Cimatu: Christmas frigatebird sighting indicates healthy ecosystems in Apo Reef

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has welcomed the recent sighting of the globally endangered Christmas frigatebird (Fregata andrewsi) in the Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP), saying it indicates the vibrancy of the ecosystems in the world-famous marine sanctuary.

“The sighting of the endangered seabird is an indicator of a healthy environment and healthy ecosystems in ARNP, and that only means that conservation efforts there are bearing fruit and the people in charge of protecting the area are doing a good job,” Cimatu said.

Cimatu gave the ARNP Protected Area Office and its partners a pat on the back for their efforts to protect the marine reserve, which is home to tremendous coral diversity as well as numerous species of fish and mammals such as the dugong.

Located off the town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro province, the ARNP is the largest reef in the country and the second largest contiguous coral reef on the planet. It is nestled within the Coral Triangle, which is the epicenter of the world’s marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.

Last June 25, a Christmas frigatebird was sighted in ARNP and the sighting was documented by the protected area office and the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (MBCI). It was the third sighting of the seabird “outside the Sulu Sea,” where the fowl is frequently sighted.

The sighting of the bird species was first recorded in Tawi-Tawi province in 1995. Since then, more than 150 sightings of the species in Sulu Sea were recorded.

In its report, the MBCI described the sighting as a “juvenile” seabird with “black upper parts, a pale cream head, has dark breast bands, and distinctly shaped white patch in its belly and under its wings.”

This species of frigatebirds are known to breed only in Christmas Island in Australia, located south of Java, Indonesia. It is considered the ninth most evolutionary distinct and globally endangered bird in the world.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature listed the Christmas frigatebird as “critically endangered” in its Red List of Threatened Species.

During the 12th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) held in Manila last year, the Philippines pushed for “higher protection” for Christmas frigatebird by including it in Appendix I of the CMS.

Appendix I covers migratory species that are considered endangered or with a high risk of extinction. The listing requires CMS party-states to protect these species by strictly prohibiting their capture, conserving and restoring their habitats, and removing obstacles to their migration.

The CMS, adopted by 124 nations and is under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme, is the only global environmental treaty established exclusively for the conservation and management of terrestrial, marine and avian migratory species throughout their range.

The COP is its main decision-making body that meets every three years to adopt policies and laws, and propose new species under the framework. #

  

DENR seeks P24.17-B budget for 2019

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is seeking a slightly lower budget of P24.17 billion for 2019 to bankroll numerous environmental programs, mainly on forest rehabilitation and protection and biodiversity conservation.

The agency’s 2019 budget proposal, which is P740 million less than its current allocation of P25.72 billion, represents only 0.64 percent of the proposed P3.757 trillion national budget for next year.

Despite a lower budget, DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu assured that the agency will “still be able to effectively carry out its mandate of protecting the environment and rich natural resources in the country.”

“The DENR does not need a bigger budget to carry out its mandate. All we need is to be prudent and judicious in spending our budget and make sure that every single centavo is spent efficiently for programs promoting environmental protection,” Cimatu added.

The DENR is asking Congress almost P6 billion to finance the government's reforestation and forest protection projects for next year, with the Enhanced National Greening Program (ENGP) getting the lion’s share among DENR programs.

“The ENGP has the biggest chunk of the budget, followed by forest protection and anti-illegal logging, as well as our continued support for biodiversity conservation,” Cimatu told the House Committee on Appropriations during a budget hearing on Tuesday.

Of the total P5.96 billion allocated for reforestation and forest protection, P5.15 billion goes to ENGP, while P809.4 million will be used for the Forest Protection Program/Anti-Illegal Logging Program.

The twin programs aim to improve the nation’s forest cover and ensure continued protection of all existing forests in the country.

NGP started as a six-year massive forest rehabilitation program that aimed to cover 1.5 million hectares of degraded forestland with trees by the end of 2016. But it was extended until 2028 through an executive order issued in November 2015 in a bid to rehabilitate 7.1 million hectares more.

Under the E-NGP, the Duterte administration aims to reforest some 1.2 million hectares between 2017 to 2022 in accordance with the updated 2016-2028 Master Plan for Forestry Development.

For 2019, Cimatu said the DENR targets to cover some 143,187 hectares and produce 138.2 million planting materials.

In terms of accomplishments, around 193.05 million seedlings have been planted to 215,036 hectares from January in 2017 to June of this year with a total seedling production of some 317.9 million seedlings during the period.

From 2011 to June 30, 2018, the greening program has already rehabilitated a total of 1.87 million hectares with 1.56 billion seedlings planted. This has generated 4.3 million jobs, benefitting 614,128 individuals mostly residing in forest resources-dependent communities.

The reforestation program also serves as a national strategy to ensure food security, poverty reduction, environmental stability and biodiversity conservation. It is also a mechanism for climate change mitigation for it enhances the country's forest stock to absorb carbon dioxide.

The ENGP and forest protection initiative are among the 10 priority programs of the DENR, which have a total allocation of P8.88 billion or 36.73 percent of the agency’s 2019 budget proposal.

More than P732 million was allocated for the Enhanced Biodiversity Conservation Program, making it the third priority of the DENR in terms of budget allocation.

The other seven priorities of the DENR are solid waste management (P656.8 million); geohazard, groundwater assessment and responsible mining (P468 million); improved land administration and management (P398.9 million); scaling up of coastal and marine ecosystems (P267.7 million); clean air (P111.6 million); and Manila Bay cleanup (P80 million).

Under its proposed 2019 budget, the DENR allocates P4.08 billion for its line agencies, namely Environmental Management Bureau (P2.65 billion) and Mines and Geosciences Bureau (P1.43 billion).

The proposed allocation for the DENR’s four staff bureaus are as follows: Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (P364.4 million); Forest Management Bureau (P271.57 million); Land Management Bureau (P173.42 million); and Biodiversity Management Bureau (P292.77 million).

For its attached agencies, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, the National Water Resource Board and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development have a proposed allocation of P1.41 billion, P152 million and P127 million, respectively. ### 

  

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