THEIR contributions in protecting the environment through their research projects enabled Forester Arsenio B. Ella of Department of Science and Technology-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) and Ateneo de Manila University Assistant Prof. Dr. Severino G. Salmo III to bag the NAST Environmental Science Award (Nesa) organized by National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) on April 22 at a hotel in Makati.
Ella has worked with indigenous peoples in Palawan and Sierra Madre in protecting almaciga trees by introducing a sustainable way of harvesting resin from trees.
Collection of resins is an important source of income for indigenous people. However, traditional methods of resin tapping, such as deep cutting, over tapping and frequent rechipping have resulted into the premature death of almaciga trees, Ella explained. Almaciga resin, also known as Manila Copal, is used in the manufacture of paints, varnishes, printing ink, shoe polish, floor wax, incense and caulking material for boats among others.
The Philippines is the second-largest producer of the resin next to Indonesia. According to the Philippine Forestry Statistics, the country exported an average of 140,200 kilos of almaciga resin valued at $165,200 from 2004 to 2013. Based on his previous studies, Ella recommends to tap only trees with a diameter at breast height of at least 40 centimeters (cm) and the first tapping point should not be more than 30 cm above the ground.
The cut should be about 2 cm wide and 30 cm long and not beyond the bark, using a razor-sharp broad-bladed bolo or a large knife. He further informs gatherers to wait after five days before tapping again. Scientific tapping method not only prolongs the life of the trees but also increases the production of quality resin in the long run, according to Ella. He said resin gatherers increased their harvest from 16 percent to 33 percent a month resulting in increased income. Apart from providing training in the proper tapping of Almaciga trees, Ella and his team also gave lectures to communities on climate change.
Salmo, on the other hand, advocates the protection and proper reforestation of mangrove forests for the protection of fisheries and to help lessen the impact of typhoons in coastal areas.
He pushes for the planting of right mangrove species at the right sites to ensure that they will survive. He recommends the planting of avicennia species on the shores, as this species is more adapted to the area and thus more resilient to typhoons.
However, in practice, rhizophora species, which naturally thrive in the inner mangroves, are being used in reforestation efforts. His recommendations are evidenced by the study he conducted in 2009 in Bani and Anda, Pangasinan, wherein the rhizophora species planted along the coasts were heavily damaged by typhoon Emong (international code name Chan-hom) while the avicennia species survived.
“Just a single event was enough to destroy the mangroves. Remember we have around 20 typhoons in a year,” he said. The winners will each receive a research grant from the DOST amounting to P1 million and cash prize from NAST and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Formerly called NAST-Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science Award, Nesa started in 2001 through the efforts of the late NAST President and National Scientist Perla D. Santos Ocampo through the help of Dr. Hugh Greenwood, a philanthropist and founder of Children’s Research Fund in the US.
Ma. Luisa S. Lumioan/S&T Media Service
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