Biosphere Reserve delegates from Albay, Puerto Galera and Palawan pose for a break during the tree planting activity as part of the International Day of Biosphere Reserve.

The Philippine National Commission (PNC) for United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is aiming to empower the youth and put them at the forefront in the promotion of the celebration of the International Day of Biosphere Reserve, to promote its significance.

PNC UNESCO Officer-in-Charge Lindsay Barrientos said they want the youth to become the spokesperson of biosphere reserve to be able to encourage others to join the activities and raise awareness about its importance.

Barrientos said that the International Day of Biosphere Reserve was declared by UNESCO during one of its general conferences last year where more than 190 countries committed to celebrate every 3rd day of November.

There are three areas in the Philippines designated by UNESCO as biosphere reserve – Palawan, Albay and Puerto Galera – because of their rich biodiversity and unique ecosystem.

The celebration was held simultaneously in three areas, spearheaded by their respective local government units, in partnership with the private sector and other organizations involved in the conservation and protection of the environment and the academe.

“In terms of designation or encryption, the World Heritage Sites are more popular but we also want to promote the biosphere reserve because it is unique as it highlights areas where natural resources can be used as learning laboratory, meaning it wants to promote the place to other places as place of learning on how to protect and conserve the natural resources, as well as the relationship between man and nature,” Barrientos explained.

She also said that in order to do this, as part of the core of activities this year, they want the youth to voice out their understanding on the concept of biosphere reserve, and their role, through promotions in social media.

“But of course, we will still have face to face interactions so that we can interact with the communities to engage them in the celebrations because they are the primary reasons that we have the biosphere reserves,” she said.

And because we just opened, those who were involved in previous celebrations were tapped to join this year’s event.

“They are this year’s spokespersons who will share their experiences to other biosphere reserves, and eventually, our goal is to invite more participants,” Barrientos noted.

She further stated that there are still other areas applying to be enlisted as biosphere reserve. They will just have to comply with the criteria set by UNESCO.

Here, we acknowledge the important of our partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources because it is the agency that looks after the potential of protected areas and it is the one that has clear knowledge on how the sites are managed. That’s why we need further study especially that we want to highlight the biosphere reserve as learning laboratory. Lucky for you here, you have the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development where a decision will be made by a body,” Barrientos said.

She added that the activities during the celebration are proposed and planned by the communities within the biosphere reserve.

“Every year, we want to activities to be community-driven so we don’t impose what to do. We want the ideas to come from the community, especially from the youth,” she said.

Tree planting
As part of the celebration, participants conducted a tree planting activity in Sitio Manturon, Barangay Cabayugan, where they planted around 300 seedlings of different species of hardwood trees.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park superintendent Beth Maclang said the tree planting is actually part of a large-scale rehabilitation effort inside the park that was affected by typhoon Odette.

“The planting site is part of Puerto Princesa Forest Restoration Initiative being implemented by Conservation International in partnership with PPSRNP. The program will run for three years where we plan to plant trees in 200 hectares around the park, and Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat,” Maclang said.