Results of the biodiversity assessment conducted by the Benguet State University – College of Forestry (BSU) in partnership with the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation, Inc (JVOFI) indicate that the floral and faunal diversity of Benguet is still rich and needs to be sustainably managed. The biodiversity assessment was conducted under the European Union project “Saving the Benguet Watersheds for Water” last April to May 2012 in the six demonstration sites of the project, namely: Tublay (Ambassador); Bokod (Poblacion); Atok (Poblacion); Kibungan (Sagpat); Buguias (Loo) & Sablan (Banangan).
During the assessment, faunal species like the Philippine Hawk-Eagle, classified to be endemic and vulnerable were seen in Sablan and Atok. Proof of existence of the endangered deer or Makawas in local term was derived by the researchers in the communal forests of Kibungan and Sablan. Also, the endangered Philippine Palm Civet or the Musang/Mutit which is known to produce the expensive Alamid coffee was seen copious within these communal forests.
Floral species, such as the wild raspberry and pinit (wild berry) which are also listed as near threatened can still be found thriving in these communal forests. Dr. Marissa Parao, Faculty of the BSU College of Forestry said that the results of the assessment are indicative of Benguet’s rich biodiversity with Benguet Province still a key biodiversity area. She also added that there are so many forests in Benguet that are very healthy and intact.
With these, Dr. Parao recommended that the resources in the areas should be carefully and sustainably utilized to preserve multiple functions of the forest. The community should learn about the mating season and migrating season of the faunal species to regulate or prevent hunting of birds and other animals. They should also relay the use of species to younger generations for them to value and safeguard their resources. The community should do rehabilitation and fire protection activities while the Barangay LGUs are encouraged to enact local ordinances on protection & conservation.
Kagawad Allan Mainim, member of the Barangay Banangan Committee on Environment said that the existence of the Philippine Hawk-Eagle in Sablan is proof that their forests are still healthy. “We will continue to protect our forest that serves as habitat for these species as well as for all the other animals and floral species that are present in our forests”, Mainim added.
The biodiversity assessment is one of the important aspects in the devolution process of forest management from the DENR to LGUs under the framework of existing legislation (RA7160, DENR-DILG Joint Memorandum Circulars 98-01 & 2003-01 and DENR DAO 30). The results of these activities shall be used for the preparation of the forest management plans which will include appropriate conservation and sustainable development strategies to preserve biodiversity.
With the support of the European Union, a manual of the biodiversity assessment results in the mentioned areas will be produced for the communities & host LGUs. This will serve as reference for the community in preparing their comprehensive forest management plans.