The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is set to launch on Monday (May 23, 2 pm) a new project that would expand the country’s terrestrial protected areas in an effort to enhance the national protected areas system while addressing biodiversity loss.

DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje, who will lead the launching at the Bulwagan Ninoy (formerly Visitor’s Center) at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, said the new project, New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), seeks not only to increase the terrestrial protected areas in the country but also to capacitate the DENR, local government units, civil society groups and local communities in the effective management of protected areas.

Also expected to grace the occassion are United Nations Development Program Portfolio Manager for Energy and Environment Amelia Supetran; Chairman Roque Agton, Jr. of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and project partners from concerned local government units, indigenous peoples groups, non-government organizations and civil society are expected to deliver their messages of support for the program. Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau Director Mundita Lim is slated to present the project brief.

According to Paje, nine key biodiversity areas have already been selected as pilot sites for the project, namely, Balbalan-Balbalasang National Park in the Cordillera Region, Zambales Mountains in Regions 1 and 3, Mts. Irid Angelo and Binuang in Region 4A, Polilio Group of Islands, also in Region 4A, Mts. Iglit Baco National Park in Region 4B, Nug as Lantoy in Region 7, Mt. Nacolod in Region 8, Mt. Hilong-hilong in Region 13, and Tawi-tawi Island in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The project will be implemented for five years by the DENR, through PAWB, with support from UNDP and the Global Environmental Facility.

The project launch is being made as part of the national celebration of International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) observed every 22nd day of May, and in line with declaration of 2011 as International Year of Forests (IYF) by the United Nations. This year’s IDBD celebration is themed “Forest Biodiversity: Earth’s Living Treasure” while the theme for IYF is “Forests for People.” Prior to the project launch, Dir. Lim, together with the wife of the late botanist Leonard Co, will lead in the inauguration of the “Leonard Co Botanical Garden,” also at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center.