PH NatCom Showcases Philippine World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves during the International Biodiversity Conference (IBC) 2019

In line with its mandate to promote and monitor UNESCO inscribed and designated sites in the Philippines, PH NatCom joined the International Biodiversity Conference (IBC) 2019 that was held in Mati, Davao Oriental from 11 to 15 November 2019. Spearheaded by the Davao Oriental State College of Science and Technology or DOSCST, IBC 2019 became a platform for exchange of knowledge, practices, and experiences on biodiversity conservation and protection.
It highlighted the efforts to support the management of the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With the theme, ‘Biodiversity for the People: From Ridge to Reefs’, IBC 2019 gathered local government officials, researchers, environmental managers, innovators, policymakers and other stakeholders who are taking strategic action in mainstreaming opportunities to capitalize biodiversity from the ridge to reef as a tool to safeguard sustainable development for the people. Four (4) sessions were featured, namely: Interconnecting Ecosystems; Sustainable Management of Biodiversity; Biodiversity and Food Security; and Innovations for Biodiversity Conservation.

Among the sites featured in the IBC 2019 Exhibit were the following:

Heritage Sites: (1) Cordillera Rice Terraces, (2) Historic City of Vigan, (3) Baroque Churches of the Philippines (Paoay, San Agustin, Sta. Maria and Miagao), (4) Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, (5) Mount Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary, (6) Puerto Princesa Suberranean River National Park

Biosphere Reserves (BRs): (1) Albay, (2) Puerto Galera, (3) Palawan

The International Conference also served as an opportunity to promote the Philippine Biosphere Reserves Network or PhilBRNet that was officially launched on 20 June 2018 in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The PhilBRNet aims to serve as a platform for collaboration and cooperation among existing and aspiring BRs in the Philippines. It is as an active advocate of sustainable development through the collective initiatives and actions of the biosphere reserves in the country.

During one of the plenary sessions, PH NatCom Deputy Executive Director Lindsay Barrientos, EnP, emphasized the following in her response: “One glaring fact is that UNESCO biosphere reserves (also called learning laboratories for sustainability) and world heritage sites (known as landmark areas with cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance and is legally protected by international treaties), particularly natural sites, are not spared from issues that put biodiversity within inscribed or designated sites at risk.

The World Heritage Convention recognizes some World Heritage properties specifically for their outstanding biodiversity values as well their roles in protecting many of the most important ecosystem and areas of high biodiversity on the planet. However, human made factor may cause the serious decline in the population of the endangered species or the other species of outstanding universal value within the properties. It could also cause severe deterioration of the
natural beauty or scientific value of a property. We hope that there will be more researches and viable long-term solutions that take indigenous knowledge and practices into consideration, to address emerging challenges and issues.

For Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, we should not underestimate the shifting ranges of species and habitats that could also threaten the heritage site’s integrity. As emphasized before in the dossier submitted by the local government of Davao Oriental, “As temperature increases, sensitive species may migrate while some species may adapt and some may perish. This will affect the distribution and abundance of ecological features. The species in Mt. Hamiguitan may be affected. If the agricultural ecosystem may not be productive anymore or may be damaged due to landslide or pest infestation, locals may be forced to encroach to the protected area. All along the shifting of habitats, invasive species may come in which will compete with endemic species and may eventually take over the area." It is good to note that further inventory and assessment of existing species in Mt. Hamiguitan are underway.”

Deputy Executive Director Barrientos represented PH NatCom together with Mr. Gay Alfred Blanco, Ms. Joana Rizza Bagano, Ms. Josefina Escueta, and Ms. Kathereen Jane Sapungen. Conference participants had the opportunity to visit beautiful sites in Davao Oriental, including two important museums, the Mt. Hamiguitan Natural Science Museum, in San Isidro and the Subangan Davao Oriental Provincial Museum in Mati City.