Manila to host Asean Biodiversity Heroes forum

In Photo: Asean Biodiversity Heroes (from left) Sophea Chinn of Cambodia, Alex Waisimon of Indonesia and Dr. Angel C. Alcala of the Philippines will share their respective stories on environment protection and conservation at a forum in Makati City on September 4 and 5.

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) will hold the Asean Biodiversity Heroes Regional Forum in Manila on September 4 and 5.

The forum will be conducted at a hotel in Makati City, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and with support from the European Union.

The event will focus on the sharing of stories of conservation by some of the Asean Biodiversity Heroes from Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to an ACB statement released through the DENR.

This is the second leg of the forum. The first leg was held in Hanoi, Vietnam, on March 26 and 27. It featured the heroes from Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

The forum will be attended by representatives of various academic institutions in the Philippines, young professionals from different sectors, representatives from the media, participants from the Asean member-states (AMS), nongovernment organizations and government agencies.

The sharing of the heroes’ stories is aimed at inspiring people, especially the youth, in saving the environment and for other sectors in society to learn how they can also help in biodiversity conservation.

Among those who will speak in the forum is Sophea Chinn, a young biodiversity information specialist who sparked interest in wildlife research in Cambodia.

Chinn recalled that his interest in wildlife research was further enhanced, when, as a young boy in the 1990s, he observed that birds were being killed for food by the people in his community.

He took up Biology at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, followed by Management Information System at Setec University and a master’s degree in Biodiversity Conservation.

Currently, the young conservationist is an official at the Research and Biodiversity and Ecosystem Assessment Office, a core component of the Department of Biodiversity in Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment.

Asean Biodiversity Hero Alex Waisimon from Indonesia is an indigenous leader who protects Papua’s forest for future generations. Papua province is known for its dense rain forests that are home to diverse wildlife.

The provincial capital, Jayapura, is where the Rhepang Muaif Area can be found. This area is categorized as an Important Bird Area as it is the haven of five endangered species, and is also known as the home of the Cenderawasih, or the birds of paradise.

Sadly, the area has the same concerns as other biodiversity-rich places: illegal hunting and illegal logging. It is due to these concerns that Waisimon returned to the area with the noble vision to provide livelihood in his community. With this objective, he developed a sustainable ecotourism program that features the birds of paradise.

Dr. Angel C. Alcala, an educator and a marine biologist with remarkable contribution to Philippine biological sciences, will share his experience and insights.

Alcala was declared a National Scientist by President Benigno S. Aquino III through Malacañang Proclamation 782 on June 6, 2014.

Through his research and fieldwork, Alcala has added 50 new species of amphibians and reptiles, which provided international conservationists the basis to establish conservation programs on Philippine vertebrate biodiversity.

The National Scientist was the person behind the establishment of the Philippines’s first no-take marine reserve, the Sumilon Marine Reserve.

Marine reserves allow the growth of marine biodiversity, such as various fish species, as well as movement of adult fish to fishing areas, which increases the fish yields of fishers.

After the establishment of the Sumilon Marine Reserve in 1974, Alcala proceeded to establish several other no-take marine reserves, such as the Apo Marine Reserve in 1982.

He also strengthened the management of approximately 60 no-take marine reserves.

Recognized during the 50th Anniversary of the Asean on August 8, 2017, in Manila, the Asean Biodiversity Heroes are 10 outstanding individuals who were chosen for their notable actions in biodiversity conservation.

The 10 Asean Biodiversity Heroes 2017 are Eyad Samhan of Brunei Darussalam; Chinn of Cambodia; Waisimon of Indonesia;  Nitsavanh Louangkhot Pravongviengkham of Lao PDR; Prof. Zakri Abdul Hamid of Malaysia; Dr. Maung Maung Kyi of Myanmar; Alcala of the Philippines; Prof. Leo Tan Wee Hin of Singapore; Dr. Nonn Panitvong of Thailand; and Prof. Dr. Dang Huy Huynh of Vietnam.

The ACB serves as the Secretariat of the Search for the Asean Biodiversity Heroes. The heroes were selected by the ACB Governing Board, representing the AMS.

The Asean Biodiversity Heroes Regional Forum Series is part of the “Biodiversity Conservation and Management for Protected Areas in Asean,” a project that is implemented by the ACB in collaboration with the European Union.

The project seeks to improve the management of protected areas in the Asean region; develop and mobilize knowledge and scientific basis for biodiversity conservation; mainstream biodiversity into the education system; and strengthen the regional capacities.

Image Credits: ACB

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Jonathan L. Mayuga is a journalist for more than 15 years. He is a product of the University of the East – Manila. An awardee of the J. G. Burgos Biotech Journalism Awards, BrightLeaf Agricultural Journalism Awards, Binhi Agricultural Journalism Awards, and Sarihay Environmental Journalism Awards.