Year 2015 has come and gone and the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) has undeniably made the most of it!
Last year was definitely a success as the PCSD Staff managed to review the impacts of R.A 7611 or the Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) for Palawan Act. Numerous remarkable achievements were also recorded in the implementation of sustainable development policy and regulation services. The PCSDS also conducted workshops and fora related to the protection of Palawan’s exquisitely unique and fragile environment.
And here’s a run-down of what the PCSDS had accomplished.
SEP Implementation Reviewed
SEP Law has not been reviewed since its enactment in June 1992, and not until it marked its 23rd anniversary in 2015, with the facilitation of the SEP Implementation Review Workshop on May 6-7.
Based on the outputs from the Roundtable Discussions (RTD) conducted, the stakeholders’ perception of PCSD and the SEP remains positive in spite of the issues it currently faces.
But there were also negative observations identified during the workshop, such as: (1) PCSD’s “highly-politicized decision-making process”; (2) its “slow and efficient” clearance and permitting system; (3) its perceived “too much power, mandate and functions”; (4) its “missed opportunity to play an ‘integrative’ and ‘facilitative’ role in empowering local governments and communities”; and (5) its perceived failure to effectively communicate the law’s goals and values to the different sectors and communities.
Most of the participants have observed that these factors have adversely affected the SD framework of the province’s development, the pace of its implementation at local government level, and the faith of the people on the Council, consequently on its staff and on the core philosophy it promotes.
Nonetheless, an assessment such as this is a welcomed development inasmuch as an avenue for the stakeholders to evaluate the institution’s hits and misses throughout the course of its operation, will always redound to its benefit.
Integration of ECAN into the CLUPs
AS PART of the PCSD’s mandate to mainstream Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN), its Staff has been assisting the LGUs in Palawan in incorporating the ECAN into the latter’s respective Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs). Of the 23 towns in Palawan, the municipality of San Vicente was the first to complete its CLUP.
And with the expansion of development undertakings across the province, there is indeed a dire need to fast-track the integration of ECAN into the other LGUs CLUP. Thus, in 2015, the northern towns of El Nido, Taytay and Roxas were selected to continue the integration, through the respective ECAN Resource Management Plan (ERMPs) developed for each of the municipality. These plans were formulated in coordination with the local government units and assistance of interns from the University of the Philippines Los Baños – College of Human and Ecology.
This integration aims to ensure the conformity of all local development plans and projects with the SEP framework, in compliance to the mandate of the SEP Law compelling both local and national government agencies in Palawan to realign their policies, projects and programs to the realization of SEP’s goals and objectives.
Related to this, a guidebook entitled “Mainstreaming Environmentally Critical Areas Network (ECAN) in the Local Land Use Planning System: Framework and Methods’ was drafted to walk through the ECAN Board members and LGU officials on the process of ECAN mainstreaming.
Caves Act Implementation
Caves are not just caves. They are more than just magnificent stalagmites and stalactites and bats! As you may know, caves are an integral part of our ecosystem as they serve as habitat of unique, rare, endangered and even unknown species of plants and animals.
Think about paleontological values and you may have caves in mind. Considered as culturally, archaeologically, historically and spiritually significant areas, caves contain fossils such as the preserved remains of prehistoric people, plants and animals that tell us nearly all we know about the history of life on Earth.
As the leading agency tasked to implement the Caves Act of 2001 in Palawan, the PCSD has since spearheaded the management, protection and conservation of caves in the province.
Towards this end, it undertakes what is referred to as classification. This is the process of assessing and determining appropriate sustainable use of caves with due consideration to biodiversity, archaeological, historical, cultural and potential socioeconomic values.
Of the 94 identified caves in Palawan, 23 are already classified as of 2015 by the PCSDS Cave Assessment Team. Of these, a total of 15 caves found in the towns of Cuyo, Cagayancillo, Taytay, Quezon, Bataraza and City of Puerto Princesa are classified as Class 3, while a total of eight caves located in Busuanga, Cagayancillo, Taytay, Rizal, Bataraza and Puerto Princesa are classified as Class 2.
This process is thoroughly outlined in PCSD Administrative Order No. 03-08 Implementing PCSD Resolution No. 03-217, Adopting and Revising the DENR Rules and Regulations of the National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act as Applicable in the Province of Palawan, and PCSD Manual on Cave Classification.
Overwhelming Figures in Regulation Services
Now let’s talk about figures and how PCSD overwhelmingly nailed it.
Being also a regulatory organization, the PCSD issues various permits and clearances to stakeholders/clients. In 2015, the PCSD Permitting Unit, along with the District Management Offices (DMOs) of Northern, Southern, Central Palawan and Calamianes, processed and issued up to 5,937 permits and clearances. These figures comprise of 199 SEP Clearances, 5,467 wildlife related permits, 67 cave permits and 204 chainsaw related permits.
When it comes to SEP compliance monitoring, our four DMOs visited 178 establishments and facilities. Along with the PCSD Permitting Unit, they also conducted 4,499 inspections of wildlife, wildlife by-products and wildlife derivatives, prior to issuance of local transport permits (LTPs).
The PCSD also continually ensures that violators of environmental laws are held liable. Last year, the PCSD Enforcement team filed 65 legal cases, consisting of 25 administrative cases filed before the PCSD Adjudication Board (PAB), and 40 criminal cases filed before the regular courts.
Foreign-Assisted, Special Projects
In 2015, many foreign-assisted and special projects were realized through PCSD.
