USAID-DENR launches P1.2-B Protect Wildlife Project
It’s a fact that poaching, illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging and deforestation continues in the country which leads to the reduction of endemic flora and fauna. And many of us living in urbanised areas don’t realise, or do not know, that we enjoy the benefits of wildlife and the environment even though we are not living in the the mountains or out in the wild. Even when we travel to a different country, we are continuously linked to the environment as part of a whole system. It is this link that we have to protect the environment which we enjoy everywhere we go, in our travels, and in our daily living.
In the Philippines, wildlife and environment protection is of utmost importance. Which is why the U.S. Government, through the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines’ United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) teamed up and launched the “Protect Wildlife” project. The five-year, P1.2-billion project, launched on March 6 in Quezon City, aims to address biodiversity loss and illegal wildlife trade in the country.
It will start in Palawan, Zamboanga City, and Tawi-Tawi – areas that are known to have rich and diverse ecosystem. However, it is also vulnerable to various human-induced threats like poaching and wildlife trafficking, destructive fishing practices and loss of habitats from widespread conversion of forests, wetlands and mangroves to settlements and agricultural lands.
Director Ernesto Guiang, chief of party for the Protect Wildlife Project, cited that Palawan has high biodiversity but also have one of the highest poverty incidence in the country. It is this kind of situation that Protect Wildlife will focus on by improving the food, water, livelihood and ecotourism for the people rather than to protect it from people.
“If you loose one hectare of mangrove, you will also loose one ton of fisheries production every year. Many of our communities in the country are dependent on fisheries and their life depends so much on the quality of the habitats that support the fishing industry,” he said.
Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Director Theresa Mundita Lim also said that ecotourisim, if executed properly, is one sustainable project with positive impact. Residents can be trained to properly harvest products from the environment to create handicrafts as souvenirs which can be sold for tourists, and make them appreciate the benefits of wildlife.
“Indigenous people have the skills to create these handicrafts and that is just one of the many products a community can get from the ecosystem directly or indirectly,” Guiang added. “Perhaps if they are given additional training or techniques, access to capital, or improve their value chain or link to the market, then it can help in sustaining their livelihood and protect the ecosystem where they benefit from.”