A multisectoral convergence network in the Calamian Islands Group is set to hold a law enforcement summit for the first time in the second week of October to build resilient communities in four municipalities and strengthen terrestrial and marine protection in the northern Palawan territory.
Engr. Fernando Lopez, the Coron municipal disaster risk reduction and management officer and chair of the Calamianes Resilience Network (CRN), said the theme of the two-day summit on October 10-11 is “Calamian Environmental Law Enforcement Summit: Strengthening Enforcement Towards Resilience”.
He said it will be a gathering of experts, practitioners, community members, and Calamian local government unit (LGU) officials, which aims to strengthen existing mechanisms, synergy and commitment on the protection and conservation of the area’ terrestrial and marine ecosystems aligned with national and local development policies through inclusive, collaborative, and participatory law enforcement initiatives among different stakeholders.
Lopez said the event is with the funding support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Fish Right Project and Partners for Resilience.
“CRN hopes to contribute to building resilient Calamianes communities, institutions and ecosystem through collaborative solutions of all stakeholders using sustainable, indigenous and science-based practices of disaster and climate risk reduction, and environmental management and restoration,” he said.
The Calamianes is composed of the municipalities of Busuanga, Coron, Culion, and Linapacan. It is considered as one of the most biodiverse groups of islands in Palawan, covering around 1,600 square kilometers.
The island communities mostly depend on fishing as their main source of livelihood, said Lopez, supplemented with agriculture and forest-based occupations.
Home to the Tagbanua indigenous peoples (IPs) who predominantly live in rural and island barangays, poverty incidence in the Calamianes remains high at 60.57 percent.
Lopez said the law enforcement summit’s specific objectives include understand the state of the Calamianes Terrestrial and Marine Resources with climate projections; review and harmonize functions by government law enforcement agencies, and clarify guidelines on reporting, case build-up, filing process, and deputation; review agreements on the environment, and establish LGU-supported community-based law enforcement mechanisms.
The coastal and marine ecosystems in the Calamianes are among the most diverse and extensive in the Philippines, he said.
Its reefs comprising 36 percent of the country’s total coral reef area are in good condition, according to Ecofish in 2015.
In terms of terrestrial flora and fauna, Calamianes is a habitat of several indigenous species that are not found in other parts of the country. The large forest cover with an area of 56,786 hectares (consisting of open forest, closed forest and mangroves) contains rich fauna including endemic carnivores, pangolins, porcupines and some insectivores.
However, despite efforts from different national government agencies, provincial, municipal and civil society organizations to protect and conserve these rich natural resources, Calamianes’ terrestrial and marine ecosystems are still continuously under threat from different fronts.
Lopez said that the destruction of their habitats continues due to threats to biodiversity based on a 2019 report of the WWF. These threats range from illegal fishing, quarrying, illegal logging, slash-and-burn farming, and illegal wildlife trade.
“These are even aggravated by destructive livelihood practices, natural disasters, and climate change,” he said.
The holding of the summit, he added, recognizes the critical role that law enforcement plays in protection, conservation, and preservation initiatives in order to fully maximize environmental services that each ecosystem provides.
Expected to be present during the event are Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) national director Eduardo Gongona, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director Henry Adornado, and U.S. Embassy deputy chief of mission John Law.