PCSDS holds Saving Palawan’s Threatened Flora Webinar

by | May 24, 2021

The Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS), through the ECAN Education and Extension Division (EEED) and in partnership with the Energy Development Corporation for their BINHI program and Philippine Parks and Biodiversity, conducted the Saving Palawan’s Threatened Flora Webinar at 3:00-5:00 PM on May 21, 2021.

Hosted by Mark Joseph Laceste of Philippine Parks and Biodiversity, said event which was held via Zoom, was done in celebration of International Day of Biological Diversity with the theme “We are a part of the solution.” It aimed at increasing awareness of the Filipino about Philippine native trees particularly unique Palawan flora; educating people about Palawan’s Flora focusing on threatened species and environmental laws that govern them; driving conservation actions on existing challenges in our Philippine threatened trees, and creating collaborations among various stakeholders and engaging them for the protection and conservation of Palawan flora.

The webinar was participated by 98 participants from the academe, government, private sector, and civil society organizations, and other stakeholders.

The current challenges in the conservation of flora and implementation of environmental laws in Palawan, as well as some trivia of endemic flora species found in Palawan, are the interesting and relevant topics discussed in the webinar.

The esteemed resource speakers who shared thought-provoking and valuable insights on the aforementioned topics are Forester Pastor “Pat” Malabrigo from UPLB College of Forestry & Natural Resources, Executive Director Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante of Philippine Taxonomic Initiative, and Mr. Michael Eugene Venturillo of PCSDS- Species Habitat Section.

Philippine Parks and Biodiversity Managing Director Nelia Lomotan provided a brief background of the webinar and emphasized that when people collaborate, a stronger impact is achieved and goals are attained as we are all a part of the solution for nature.

Initiating the momentum for Palawan’s Flora conservation awareness, Mr. Michael Eugene Venturillo of PCSDS-Species Habitat Section discussed the current threats and challenges in the conservation of Palawan’s flora and environmental laws surrounding these threats. He discussed the major threats to Flora Diversity which include the following: a) Habitat Loss; b) Fragmentation and Degradation; c) Overexploitation; d) Invasive Alien Species; e) Pollution; and g) Anthropogenic climate change. The policies and laws on habitat fragmentation and degradation, Flora collection and trading, invasive alien species, and pollution in the Philippines were also mentioned in such discussion.

Philippine Taxonomic Initiative Inc. Executive Director Rene Alfred Anton Bustamante’s discussion on the other important flora in Palawan and actions for conservation followed shortly. He shared about their projects in Palawan which include the biodiversity of the limestone karst formations of north and north-central Palawan and phytogeography of ultramafic peaks in central Palawan.

He stressed that conservation means protecting species from extinction by protecting their habitats during his discussion on taxonomy and conservation. He pointed out the importance of identifying plants as they are the source of food and medicine, the foundation of forests ecosystems and they have a high risk of extinction and many of them remain unknown. “You cannot protect what you don’t know,” he elucidated.

He also shared the following activities being undertaken by the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative Inc.: a) exploring the remaining forest areas of the Philippines; b) describing species of plants that are new to science; c) introducing the Philippine flora through outreach in social media; d) collaborating with universities, other institutions, and researchers; e) extending help in formulating policies and suggesting programs concerning the conservation of threatened plant species, and f) mentoring and guiding amateur and young botanists in doing research and publication.

Some of the plant species found in Montane Forest, Ultramafic Forest, Tropical Lowland Evergreen and Semi-Deciduous Rainforest, Beach Forest, Limestone Forest as well as the recent discoveries of plant species in Palawan which include 𝘔𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘢 𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘰𝘭𝘢, 𝘉𝘦𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘢 𝘤𝘢𝘣𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘪𝘪, 𝘉𝘦𝘨𝘰𝘯𝘪𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘶𝘯𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘢, 𝘊𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘣𝘢𝘴 𝘤𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘴,etc., were also revealed to the online participants through his presentation.

