Conservation International Announces Partnership with Toyota to Protect Philippines’ Rain Forests

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Effort shows strong tie between conservation and community development.

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Toyota’s support for CI’s conservation efforts is crucial because these forests are under constant pressure from illegal logging and wildlife hunting

Conservation International (CI) today announced a partnership with Toyota to support efforts to restore and protect more than 4,000 acres of the Philippines’ Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape (PPLS), located in the Northeastern part of one of the nation’s main islands. In addition to protecting the forests, local communities will receive additional benefits from agroforestry projects under the three-year agreement.

The site was chosen to launch the partnership between CI and Toyota because it will support efforts to link the PPLS with the adjacent Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park. Additionally, the on-the-ground work will demonstrate how forest protection efforts benefit both biodiversity and community development.

“Toyota’s support for CI’s conservation efforts is crucial because these forests are under constant pressure from illegal logging and wildlife hunting,” said David W. Hess, Vice President of CI’s Indonesia & Philippines Program. “With this funding, CI and other key stakeholders will be able to link two critical protected areas, thereby enhancing the survival of animals and plants that need connectivity to thrive.”

Combined, the PPLS and Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park represent a seamless block of protected forest larger than Switzerland. Within the PPLS, there are a number of threatened vertebrate species, including three considered Critically Endangered by the World Conservation Union: the Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) the Northern Luzon Shrew Rat (Crunomys fallax), and the country’s national bird, the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi).

The partnership was formerly announced at the Presidential Palace in Manila, in the presence of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Key stakeholders in the PPLS project were also present, including representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and regional partners Protected Area Management Board (PAMB)/Protected Area Superintendent (PASU) and local municipalities of PPLS.

"Restoring a forest to its primeval power of sustaining biodiversity, while at the same time tailoring the restoration to satisfy human needs, requires the cooperation of all stakeholders," Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza said. “We need nothing less than a totality of commitment, coherence of actions, and a clear division as well as sharing of labor that leaves no gaps.”

In addition to the benefits for species protection and local economic development, this work supports CI’s larger efforts to stem global deforestation and climate change. It is a little-known fact that deforestation is responsible for almost a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions - more than double the amount from the world’s cars and trucks.

The project aims to obtain third-party certification from the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, a standard that evaluates forest-based carbon mitigation projects to foster the integration of best-practice and multiple-benefit approaches into forest-based projects. The certification will include quantification of the carbon benefits over the term of the project.

Toyota Funding of $1.5 million Makes Philippine Forestry Project Possible
With Toyota providing $1.5 million in funding, the first three-year phase of the project will allow the promotion of forest conservation in the PPLS and demonstrate the compatibility among multiple uses of forests, including biodiversity protection, watershed management, ecosystem services for the benefit of local communities and CO2 offsets. The project is expected to continue for an additional three years after evaluation of the first phase.

The multiple uses for the project have two main objectives:

  • Objective 1: Reforesting and/or re-vegetating approximately 2,995 acres to re-establish forest cover, with communities maintaining and protecting the trees with technical support from the local stakeholder, such as the PASU of PPLS and LGU Peñablanca. