Honorable Mention Case Study Competition 2020
Authors: Randy Vinluan, USAID/Philippines Environment Office; Ernesto Guiang and Wilbur Dee, DAI Global/Philippines Protect Wildlife; Jeanne Tabangay, Conservation International Philippines
Location: Southern Palawan, Philippines
Various man-made factors threaten the biodiversity-rich Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape and its forested buffer areas in southern Palawan in the Philippines. Integrated management plans to improve the governance of both the protected area and the adjoining forestlands are useful in mobilizing all stakeholders to protect and conserve the whole forest landscape of southern Palawan. Empowering the local governments of five municipalities that straddle these forests and mountain range is a long-term and proven approach in addressing the threats to this conservation landscape.
Seventy percent of forest cover remains intact in the 120,457-hectare Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape that straddles five municipalities in southern Palawan in the Philippines. The mountain range is the headwater of 33 watersheds, and is home to a variety of wildlife that can only be found in the Palawan faunal region, as well as newly discovered plant species. Adjoining it are 153,836 hectares of biologically diverse forestlands that serve as a buffer zone for the protected area. The whole conservation landscape provides various ecosystem goods and services—including water supply, food and medicine, fertile soils, wildlife habitats, and ecotourism opportunities—with a combined estimated value of US$5.5 billion.
However, the landscape faces a range of man-made threats that are driven by poorly defined property rights, inconsistent regulatory policies on resource uses, and weak enforcement systems. In the absence of clear rules and enforcement actions, wildlife poachers and illegal loggers, as well as local residents facing economic pressures brought by high poverty incidence in Palawan, enjoyed relatively unfettered access to the protected area and forestlands. As a result, illegal mining, uncontrolled forest resource extraction, agricultural expansion, and wildlife poaching have proliferated, threatening Palawan’s unique biodiversity and posing a challenge to effective governance. In 2016, USAID/Philippines’ Protect Wildlife project began work in Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, positing that an integrated approach to landscape management that enjoins local governments, law enforcement, industries, and communities to (1) establish clear tenure rights and land use zoning, (2) build capacity for improved governance of protected areas and buffer zones for both conservation and enforcement, and (3) incentivize compliance through behavior change campaigns and sustainable livelihood opportunities would secure the conservation of the protected area, its forested buffer zone, and the essential ecosystem goods and services they afford the residents of southern Palawan. This case study describes how Protect Wildlife in Palawan executed this approach, the lessons the project learned, and its applications outside of Palawan.