He concluded his presentation with their organization’s recommendations concerning actions for conservation which include the following: supporting biodiversity research, supporting ex-situ conservation projects, strengthening law enforcement against poachers, illegal loggers, etc., raising the cause of the remaining pristine forests of Palawan to be included as protected areas, promoting and popularizing biodiversity education and reaching out to the community especially the indigenous people, and advocating for the implementation of Science-based approach in the management of the protected areas.

UPLB College of Forestry & Natural Resources Associate Professor and Internationally recognized plant taxonomist Pastor “Pat” Malabrigo, Jr., who co-authored Biodiversity Assessment and Monitoring System for Terrestrial Ecosystems book, which serves as the national standard for all protected areas in the country, then discussed some of the conservation initiatives of the program of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) for the protection and conservation of the threatened species of trees in Palawan.

He shared that information on faunal and marine biodiversity, including endemism, seems to be complete but when it comes to terrestrial plants, there is a lack or little available information. He emphasized that many of the unique threatened trees in Palawan have never been documented since the day of discovery and worse many people in the province don’t know that such trees even exist. With his work on the Global Tree Assessment project, he explained that they always deal with the diversity and endemism of the Philippine native trees. Their group developed their database by collating all available information of Philippine trees from the very old book published editions to herbarium records and reliable online sources. Based on their database, 1487 tree species are endemic to the Philippines. There are also 621 native trees and 57 endemic trees in Palawan which is a testament to the uniqueness of Palawan flora.

According to him, the first phase of the BINHI program, which was launched in 2008 included 96 priority threatened trees with 20 species native to Palawan and one Palawan endemic, and 3 Bornean affiliated.

In his presentation, he highlighted the Palawan Mangkono (𝘟𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘴𝘰𝘴 Merr.) which is Palawan’s endemic tree. He stressed out that Mangkono was misidentified in many available works of literature. He also shared stories of their research, population survey and documentation of Manggis (𝘒𝘰𝘰𝘮𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘢 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘢 (Becc.) Taub. (1891), Palawan narig (𝘝𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘢 𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘢𝘤𝘩𝘢𝘱𝘰𝘪 Blanco ssp. 𝘰𝘣𝘵𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘧𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘢 (Elmer) Ashton. (1978)), and Narig laot (𝘝𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘢 𝘮𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘢 Slooten (1942)).

According to him, EDC expanded its MOA with Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) to include population survey toward the conservation of the population of the tree species in the wild, as well as include in-situ conservation, after their documentation of the 96 Priority threatened tree species. In their latest population survey, Palawan Mangkonos were found out to be the most abundant trees in the province. The Palawan Mangkono is abundant in Coron, Rio Tuba, Narra, Puerto Princesa, and the islands of El Nido. With their BINHI exploration, they realized that some of the proclaimed threatened species are abundant in the wild. They just simply lack survey and documentation.

He shared that in the EDC- Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI)Global Tree Assessment of Philippine Endemic Trees, the assessment of 800 Philippine endemic trees was completed with 587 species published in the IUCN red list (2021-1), and 213 species expected to come out in September.

Moreover, he explained that EDC’s mantra now is to become regenerative so they have BINHI 3.0: a more regenerative program with a new set of priorities. According to him, EDC now prioritizes the Critically Endangered and Endemic tree species based on their global tree assessment project in the IUCN and that a total of 49 Critically Endangered species make up the new priority species. EDC has initially selected four provinces with the greatest number of critically endangered species which include Palawan, Davao, Samar, and Ilocos.

Assistant Vice President and EDC’s Corporate Social Responsibility-Public Relations head Atty. Allan V. Barcena concluded the webinar commending the PCSD, the Philippine Parks and Biodiversity, and the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative Inc., their allies in conservation advocacies, for the conduct of the worthwhile webinar. He stressed out that we are all part of the solution as our awareness of the conservation status of Palawan’s Flora will lead to appreciation and appreciation will lead to conservation of Palawan’s Flora.