The PCSDS and LGU Balabac signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the implementation and collaboration of JFPR Grant 9160. Sponsored by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR) through the Asian Development Bank (ADB), it’s a 4-year project which aims to raise incomes in poor coastal communities in Balabac, Palawan, by pilot-testing support mechanisms for sustainable livelihoods.
In El Nido town, the Capturing Coral Reef and Related Ecosystem Services (CCRES) Project has been rolling out. CCRES is a four-year project (2015-2018) assisting the community to capture the value of services provided by the coastal ecosystems.
The CCRES Project is being initiated by the University of Queensland (Australia), in collaboration with PCSD, Global Environmental Facility (GEF), World Bank, University of the Philippines and De La Salle University.
On the other hand, the PCSDS assisted in the development of ecosystem accounts for Palawan on the following sectors: (1) tourism, (2) fishery production, (3) major food crops and high value crops production, and (4) water provisioning service.
This is part of the Philippine Wealth Accounting for the Valuation of Ecosystems Services (Phil-WAVES), a World Bank-funded project that aims to promote sustainable development through the implementation of wealth accounting that focuses on the value of natural capital and on integrating Natural Capital Accounting in the development planning and policy analyses.
On its second phase of implementation, the Zero Carbon Resorts (ZCR) Project conducted the ZCR for Sustainable Tourism – Reduce Training Course at the Mapua Institute of Technology, Manila. It was followed by the ZCR for Sustainable Tourim – Replace and Redesign training at Palawan Sustainable Development Training Institute, Bgy Irawan, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.
ZCR Briefing and Sharing Sessions were also conducted in Puerto Princesa City as well as in the municipalities of Coron, San Vicente and El Nido. During these sessions, 150 small and medium-size enterprises were recruited by the project team.
Edible Birds’ Nest Forum
The Edible Birds’ Nests (EBN), a wildlife derivative formed from the saliva of swiftlets, has been regarded as a delicacy across the Asian continent for centuries.
No wonder there’s a rise in demand for these nests. This demand from consumers, in turn, has stirred great competition among collectors and traders, prompting frequent and increased harvesting of EBN. And, consequently, it has put pressure to the swiftlet population.
Acknowledging this growing predicament, the EBN Forum was conducted on August 17 to ensure the sustainable management of these nests through discussion of issues relative to the biology, ecology, trading and governance of EBN, and formulation of strategic interventions to address identified issues and gaps. The outcome of this forum will be used to formulate policies that will efficiently and effectively manage our EBN resources in caves.
Forum on Resilient Seas
The two-day forum, entitled “Resilient Seas for an Ensured Future: A Stakeholders Workshop on Putting Knowledge into Action for Palawan Coastal/Marine Areas,” was held on August 18-19.
It was conducted to identify and locate the completed, ongoing and piped-line researches, projects and programs on Coastal/Marine Areas in Palawan, as well as to point out the gaps based on the Palawan Sustainable Development Strategy and Action Plan (PSDSAP) agenda.
Results of the activity were the following outputs: (1) Compilation of the Coastal/Marine Areas (CMA) initiatives and concentration area map for Palawan; (2) Palawan CMA 5-year Medium Term Road Map (2016-2020) based on identified gaps using PSDSAP as a baseline; (3) Validated Palawan MPA efforts database; (4) PCSD adoptable Palawan MPA Network Plan; and (4) Palawan CMA situation briefer to be reported to UNESCO for its Man and Biosphere Programme.
In relation to the 23rd Anniversary of the RA 7611, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between South Korea’s Asia Climate Change Education Center (ACCEC), represented by its head, Dr. Dai-Yeun Jeong, and Philippines’ PCSD, represented by Gov. Jose Ch. Alvarez on June 19.
The two organizations committed to undertake collaborative activities, specifically on: (1) undertaking education and/or training for cultivating experts of sustainable development, focusing on the issues related to society, economy and environment; (2) Organizing and/or convening workshops necessary for improving the capacity related to society, economy and environment; and (3) conducting joint research on the issues related to society, economy and environment.
A Memorandum of Understanding for sisterhood agreement was also signed on October 6 between the Jeju Island Biosphere Reserve (JIBR), represented by Dir. Young-Hoan Yang, and the PCSD, represented by Gov. Alvarez.
Mainstreaming Gender and Development
Women are perceived as the “weaker sex.” Our society has since ingrained this concept into the mentality of both men and women. Though opportunities for women are opening up in different working fields in the recent years, they are still considered a minority, most especially in the political and decision-making levels.
In line with the National Women’s Month and its theme “Juana, Desisyon Mo ay Mahalaga sa Kinabukasan ng Bawat Isa, Ikaw Na!” the PCSDS conducted a Gender and Development (GAD) Orientation to inform the PCSD Staff about the GAD program and the laws pertaining to it.
As women continue to face a lot of issues in our society, including violence and discrimination, it is necessary to incorporate GAD and its enabling laws, it such as Republic Act 9262 or Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act (VAWC) and the Magna Carta for Women, in the general workplace policy through implementing gender sensitive projects and activities in order to enhance the understanding of the basic concepts and issues on gender equality and mainstreaming it at the workplace.
The PCSDS believes that gender awareness and responsiveness are key foundations in alleviating gender bias, to the ultimate end that women may come in equal footing with respect to participation in the formulation, implementation, and evaluation of policies, plans, and programs for national, regional, and local development.