A view of Mt. Mantalingahan range from a rice field in Brooke’s Point town, southern Palawan.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed to support the information and education campaigns to protect the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL) in southern Palawan.

Lawrence San Diego, communications manager of USAID’s Protect Wildlife Project, told Palawan News on Thursday that they started their first 10-day intensive capacity training on May 2017 and a province-wide training last year.

San Diego said the Protect Wildlife is a four-year-and-a-half project of the USAID aimed at reducing threats to Philippine biodiversity in collaboration with government and other sectors.

“Part iyon ng bigger program of strengthening the management ng Protected Area Office (PAO). Iyong behavioral change in all protected area management plans may chapter doon on IEC, so ‘yon ‘yong pang-extra value namin,” he said.

He said the series of training targets a behavioral change in the community “emphasizing the importance of the environment, the challenges they face as a community in conserving it, and how its state directly affects their daily lives.”

The approach is different from regular IECs because aside from raising public awareness it conducts pre and post surveys, he added.

“Tinuro namin sa kanila na sayang ang isang campaign kung hindi ka magbe-baseline at hindi ka mag-mi-measure post campaign. Ang sinasabi naming, saying ang camapaign kung hindi kayo nag-measure before and after,” San Diego said.

The USAID Protect Wildlife Project in the Philippines has a budget of P1.2 billion with Palawan as one of the three key areas of the project and the highest budget allocation.

Started in 2016, the project ends in 2020.

“Always, the hope is ma-retain nila ‘yong natutunan nila from the sunud-sunod na capacity building, technical assistance na binibigay namin sa kanila. Kaya important din sa USAID ‘yong partnerships [with them] kasi parang sustainability mechanism ‘yon,” San Diego said.

Michael John Cantuba, IEC officer of MMPL, said the training programs provided by USAID equipped their office with proper IEC practices through the Campaigning for Conservation Training.

Wildlife and timber poaching are major threats to MMPL, Cantuba said.

Admitting that these illegal activities are rampant in their jurisdiction, he however, did not give figures.

Located 140 kilometer southwest of Puerto Princesa City, the MMPL covers a total land area of 120,257 hectares and formally declared as a protected area by Presidential Proclamation 1815 on June 2009.

The MMPL has 85,000 hectares of forest cover and rich biodiversity and home to around 12,600 indigenous people.

It covers five municipalities in southern Palawan- Sofronio Española, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Quezon, and Rizal, including their 36 barangays with watersheds that feed irrigation to the surrounding lowlands.

The protected area also has 11 of the 12 forest formations that can be found in the Philippines.

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