Many firsts

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Friday, June 27, 2014


IT SEEMS strange to go to Boracay for work. The island connotes fun, fun in the Philippines. Yet this time around, it was unabashed work, work. There I was in the annual rite of passage for the Partners’ Meeting of the Non-Timber Forest Products-Philippines.

From around the country, we converged at the Patio Pacific function room to plan how to conserve our country’s dwindling tropical rainforests by enabling forest-dependent largely mountain communities to use NTFPs, those biological materials, other than timber, extracted from forests for human use.

This is a case of using biodiversity to reduce poverty of forest-dependent upland communities. The resources include bamboos and other materials for craft making, forest fruits, resins, gums, medicinal plants and honey for developing market-based instruments for sustainable development.

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We scored some firsts this meeting. This was my first as the Board of Trustees Chair. I was asked to deliver the welcome address to the meeting. I emphasized human ecology where human welfare is the touchstone for conserving tropical rainforests and the various life that depend on them.

Another first was the absence of Pastor Delbert Rice, environmentalist and sustainable mountain development practitioner par excellence. Pastor passed away due to cancer a few months back. Rest in peace knowing that you shared the best years of your life among the Ikalahan indigenous community in Nueva Vizcaya.

For another, after 14 years, the partnership is no longer a task force implying impermanence but as the NTFP-Philippines.

Yet still another first was the presence and attendance of new Board of Trustees members, including lawyer Tanya Lat, agroforestry expert Ed Queblatin, and Negros Occidental’s own son, social entrepreneur Ramón “Chinchin” Uy Jr., my co-worker at the Organik na Negros! Organic Producers and Retailers Association (Onopra).

I invited Chinchin to join the NTFP board to help out the various social enterprises of forest-based products of the indigenous communities of the Higaonons, Subanens, Mangyans, Tagbanuas, Ikalahans, Itas of Quezón province, and the Atis of Western Visayas.

Each partner-member shared their work on forest rehabilitation, resource use rights issues, and their production and harvesting protocols, and marketing experiences.

The network extensively discussed disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. On this, I shared with them the email I received last week from the Mountain-Partnership on an opportunity for the country in Negros Island and other provinces for funding through the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

The IKI supports projects emphasizing climate change mitigation and adaptation to impacts of climate change and the protection of biodiversity. Major components are the adoption of regional and national adaptation strategies and ecosystem-based adaptation in water and land-use management.

The promotion of organic agriculture and NTFPs especially on mountain ecosystems are where local governments and other national line agencies, civil society organizations, and the private sector cooperate closely together on the UN’s blueprint for sustainable development.

In the evening, the participants toured the beach. Judging from the influx of tourists, Boracay bounced back from super typhoon “Yolanda” nearly a month after the megastorm hit Panay.

Insisting that “Yolanda (is) the new normal,” DILG Secretary Mar Roxas said LGUs should review and update their respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans and Comprehensive Development Plans to minimize the adverse effects of the climate change.

Yesterday, as I wrote this, the partners were also getting ready for a site visit to the reconstruction site of the Atis. Yes, climate change resilience should also be the new normal for sustainable development.

*****

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 27, 2014.

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