Following earlier discussions on how to transform or retool the National Committee on Marine Sciences (NCMS) which had been lodged at PH NatCom for over 50 years into a more current and relevant body, efforts were taken to have the former NCMS network more fully engaged in supporting a related UNESCO science programme:the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme.
UNESCO-MAB is an intergovernmental and interdisciplinary scientific programme aimed at ensuring a balanced relationship between people and the environment.MAB’s research and capacity building activities in related fields of ecology and ecosystems management are meant to address socio-economic/development threats to biodiversity, as well as other causes of biodiversity loss (e.g., as climate change).
The MAB programme is implemented on the ground through the establishment of Biosphere Reserves (BRs) by countries, and recognized by UNESCO MAB as promoting sustainable development through community efforts and sound science.Even as the Philippines signed the Convention on Biological Diversity more than 20 years ago on 12 June 1992, the Philippines has only two UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves to date:Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro which was designated as such in 1977, and Palawan, in 1990.Recognizing that many other places in the Philippines are worthy of a UNESCO BR designation, the Science and Technology Committee has lent its support to MAB-related initiatives in the country and the wider Asia Pacific region, with the view of increasing the number of Philippine UNESCO BRs in the future.
Palawan Hosts the 4th World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves
On 16-21 June 2014, the Province of Palawan in partnership with the Palawan State University and the Western Philippines University hosted the 4th Meeting of the World Network of Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves that had for its theme “Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves under the Impact of Natural Disasters.” The meeting was jointly organized by UNESCO’s MAB Programme, the Jeju Island Biosphere Reserve (South Korea) which acts as a focal point for BR climate change issues, the Menorca Biosphere Reserve (Spain) which specializes in promoting sustainable development in small BRs, and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), site manager of Palawan BR. No less than Dr. Miguel Clusener-Godt from the Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences of UNESCO’s MAB Programme served as overall coordinator for the 4th meeting of the global Network.
The meeting participants/delegates consisted of the site managers of 26 UNESCO BRs from 19 countries that included Australia, Chile, China, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Rep. of Korea, Maldives, Mauritius, Philippines, Portugal, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Spain, Sweden and Yemen.
Participants of the 4th Meeting of the Island and Coastal Biosphere Reserves Network (ICBRN) held in Palawan, Philippines on 16-21 June 2014. Seated from L to R are: representatives of Jeju Island BR (1st to 4th); Puerto Princesa Mayor Luciolo Bayron (5th); PCSD Executive Director Nelson Devanadera (6th), Mr. Clusener-Godt of MAB UNESCO, Paris (7th); NatCom Secretary-General Dr. Virginia Miralao (8th); and representatives of Menorca BR (9th to 12th)
The meeting highlighted the main challenges and threats facing island and coastal BRs, among them, climate change, water, energy and food sufficiency issues, natural disasters, and waste management. Participants shared lessons and experiences on how their BRs addressed specific problems and the above issues. It was recognized that each BR has its own uniqueness, fragility, abundance of biodiversity, and level of vulnerability to global warming and overdevelopment.
On the final day of the meeting, the participants committed themselves to future collaborative work in the conduct of training courses/programs, the sharing of current and completed research, the preparation of a casebook containing the wide range of BR information and experiences presented at the Palawan meeting, and the organization of the next (5th) Meeting of the Network.
The success of the Network’s meeting in Palawan owes in no small measure to the active participation of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, led by Executive Director Nelson P. Devanadera, Mr. John A. Pontillas and Mr. Alex Marcaida, in the meeting discussions.Palawan Provincial Governor Jose Chaves Alvarez and Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron warmly welcomed foreign and local guests with dinners and cultural fests.
Philippines Joins a Series of UNESCO-MAB Meetings in Siem Reap, Cambodia
On the invitation of UNESCO Jakarta, four Philippines representatives—Ms. Lindsay Barrientos and Mr. Freddie Blanco of PH NatCom, Mr. Medrono P. Cabrestante, Jr. of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, and Prof. Thomas Edison E. dela Cruz of the University of Santo Tomas, and MAB Young Scientist Awardee – attended a series of MAB meetings on 15-19 December in Siem Reap, Cambodia. These meetings were the 8th Meeting of the South East Asia Biosphere Reserves Network (SeaBRnet); the 2nd Asia Pacific Biosphere Reserve Network (APBRN) Strategic Meeting; and the Asia-Pacific Workshop on Strengthening Capacity for Management of Biosphere Reserves and Protected Areas.
The meetings were jointly organized by UNESCO Jakarta, the UNESCO Field Offices in Phnom Penh and Beijing, and the Ministry of Environment of the Kingdom of Cambodia. The meetings also benefited from the generous support of the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and the Japanese Funds-in-Trust. The meetings gathered 44 international participants from South East Asia and the Asia-Pacific Region and 40 from Cambodia.
The 8th SeaBRnet Meeting had for its theme “Biosphere Reserves as places for Sustainable Development through Ecotourism and Eco-labeling;” while the APBRN Meeting discussed how Biosphere Reserves can serve as “Models for Alleviating Poverty through Ecosystems Services.” The Asia-Pacific workshop on Strengthening Capacity for Management of Biosphere Reserves and Protected Areas focused on environmental law, ecotourism, zonation, communication, social capital, and other community- based learning activities. The meetings also included field trips to Prek Toal in Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve and the Angkor World Heritage Site to demonstrate how the integration of Biosphere Reserves and Water Resources Management work to protect and enhance Siem Reap communities and their natural and cultural heritage.
Meeting participants during a field visit to Angkor World Heritage Site, Siem Reap, Cambodia