By JAMES TABABA
To mark the International Day of Forests, Forest Foundation Philippines has unveiled its 2023-2026 results framework, a commitment to strengthen the bond between people and forests by forging partnerships with stakeholders. With the tagline “Enhancing Ecosystem Services and Fostering Forest-based Climate Action,” the foundation aims to respond swiftly to threats facing forests and forest-dependent communities while promoting a sustainable future for generations to come.
Forest Foundation Philippines, a non-profit organization established in 2002, has been supporting forest protection and conservation activities in the country. Under the First Tropical Forest Conservation Agreement (TFCA I), the Foundation has supported 472 projects between 2005 to 2016, resulting in the improvement of forest management in 1.5 million hectares of forest lands across the country. This effort also led to the establishment of 40 community-conserved areas and over 60 community enterprises. The Second Tropical Forest Conservation Agreement (TFCA II) enabled the Foundation to support over 300 projects focused on protecting and managing critical landscapes, resulting in the restoration of 1,243 hectares of forests and the improvement of over one million hectares of forestlands. The Foundation has also empowered 211 community-based organizations and supported 108 community-level livelihoods.
Importance and benefits of our forest
The Philippine Forest is an important ecosystem in the country, not only it provides a home for the vast wildlife, It also provides food and livelihood opportunities to approximately 25M people living in or adjacent to forest lands.
Upland tropical forests support the country’s river basins and systems that support water provisioning for agricultural and domestic use. Furthermore, healthy forests reduce the risk of climate variability and contribute to community resilience.
Coastal forests provide livelihood and strengthen resilience from marine hazards. ”Mangroves not just provide shelter for fish or for stations and other creatures in coastal and marine systems, but they also serve as buffers against strong winds against strong tides. So they helped improve the resilience of coastal communities and serve as livelihood sources of food for forest-dependent communities living within the postal zone,“ Atty. Jose Andres Canivel, the Executive Director of Forest Foundation Philippines, said.
In cities, urban forests provide infrastructure for stormwater management and air pollution abatement.
“Despite all of those benefits, unfortunately, the Philippines continues to lose most of its forests and forest cover due to both anthropogenic or man-made causes and natural causes. Current estimates put our remaining forests at 6.8 million hectares. Down from around 17 million hectares in the early 1930s,” Canivel said.
“Despite, of course, the continuing loss of forests, rather than focus on the sad realities of losing our forest, we want to double down on our efforts. In fact, we like to strengthen our work, we’d like to deepen our connection with partnering communities. We’d like to make sure that impacts are felt across sectors,” he added.
Rooting for the future
Canivel emphasized that sustainable livelihoods for forest-dependent communities are crucial not only for their daily needs but also for their long-term well-being. Furthermore, the protection of all forms of biodiversity is seen as essential not only for the survival of these species but also for human survival. He also said that planning for the future is important in order to ensure that forests can continue to exist and thrive.
The results framework is guided by a sustainable forest landscape approach. “The sustainable forest landscape approach strives to protect and manage forests for water, land and biodiversity. But with a broader scope with a broader understanding with a view of protecting forest biodiversity for forest dependent communities and for the benefit of all. We also linked the work on forest and forest conservation to climate action, something that is needed,” Canivel said.
The foundation will focus on working in the country’s most critical forest landscapes that provide important ecosystem services for regional and local economies. These include the Sierra Madre Region, Palawan, Samar and Leyte, and the Mindanao region.
Canivel said that “In these four focal landscapes, we’ll focus our impact, our support. And we hope and aim that with the projects that we support, we’ll be able to demonstrate forest conservation actions that will be felt by communities. Forest conservation actions that will have an impact as well on their lives, as well as on climate adaptation and community resilience.”
Core principles of the Results Framework 2023-2026
The Foundation aims to safeguard and sustainably manage forests for the benefit of water, land, and biodiversity, while also promoting forest-based climate action. To achieve this, the foundation will prioritize holistic decision-making, a transdisciplinary perspective, and participatory processes, and will collaborate with partners on forest-related climate action.
Canivel explains that to perform holistic decision-making, “we consider all of the actors, we consider all of the different ecosystems, we also consider all of the actions that can help conserve, manage, and protect forests. So when we talk about forest conservation, we will necessarily have to talk to not just DENR, but all of the other departments.”
“When we talk about forest conservation, we will then have to talk to farmers. We have to talk to what other people call Kaingineros because they are part of the forest ecosystem and landscape and involve them in our decisions,” he added.
Canivel also said that the transdisciplinary perspective and participatory processes involving not just the experts on forestry or forest sciences but also hydrologists, biologists, social entrepreneurs, and the private sector will all have roles to play in forest conservation.
