DENR launches Philippine component of invasive alien species project

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) launched today (Jan. 9) the Philippine component of an internationally-funded project on invasive alien species (IAS).

The project, entitled “Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in the Production and Protection Forests in Southeast Asia” is funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), with the DENR-Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) as the implementing agency in the Philippines.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje welcomed the project, saying it would “enhance the skills and know-how of our forest workers in reducing the negative effects of IAS in our forests and agricultural areas.”

“There is a need for us to protect our existing forest ecosystems and agricultural areas from species that have a tendency to compete unsustainably for nutrients, thereby threatening the forest’s capacity to support itself and be productive,” he said.

The threat to the production capacity of forests would directly affect animals and other plants living with them, and indirectly threaten the lives of people who depend on them for food, commodity and livelihood, the environment chief added.

Invasive alien species are introduced into an area where they do not naturally occur, and which are likely to cause economic or ecological harm to the natural environment. Some species have also been found to pose hazards to human health. Next to habitat destruction, IAS is the biggest threat to biodiversity.

The Philippines is one of four Southeast Asian countries selected for the project, the other countries being Cambodia, Indonesia and Vietnam. Pilot demonstration area for the Philippines would be in the Allah Valley Watershed Forest Reserve (AWFR) in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, where the priority IAS identified for management is the buyo-buyo (Piper aduncum).

Buyo-buyo is a shrub known to be highly aggressive. It has been linked not only to the degradation of natural forests, and also found to suppress natural regeneration of forests in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In fact, it was found to have already invaded and colonized vacant agricultural areas, and in gaps within natural forests in the AWFR. It has also invaded banana and cassava plantation, and has become a dominant species in regenerating natural forests in the pilot site.

The local implementation of the project would see partnerships with local communities in managing the buyo-buyo with techniques in weed management, appropriate biological control, and habitat restoration.

The four-year project has an overall cost of US$6.8million or almost P280million, with more than US$375,000 (P15million) allotted for the Philippines. The Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International (CABI), which is based in the United Kingdom, would act as international coordinator among the pilot countries.

Other partners and donors include the participating countries’ respective governments, Philippines-based ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the UNEP Regional Office for the Asia-Pacific region. #