A prison involved in more than a decade of conservation
After more than a decade, inmates & officers of the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Mindoro continue the cause for biodiversity protection.
By Laarni Jocson, Communications Division, Haribon Foundation
Sprawled on an 8,334-hectare land area, the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm (SPPF) is located at the foot of Mt. Siburan, the country’s last vestiges of lowland forest that is also identified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International and Haribon Foundation and a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA). Due to the area’s importance to biodiversity, SPPF became one of Haribon’s project partners for the Integrating Forest Conservation with Local Governance in the Philippines Project (IFCLGP) in 2001.
IFCLGP aimed to improve conservation of important areas through integration with local development planning and strengthening of local governance, raising the awareness of the local people, and local government on issues of forest protection and conservation. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Haribon Foundation was created, indicating commitment of SPPF’s active participation in the project activities as well as the conservation of Mt. Siburan.
As a result, Haribon was able to build a broad constituency for biodiversity conservation through awareness raising, alliance building, networking, and advocacy as well as capacity building of partner forest-dependent communities geared toward effective and efficient community-based natural resource management. Haribon provided additional assistance to SPPF to strengthen its eco-tourism potentials by including eco-tourism, like bird watching as one of the options for the conservation of Siburan KBA, which is currently earning from these activities in partnership with the local government unit of Sablayan.
Sgt. Security Supervisor-SPPF Arturo N. Sabadisto shared, “Dati wala kaming concrete idea on biodiversity’s importance. Matapos ang series of seminars na ginawa ng Haribon, nagkataon naman na dumating ang super typhoon Yoyong na sumira sa mga kabahayan, pamumuhay at kalsada dito kaya dun talaga kami namulat sa biodiversity. Una naming project ay rainforestation, nanguha kami ng mga native forest tree’s wildlings galing sa kagubatan ng Mt. Siburan Siburan, pinapalago sa nursery, at ginagamit namin sa forest restoration activities around SPPF and Mt. Siburan IBA. Tinuruan din kami ng Haribon on proper identification of forest trees and birdwatching. We learned a lot and enjoyed the whole process.”
This culminated in the preparation of a Forest Management Plan, eventually became known as Forest Land Use Plan (FLUP) as required by the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), for the municipal of Mindoro. Eventually, as a key partner of the Mt. Siburan forest, the SPPF team’s advocacy turned to forest conservation and protection. SPPF has become an active part of the FMP- Technical Working Group (FMP-TWG) as issued by the LGU-Sablayan.
“Isa sa mga konkretong nagawa ng Haribon ay ang pagbuo ng pinakaunang FMP ng Sablayan at naging bahagi ng proseso ang SPPF dito,” Sgt. Security Supervisor-SPPF Sabadisto attested.
The allocated budget for the formulation and implementation of the FLUP and the Bleeding Heart Pigeon Protection and Conservation Plan through the Threatened Species Programs were managed by Haribon and SPPF.
“Nanganak, nag-evolve na ang projects ng Haribon, at dahil dito mas malaki na ang fund na naibahagi ng Local Government Unit (LGU) ng Sablayan sa biodiversity conservation. Dahil sa mga projects na nagawa ng LGU Sablayan at ng SPPF kaya tumaas ang awareness ng Sablayan community in terms of biodiversity conservation,” concluded Mr. Sabadisto.
Head Chief-SPPF Domedes Dador Jr. expounded, “We really discourage hunters to enter the property. No hunting within the premises. No entry in forested areas because we have conservation practice there. Lalo na ako, kahit sa info dissemination sa mga baranggay, sinasabi ko na this is a protected area at dapat tumulong sila. Ang naging role namin dito ay bantay gubat. Ang tumatak sa isip ko na tinuro ng Haribon ay ang importance of biodiversity.”
Haribon’s partnership with the LGU served as a catalyst for communities. It institutionalize Sablayan Forest Management Board (SFMB) as a multi-stakeholder as a local special body within the LGU to assist in formulation of policies and management of biodiversity in the forest ecosystem. It eventually led to the formulation of the Forest Management Plan that eventually was updated by the LGU also with assistance by Haribon. And drafting of the Forest Land Use Plan using zonation as management tool prescribing its guidelines on its utilization.
Though IFCLGP concluded years ago, the legacy of Haribon and its projects continue to build a mark in the community’s conservation efforts. They reinforced protection by recently putting up signage in strategic areas to warn violators and the community of the stringent security that SPPF enforces in the area. The staff also evolved as contributors or key informants in further biodiversity studies conducted periodically done by Haribon, DENR and the Threatened Species Programs since they have direct access to Mt. Siburan. The penal farm is now planning to put up CCTV cameras to monitor the activities on site and capture sightings of Tamaraw (Bubalus Mindorensis) and other threatened species that are believed to inhabit the area.
The SPPF officials attested that the locals’ stance changed dramatically after years of Haribon’s community interventions. For instance, local hunting and illegal logging are greatly reduced and the community members are active in reporting any illegal activities in the area. They recognized their own power and significant role in protecting their forest and the unique biodiversity that flourishes in it.
IFCLGP is funded by the European Commission in partnership with BirdLife International, European Commission and the Government of New Zealand, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, and Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF).