Homecoming and conservation

After almost two decades of staying in Metro Manila, I finally decided to return home to Negros Occidental on February 11, and this is for good, I think. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought numerous changes in our lives, and I for one had also been affected. For the first time last year I could not travel, and my work-related activities were confined to online meetings and other computer-based jobs, although quite minimal compared to the pre-pandemic days.

Since I started my path as an independent professional in 2003, my assignments in various conservation projects and other initiatives involved intensive travels and interacting with people of different socio-cultural, economic and educational backgrounds in various parts of the country, and to a certain extent in other countries. To be “locked down” for more than a year in Metro Manila was really upsetting and depressing.

Aside from the outbreak of the pandemic, the military coup d’état in Myanmar prevented me from travelling to that country where I was engaged by the World Wildlife Fund as a landscape planning specialist in the Tanintharyi Region since October 2018. The situation in Metro Manila, with the increasing number of COVID-cases and our isolation for over a year, made me uncomfortable and uncertain, and so all those circumstances conspired for me to decide to come home in spite of the difficulty in securing travel documents and the observance of numerous health protocols.

After I concluded this Conservation Matters in one of the Bacolod-based newspapers, I was also in hiatus as a columnist for almost eight months until I finally found its new home. Here I am on this maiden issue of Conservation Matters in DIGICAST NEGROS, and, hopefully, previous followers and readers of my column will continue supporting it in my new platform. The passion in imparting information and knowledge on biodiversity conservation and environmental protection to the general public is the key driver why I am back as a columnist.

The other consideration is my observation that only few columnists and journalists are solely catering to biodiversity conservation. While this column may only contribute a little in the public’s awakening on environmental concerns and challenges, at least I am trying my best to do my share in making a difference in caring and saving our only planet Earth.

Although I never had ceased to participate in the overall efforts on biodiversity conservation in Negros Occidental through the years, I was glad that barely had I finished my home quarantine upon arrival here (note: my COVID-19 swab test was negative) when I received invitations for new engagements.

I was delighted with the offer of the Negros Economic Development Foundation to serve as a policy specialist for its GIZ- funded project. The assignment is interesting because it involves provision of technical assistance in the development of the implementing rules and regulations of the ordinance declaring local conservation areas in the cities of Himamaylan and Kabankalan and the municipality of Ilog in southern Negros Occidental.

This assignment is not new for me, as I authored the concept of the LCA and pioneered its implementation in the Polillo Group of Islands in Quezon province, where about 10,000 hectares of biologically important sites have been declared as LCAs by five municipalities comprising that archipelago. I am happy to note that the LCA, which had been adopted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in a national conference, in 2014, is now operational in my home province.

The other invitation I received was to assist in the preparation of a mangrove eco-park site development and management plan for Cauayan, Sipalay and Hinobaan. The offer came from the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Foundation. Just like the NEDF, this project of the PRRF is funded by the GIZ, a Germany-based company that implements projects promoting economic, ecological, and social development in the Philippines on behalf of the German government. Without a second thought, I similarly accepted the engagement, and I am pleased to work with the staff of the PRRF, several of them are familiar as well to me. The PRRF manages the famous Danjugan Island in Barangay Bulata, Cauayan.

I further thought I could even do more here in the province, as the base of the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (PhilBio), of which I am the president of its board of trustees, is here in Bacolod City. Since I am just around, I could assist in the implementation of our programs and projects, not only in Negros Occidental, but including ine PhilBio’s other priority sites in the country.

I am back with this column every Monday for a start, and who knows I could do more than once in a week in the near future. Conservation really matters, especially during these difficult and uncertain times of ours due to the pandemic caused by our neglect, abuse, and over exploitation of the natural environment, and wildlife, in particular.*

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