Country representatives of BirdLife International, the world’s largest nature conservation partnership, visited Haribon Foundation’s Forest of Hope site in Mts. Irid-Angelo located on the boundary of General Nakar and Infanta, Quezon.
Led by Philippine environmental group Haribon Foundation, BirdLife International partners from Burung Indonesia, the University of Papua New Guinea Center for International Development, and BirdLife Secretariat from Asia Region and Cambridge explored the hundred-thousand-hectare old-growth forest that is home to threatened species such as the Philippine Eagle, Luzon Bleeding Heart, Luzon Warty Pig, and Luzon Brown Deer.
Hailed as one of the most important sites for biodiversity conservation, also known as a Key Biodiversity Area or KBA, Mts. Irid-Angelo is the country’s Forest of Hope (FOH) site under the BirdLife International Partnership.
Under this global forest conservation movement, BirdLife partners aim to ensure the sustainable management of forests among 19 cities covering over 7 million hectares of forestland in Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific.
A new glimmer of hope
During the visit, Infanta Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) officer Reynaldo Avila told Haribon that he encouraged by the visit of international partners to their site.
He gave a background about the municipality’s collaboration with Haribon that started more than ten years ago.
“It is a partnership that we sealed in 2005,” shared Avila. “We began with the Golden Forest project, then the Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) and the mangrove restoration program, which is now on its third year.”
Avila told Haribon that he is looking forward to a new project with the organization that highlights the participation of non-state actors or the local community in forest monitoring, planning and policy.
“We are thankful that our engagement with Haribon will be extended with this new program coming in,” Avila said.
This five-year project funded by the European Commission seeks to strengthen the involvement of community-based and civil society organizations, private sector entities, including Indigenous Peoples communities, in working towards effective forest governance in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines.
In pursuit of stronger forestry laws, Haribon chief Belinda de la Paz stressed the importance of community knowledge in managing a locality’s natural resources. “Indigenous knowledge is central to our conservation work. Even to this day, many of our local people remain unaware of their important role in forest resource management. This brewing program aspires to fill those gaps,” said de la Paz.
Haribon Foundation’s Forest of Hope pursues the restoration of natural forests through conducting awareness-raising activities and building the capacities of communities so they are equipped to monitor forest resource use and condition, to dialogue with key decision makers and to influence forest policies.
“A project that focuses on non-state actors in forest governance is something new to us. But we are excited about this program and understand the great need for it. You have our full support,” Mayor Filipina Grace America of Infanta told her guests.
In the long run, the project intends to effectively manage forest ecosystems by strengthening the involvement of citizens in monitoring and reporting, planning processes and local and national policymaking.
Haribon Foundation is the BirdLife International partner for the Philippines.
SAM MANALASTAS/HARIBON FOUNDATION