“Maliit lang pala ang Sumlang Lake.” (I didn’t know it is a small lake.)
Was that a disappointment? I’d like to ask my companion. Without the Mayon Volcano on sight, it looked like an irrigation source for the nearby rice plants. It sits in the middle of a residential area, too.
But still, there was striking about it.
Rattan furniture adorned bamboo rafts. They were tastefully done, inviting you to indulge in bamboo rafting in style.
Then and Now
Before there were paved walkways, iron fence, knitted rattan swings and canopies, there were bamboo seats and handrails first. Then came the barrels recycled to chairs for cottages, and now the artsy outdoor sets and installations replaced them.
There is now an entrance fee, too. With the LGU on the helm of this initiative, it is easy to see its management similarities with the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
Whereas most “funding for biodiversity conservation was routed through NGOs,” the Puerto Princesa Underground River Management had been creative and innovative in this aspect. This is according to a report by contributing writers Ma. Dulce M. Cacha and Julian Caldecott to this book: Decentralization and Biodiversity Conservation (A World Bank Symposium) edited by Ernst Lutz and Julian Oliver Caldecott.
Moreover, said authors report that “under the DFNS program, which provided 9.7 million,” activities beyond simple site protection became possible. These include the following:
- resource protection
- law enforcement
- community organizing
- visitor management
- infrastructure development and maintenance and
- research and restoration.
In Barangay Sumlang in Camalig, Albay, village chief Felipe Napa, Jr. brought in his rattan furniture business to make bamboo rafting a leisurely affair. The landowner allowed it for use, and private investors provided new developments for a profit share, one of the bamboo raft operators told us. In Puerto Princesa, collected fund went to a trust fund. Its management board comprised of the city mayor, DENR representatives, NGOs and tribal groups.
Both owes its “operational flexibility and increased capability to invest” to a decentralized management, where the LGU has the central role.
Interest alone in the park’s management is not enough. There’s a need for interest in conservation, too, through monitoring. One LGU-managed tourism site that seems to be on this track is Canigao Island.
Found in Matalom, Leyte, this pristine paradise is home to a marine sanctuary. The colorful tropical fish and lush coral gardens speak of its rich marine biodiversity.
During offseason, the sanctuary’s management temporarily closed it for rehabilitation. For instance, last year the Matalom LGU and Canigao management made it unavailable for the first two weeks in July. During that time they prohibited these activities: docking, swimming, fishing and other marine-related activities within 10 meters from its shoreline.
This 2017, the management will hold it on July 1-15.
As to the extent of monitoring, we have yet to know. In PPUR, monitoring includes the habitat in the forest areas and underwater, economic activities at the site, visitorship and other activities and phenomenon that can affect the property’s universal value.
Research is also integral to a successful conservation of biodiversity.
In the 2015 report on the state of conservation of PPUR, there are a monthly bat counting and monitoring of roosting sites in the PPUR cave. Sea turtle conservation was initiated too.
Overall, ”it has been noted that the park biological baseline data were outdated,” a finding mentioned as a conservation issue, along with climate change and public/household waste water.
PPUR, Sumlang Lake and Canigao Islet are successful examples of tourism developments under the LGU management. However, Cacha and Caldecott wrote that lack of conservation interest can be counterproductive in the management of a protected area.
The aforementioned editors also noted that decentralization may or not work. Rather, the answer is to “find an appropriate degree of decentralization of certain management functions” for the promotion of conservation, community and enterprise development.
Simply put, a successful decentralization management is a case to case basis. And as the two contributors put it: The PPUR is a rare example of decentralized management where LGU has a leading role. Now there are a few that are following its footsteps.
State of Conservation Report (2015) Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Prepared by: Park Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park Management
With the support of: Philippines National Commission for UNESCO
Decentralization and Biodiversity Conservation ( A World Bank Symposium) Edited by Ernst Lutz and Julian Oliver Caldecott. Quoted section by writing contributors Ma. Dulce M. Cacha and Julian Caldecott