The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is hosting a conference that aims to strengthen efforts toward sustainability of protected areas (PAs) in the country.

The agency will bring together some 200 protected area managers and stakeholders from local government units, indigenous communities and civil society for the conference to be held from April 26 to 28 in Mandaluyong City.

This will be the second time the DENR holds a conference devoted to PA management. The first one took place in Davao City in 2001 when the participants focused on building lessons from past experiences in the field to serve as guide in improving PA management.

For this year, the meeting seeks to discuss new paradigms and good practices, as well as strengthen partnerships for more effective management of species and their habitats within PAs and to improve the livelihoods of rural communities.

The 2nd PA Conference is being organized by the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and will carry the theme, “Sustaining Ecosystems Services and Benefits from Protected Areas.”

The conference is seen as an opportunity to review the implementation of Republic Act No. 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act, while emphasizing the role of PAs in providing and sustaining ecosystem services and benefits.

The highlight of the conference is the launching of the “Guidebook to Protected Areas in the Philippines” by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje and Senator Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Climate Change Committee.

The confab will be divided into three plenary sessions, with each session having two breakout sessions.

The first plenary session, which will be chaired by BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim and ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Roberto Oliva, will be on harnessing the benefits of PAs. The economic aspects of PAs will be discussed, including sustainable tourism.

The second plenary session will be on enhancing PA governance, with topics on inclusion of PA management in academic curriculum, public-private partnerships, integrating ecosystem management, and initiatives in biodiversity conservation. The session will be chaired by Clarissa Arida of the ACB’s Programme Development and Implementation, and Rodolfo Ferdinand Quicho Jr. of the Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Programme in the Philippines.

Improving advocacy and enforcement in PAs will be the focus of the third plenary session, which will be chaired by Tanggol Kalikasan’s Atty. Maria Paz Luna and Atty. Maria Generosa Mislang. Legal experts will discuss issues and challenges in PA law enforcement, including implementation of rules of procedure for environmental cases.

Since the last conference, PA management in the Philippines has undergone several developments, among which are the country’s commitments to various international agreements; recognition of the increasing role of indigenous and local communities in conservation areas; and climate change adaptation and mitigation. ###