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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, December 2, 2019
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with Errol A. Gatumbato
OPINIONS

Local conservation areas

Rock & Refuge

It is interesting to note that several local government units in the country are now considering the establishment and management of what is now popularly known as Local Conservation Areas, or LCAs.

Last week, the Palawan Council for Appropriate Rural Technology invited me to give training on LCAs management planning in the municipality of Roxas, Palawan. I was delighted to know that 10 barangays in Roxas have simultaneously declared LCAs covering more than 15,000 hectares of entirely-classified lowland forests that serve as habitats to several Palawan endemic species. Lowland forests are found in less than 1,000 meters above sea level.

Some of the endemic species of Palawan recorded in these LCAs include the Palawan porcupine, Palawan bearcat, Palawan stink badger, Palawan bearded pig, Palawan peacock pheasant, and Palawan water monitor lizard, among others. Laurence Jose Padilla, executive director of PCART, said 11 other barangays in Roxas are also in the process of declaring LCAs. The PCART is providing technical assistance to these barangays in the identification, delineation, and management of these LCAs.

The LCA is actually a generic description of locally declared and managed biodiversity important sites, through the passage of an ordinance by the concerned barangay council, sangguniang bayan or panlunsod, and provincial government. The main policy framework for this conservation modality is the Local Government Code of the Philippines, which was passed in 1991. I coined the term LCA and pioneered its implementation when I started doing a project in the Polillo Group of Islands in Quezon way back in 2007. The five municipalities covering this group of islands also simultaneously declared more than 10,000 hectares of lowland forests as LCAs. The Foundation for the Philippine Environment had published the manuscript I prepared detailing my experiences in the establishment and management of LCAs.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has adopted the concept and it launched this modality during the LCA National Conference in 2014. From then on, several local government units have adopted the idea of LCA when it comes to biodiversity conservation.

So far, the Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands Conservation Area in the southern part of the province is the largest declared LCA in the country, as of today. It covers coastal wetlands of about 230,000 hectares located from Bago City to Ilog. Because of its importance, the NOCWCA has been designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention of the United Nations. The Provincial Environment Management Office of Negros Occidental further assisted the different cities and municipalities in declaring their own LCAs. Several other LGUs in the country are also implementing the LCAs.

The LCAs should be located outside protected areas covered by the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, as amended by the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018. But just like protected areas, the LCAs should be important habitats of endemic species that are already threatened with extinction in the wild. The main difference of protected areas with that of the LCAs is how they are being established, since the former requires issuance of presidential proclamation and subsequently a law that shall be passed by Congress. The purpose of the LCAs is to further decentralize the management system of our biologically important sites, while providing opportunities and accountabilities to local authorities in managing our natural resources.*

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