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DENR backs traditional natural resource management

MANILA, March 30 — Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) aims boosting its environmental partnership with indigenous peoples (IPs) nationwide, assuring support for sustaining traditional natural resource management practices across their respective ancestral domains, as the agency recognizes their efforts are essential in boosting government's bid for environmental protection, particularly amidst climate change.

Aside from helping preserve IPs' culture, livelihood and values, DENR believes such partnership is also essential in sustaining the nation's ecological benefits from its remaining forests, rivers and watersheds.

"IPs play an active role in caring for the environment so we're supporting their traditional protection and conservation efforts," DENR-Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) Assistant Director Nelson Devanadera said Friday on the side of the First National Conference on Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in the Philippines.

The conference delegates came up with their Manila Declaration that stresses recognition of IPs' governance rights over ICCAs and their ancestral domains.

Devanadera noted that part of DENR's support is funding from United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Global Environment Fund (GEF) to document ICCAs in the Philippines.

Aside from identifying ICCAs nationwide, most of which are in key biodiversity areas, DENR-PAWB is optimistic such documentation will help raise public awareness about and action on conserving such areas.

ICCAs are IPs' sacred areas within ancestral domains and which are rich in biodiversity that's essential to their livelihood and culture.

IPs traditionally and voluntarily manage ICCA biodiversity through customary laws, practices and other means.

Authorities have reported that Philippine ICCAs are under threat from unabated extractive activities that continue undermining these areas' integrity.

They said other threats to ICCAs are outsiders' encroachment, decline in traditional conservation knowledge as well as lawlessness and limited logistics for promoting environmental protection in these areas.

"Climate change is compounding such problems," Devanadera said.

Experts earlier warned climate change will drive increasingly violent weather disturbances, wrecking havoc on the environment.

Devanadera raised need for environment-friendly adaptation measures to help lessen climate change's impact on ICCAs nationwide.

Much can be learned from IPs' traditional conservation measures, noted Folay Eleazar who is project manager of New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP).

"IPs' traditional resource management practices are environment-friendly — among these are restricting hunting to open seasons only so animals can have time to reproduce," she said on the conference's side.

DENR-PAWB is implementing the five-year NewCAPP with funding assistance from UNDP and GEF.

The project seeks to strengthen capacity of government, IPs and communities in managing selected conservation areas nationwide.

NewCAPP aims to facilitate domestic and international recognition of ICCAs nationwide.

"We hope to have all such areas in the country included in the in-country and global ICCA registry," Eleazar said.

Aside from recognition, she noted such inclusion can open up opportunities for funding conservation efforts in ICCAs nationwide.

Devanadera said one idea that came up earlier to protect ICCA is designating this as a new land use category.

"If categorized as a new land use, activities not in line with the nature and function of ICCAs will be banned there," he said.

He said authorities concerned are beginning to look into the matter. (PNA) scs/CJT/mec

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