“Of course, our actions are collaborative in nature, but linked to climate action. In the past years we’ve done forest conservation and it’s often linked to conserving particular species, establishing protected areas, making sure that we have that our systems remain intact. now we’d like to continue to do those But we now understand, of course, that those actions should be linked to reducing or mitigating carbon, providing forest adaptive related actions, and providing recipients to communities that depend on the forest. To do this, we established four target outcomes,” he added.
Four target outcomes
Forest Foundation Philippines is committed to establishing a transdisciplinary perspective in its programs. By doing so, the foundation aims to ensure collaboration among multiple disciplines and organizations to achieve the framework’s desired outcomes. The foundation’s grants will be used to fund programs that work towards four specific goals.
Firstly, through the “Grow forest” program, the Foundation seeks to promote the growth of forests through projects that restore, protect, and conserve forests and their adjacent ecosystem. These projects will be designed to ensure that these areas can sustainably meet the needs of present and future generations. The foundation’s strategy prioritizes a data-driven approach that puts sustainable forest management and nature-based solutions at the forefront of its strategy
Secondly, the Foundation aims to empower local communities through its “Grow Opportunities” program. This program will work towards improving the livelihoods of local communities and developing economic incentives. By doing so, the foundation hopes to increase the capacity of these communities to participate in forest conservation efforts.
Thirdly, the Foundation seeks to strengthen sustainable and collaborative cross-sectoral partnerships through its “Grow Partners” program. The aim of this program is to improve the management and governance of forest conservation by working in partnership with the government, private sector, and local communities.
As Canivel said, “Our work, of course, is dependent on the work of partners from Community, Local government units to mandated agencies. So we want to strengthen our partnerships for sustainable forest management. We think that building strong collaborative partners partnerships Is key to improving Management and governance in forest conservation”
Finally, the Foundation aims to develop and support projects that empower individuals, communities, and organizations to become advocates for forest protection and conservation through collaboration and knowledge sharing. This program, called “Grow Advocates,” is designed to promote and support a culture of advocacy for forest conservation across the Philippines.
“We know that in forest conservation and growing forests will likely transcend our lifetimes and also our current work, so we want to continue to grow advocates, we want young people to be empowered young people to become advocates of forest protection and conservation. We also want the rest of our stakeholders to be part of the effort to conserve forest and forest biodiversity,” Canivel said.
“We think that by providing knowledge, by tapping into passions, by tapping into the expertise of the young, those in the academe as well as researchers will be able to ensure that all the stakeholders Participate in context specific problem solving and continue their journey and their growth as forest conservation advocates,” he added.
Biodiversity and conservation
Dennis Joseph Salvador, the chairperson of the programs committee of Forest Foundation Philippines, and also the Executive Director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, has been involved in conservation efforts for 35 years with the Philippine Forest Foundation. He discussed the new results framework that opens up new opportunities for partnerships and innovative actions.
Salvador mentioned that the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor (EMBC) was highlighted as an understudied area with nine key biodiversity areas and several site endemic species. The EMBC is also an important habitat for the critically endangered Philippine Eagle, with over 15 territories recorded in the region. Governments and conservation measures are urged to provide forest governance grants, conservation grants, and training in environmental services to promote biodiversity-friendly ways of life.
Furthermore, the Misamis and Bukidnon area, also known as the Pantaron Range, was mentioned as a critical biocultural backbone of Mindanao Island. It is home to several unique species and is an important corridor for biocultural diversity. However, the forest is continually undermined, with a net forest loss of 12,100 hectares in the past two decades and 567 hectares lost in 2021 alone. The Pantaron Range is also a vital water source, supplying 42% of Mindanao’s water needs, and a carbon sink with 78 million tons of carbon stored within its ancient forest.
However, “direct threats to forest ecosystems remain to be agriculture. That involves farms and plantations, unregulated and unsustainable biological resources used, which include logging, wood harvesting, wildlife hunting and trapping, poaching and accidental trappings. Human infusions and disturbances in areas where these species breed,” Salvador said.
“Interventions to address the issues may involve policy enforcement, site management, restoration focus, species research and management, indigenous policies strengthening and implementation law enforcement, and finally livelihood economic incentives to motivate local participation and change Behavior and attitudes amongst our people,” he added.
Call to action
Canivel encourages everyone to act, “given the alarming rates of deforestation, forest degradation, and the continuing threats posed by the client by climate change and natural disasters, we would like to issue this call to action. We’d like to ask those who are interested in contributing solutions towards forests, towards integrating forests and climate actions that seek to conserve forest biodiversity, actions that seek to enhance livelihoods of forest dependent communities to provide avenues for holistic, collaborative and transdisciplinary approaches,” he said
The Forest Foundation Philippines is offering partnership and project development support. They encourage interested parties to send an email to discuss partnership ideas or seek help with project development from concept to implementation.