The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is tapping the power of mobile technology to expand conservation efforts in protected areas (PAs) across the country.
On Thursday, the department launched a web-based mobile application—Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System (LFBPS)—that would provide accurate information about the status of PAs covered by Republic Act No. 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act.
The app would enable park rangers and planners to access critical information in real time and share information about what they find in the field. This would allow wildlife authorities speedy access to information on hundreds of protected species and resources which they can use in identifying and prosecuting wildlife crime.
“Technology and its applications, like the LFBPS, will surely allow us to cope with the different challenges the environment faces. We see it as a way for us to come up with better ways to reverse environmental degradation and biodiversity loss, and at a faster pace,” DENR Secretary Ramon Paje said.
The app is one way of facilitating the country’s wildlife conservation efforts.
The initial test of the mobile app was held at the Fuyot Spring National Park (FSNP) in Ilagan City, Isabela, one of the local government units that overlap with the 360,000-hectare Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP), the largest protected area in the country.
The launch was led by DENR Undersecretary for Field Operations Demetrio Ignacio and Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy, who also witnessed the signing of the guidelines and mechanics for the national adoption of the project by Forest Management Bureau Director Ricardo Calderon and Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Mundita Lim.
Project Lawin was developed by the DENR and the Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
It aims to improve the response mechanisms to address observed threats, and ensures the sustainability of conservation efforts inside protected areas for the long-term. Local communities actively support the monitoring and enforcement of wildlife laws, especially in areas that are considered hotspots for timber and wildlife poaching.
Pilot testing of the project started in 2015 in FSPN and B+WISER project sites, covering 442,000 hectares.
The other pilot sites were NSMNP in Region 2; Kaliwa-Upper Marikina Watersheds in Tanay, Rizal and General Nakar in Quezon province; Naujan Lake National Park in Oriental Mindoro; Quinali “A” Watershed in Albay; Bago Watershed Forest Reserve in Negros Occidental; Mt. Kitanglad Natural Park in Bukidnon; and Mt. Apo Natural Park in Southern Mindanao.
At least 670 wildlife workers, consisting of resource and data managers, and community monitors who are mostly indigenous peoples, were trained during the tests.
The system operates a web-based, open-source software called “CyberTracker” for data collection interface, and the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for data analysis, mapping, and report generation.
Data can be transferred to Google maps and other tools for creation of actionable reports, which facilitate decision-making. Decision-makers at the regional and national level could easily access Lawin patrol reports generated at the field level.
During tests, the system was effective in spotting the trends and patterns of wildlife species using Geographical Information System.
The system was also helpful in enabling wildlife patrol rangers —mostly community volunteers —to quickly alert wildlife officers of recent clearing of wooded areas, and allows them to upload observations and photos of signs of illegal logging as evidence.
The evidence are sent to concerned law enforcement agencies.