Upland farmers use cost-efficient technology to reforest grassland area in Zambales

A group of upland farmers has helped the government in bringing back trees in a portion of grassland ecosystem in Zambales using cost-efficient way and by enhancing the establishment of second-growth forest, environment officials here revealed. 

Arthur Salazar, deputy director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office, said the Malatapi Community Livelihood Center, Incorporated (MCLCI) in Candelaria, Zambales, a people’s organization (PO) and beneficiary of the DENR’s community-based forest management program (CBFMP) has managed to reforest a total of 60-hectare grassland portion of their CBFMP area without planting any seedlings or additional cost from the DENR but through assisted natural regeneration (ANR). 

“What these upland farmers did is to find surviving tree species or seedlings including wildlings in the grassland area, then, they uprooted the grass around the tree, combined with grass pressing by foot to clear the surrounding of the tree species from weeds. This method of forest restoration is technically called as ANR,” he explained. 

He said ANR is a cost-efficient technology of rehabilitating degraded forest land and shrub vegetation by taking advantage of trees already growing in the area, and by protecting and nurturing it. 

“They have protected the tree species from grass fire and grazing by establishing fire lines or fire breaks to make sure its survival. They have also constructed look-out tower for regular monitoring against any forest disturbance,” he said. 

According to Minerva Martinez, chief of the conservation and development division (CDD) of DENR, the MCLCI have already replaced cogon (Imperata cylindrical) and talahib (Saccharum spontaneum) vegetation in their area with surviving indigenous forest tree species.

She said some of the tree species that have been released from grass and are now vigorously thriving in their area are alingogon (Cratoxylum formussom), tagpo (Ardisia squamulosa), salagong liitan Wikstroemia indica), kahoy dalaga (Mussaenda anisophylla), puso puso (Litsea sp.), molaveng aso or alagao bundok (Premna integrifolia), bitaoy bakil (Callophyllum pentapetalum), batno (Alstonia macrophylla), kahoy dalaga (mussaenda anisophylla), molave (Vitex parviflora) and pandakaking gubat (Tabernae-montana sp.).

Paquito Moreno, Jr., executive director of DENR Central Luzon said ANR is a technology being promoted by the Association of South East Asian Nation- Republic of Korea (ASEAN- ROK) Forest Cooperation Organization or AFoCO to fast-track the restoration of degraded forest lands and watershed with less cost to the government.

“This AFoCO project in Zambales is only one of the demonstrations of ANR technology. It is also being applied in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Singapore to improve the ASEAN region’s forest,” he said. 

He said the four-year project, which was started in 2016, has provided MCLCI with various skills training on ANR application, forest development, landscape restoration, and vulnerability assessment.

Recently, 16 international delegates from Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Korea have visited the ANR area of MCLCI in Zambales to observe the successful implementation of the technology, exchanged best practices and experiences in forest restoration, Salazar added. 

MCLCI is composed of 35 members and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since 1997, and a CBFM program beneficiary of DENR, managing more than 1,400 hectares of forestland.

AFoCO was first proposed by the Republic of Korea in June 2009 and was formally established in November 2011 with Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam as member countries.

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News

June 4 to 10 of every year is Philippine Eagle Week

AGAWID: THE UNTOLD STORY

Sighting for the birds of prey

For decade wildlife experts and biologists of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Luzon have been monitoring the vast and diverse mountain ranges of Sierra Madre in the portion of Nueva Ecija and Aurora to confirm the presence of Philippine Eagle. Wildlife officers have been tracking down this birds of prey and were unfortunate to confirm its existence in the area.

In 2000, local communities have observed this raptor flying in the clear sky, probably hunting for its food. But they are unsure of its true identity. However, this sighting further gave hope to conservationists to continue its quest in probing the existence of Philippine eagle in the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre.

According to literature, Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) is the world's largest eagle. Sadly, it is also one of the endangered species in the country. Standing at three feet tall and with a wingspan of seven feet, it is no doubt that the Philippine eagle is truly king among the great birds of prey.

The Philippine eagle can live to between 30 and 60 years of age. It feeds mainly on flying lemurs, palm civets and monkeys, hence the alternative common name of 'monkey-eating eagle'. Other prey items include rats, snakes, flying squirrels, birds and bats.

This species is endemic to the Philippines and found on parts of the larger islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao

A rescued raptor

Hope never fails. Sometime on June 2016, an upland farmer found a juvenile eagle trapped in a snare or “silo” that was used in catching monkey inside the Aurora Memorial National Park (AMNP). The wildlife sustained no serious injuries in the ordeal.

The raptor was immediately turned-over to the DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) based in Dingalan and was transferred to the custody of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) where it was cared for until its release into the wild. It was estimated that the eagle is just three years old.

The bird’s existence finally confirmed the presence of this critically endangered species in the Sierra Madre mountain range, a truly pride of Central Luzon.

Life in captivity

Agawid was placed in custody at the DENR Wildlife Rescue Center in Quezon City where the young eagle undergoes treatment and care. Agawid was placed in an eagle dome cage to prevent any human interaction. It was 17 months in captivity.

On May 2017, Agawid was transferred to a hack cage and brought back to a forest area in the national park of Aurora. The eagle undergoes a six month hacking process to ensure his survival and adaptive capacity in the wild.

Return to the wild

After more than a year of captivity, the young female Philippine eagle was released into the wild on October 4, 2017 in the forests area of AMNP. The released was historic and symbolic as it coincides with the confirmation of Secretary Roy. A Cimatu.

The spectacular eagle weighs approximately 5.31 kilograms just before its release. The eagle was named “Agawid,” an Ilocano word meaning “go home”. The eagle was able to return successfully to its natural habitat. It has been fitted with harnessed with radio transmitter to help DENR authorities monitor the eagle’s activities.

On April 2018, DENR Aurora and BMB conducted a re-trapping and monitoring of the young Agawid to check its health condition.

Today, Agawid is learning to hunt and survive in the wild. There are times that the young eagle return back to the community to hunt pets and other domesticated animal as an easy prey.

Portion of AMNP along the highway in Barangay Villa Maria in Maria Aurora town has been a favorite spot for many tourists as they enjoy a closer look of Agawid alights in the tree tops of tall dipterocarp trees in search for prey.

Agawid is being closely monitored to protect against illegal hunters and poachers. The eagle is a true symbol of the Filipino and crown jewel of Philippine biodiversity.

Let us protect Agawid and its habitat.

It is our country’s national bird, a beacon of hope and barometer of our ecosystem.

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