestration uses only indigenous and endemic tree species as planting materials. It aims to preserve biodiversity and expand Philippine forests and at the same time sustain human food consumption.

The Filipinovation on coral reef restoration, a DOST-funded project, on the other hand seeks to roll-out coral transplantation technology using asexually reproduced corals to improve productivity of coral resources for sustainable fisheries. At the same time, the project also seeks to enhance competitiveness of underwater tourism.

Bohol, Pangasinan, Saranggani, Bagac, Bataan, Subic, Zambales, Palawan, Camiguin, Zambaonga del Norte, and Ilocos Norte were identified as restoration sites based on their suitability for restoration; availability of sufficient amount of coral fragments for transplanting, and their location within the marine protected area.

Designed to address the decrease or loss of shelter and grazing areas to food fishery species, among other benefits, the seagrass restoration project seeks to focus research on priority management issues and develop an integrated framework to restore the said ecosystem.

The Pasig River Rehabilitation Program was launched in relation to Presidential Decree 274 which seeks to preserve, beautify, and improve Pasig River to achieve gainful use of the river and its banks for socio-economic purposes.

The Rehabilitation of Laguna Lake addresses certain concerns such as the management of solid waste in the lake, sanitation and public health, congestion of shore land areas, flooding and loss of biodiversity, and decline in water quality–these are among the problems that have sprouted within the lake through the years. We are glad that the government has seen the need for the urgent rehabilitation of the Laguna Lake," Legarda said.

The Rehabilitation of inactive/abandoned mines program addresses the concern of restoring the unsightly sites of abandoned mines and the continuing risks to the health and safety of the surrounding communities. The program provides for rehabilitation and remediation technologies/practices to bring back to life disturbed environments and restore their previous natural states.

Finally, the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation project which is spearheaded by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), addresses siltation and pollution, two major environmental problems of the lake through LLDA’s flagship programs. These programs focus on environmental, shoreland, and watershed development; fisheries development; as well as the necessary institutional reforms. (Ricardo R. Argana and Engelbert R. Lalican, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Service)