DENR partners with PLDT, Smart to protect Caimpugan Peatland

Published July 8, 2020, 11:47 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

The Caimpugan Peatland at the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) is considered a “wonderland,” a sacred land for the Manobos.

(Gabay Kalikasan / MANILA BULLETIN)

Located in Agusan del Sur, the peatland holds the only recorded remaining intact peat swamp forest – the largest of its kind in the Philippines.

It has survived for hundreds of years because of the tribe’s long-standing traditions and beliefs that regard nature with deep respect.

To further protect, conserve, and restore the Caimpugan Peatland that is vital to combat climate change, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has partnered with PLDT Inc. and its wireless subsidiary Smart Communications Inc. to protect one of the country’s most vital natural resources – its peatlands.

The memorandum of agreement was signed by Ricardo Calderon, DENR OIC Assistant Secretary for Climate Change and concurrent Director of DENR-Biodiversity Management Bureau; Hadja Didaw Piang-Brahim, OIC Regional Executive Director of DENR-Caraga; and Chaye Cabal-Revilla, chief sustainability officer of PLDT.

The three-year extendable project to be implemented by PLDT-Smart until 2023 aims to strengthen and support the AMWS-Protected Area Management Office and other concerned DENR offices in implementing peatland conservation and management strategies under the AMWS Management Plan.

Aside from applying various technologies for peatland assessment, monitoring, and enforcement activities, PLDT and Smart through its “Gabay Kalikasan” program will implement communication, education, and public awareness programs and activities to increase knowledge and appreciation of the value of these fragile ecosystems.

Peatlands cover only three percent of the Earth’s land surface.

These are wetlands whose peat soils consist of carbon-rich dead and decaying plant matter. If kept wet, peatlands can store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests combined.

However, its crucial role in mitigating climate change, as well as the huge costs that arise when these natural carbon sinks are damaged, remains largely overlooked.

“Little is known about our country’s peatlands. Now is the time to change the course of conversation, as well as the conservation of this natural treasure and steer our collaborative efforts towards creating a climate-resilient future,” Calderon said.

“This peatland conservation partnership is our unique chance to secure that promising future for all,” he added.

Community involvement will be a central theme in the collaboration, as program activities under the agreement were jointly developed with the representatives from the provincial government of Agusan del Sur and the municipal government of San Francisco and Talacogon; barangay officials from Caimpugan, New Visayas, Causwagan, Maharlika, La Flora, and Sabang Gibong; and members of the Caimpugan Native Farmers and Fisherfolks Multipurpose Cooperative.

The project also aims to engage wetland-dependent communities in a sustainable and biodiversity-friendly livelihood program, which is only one of many community improvements to come with the new partnership.

Piang-Brahim pointed out that the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary is designated as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention, recognized as a Heritage Park by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and legislated as a National Park by the Philippine government.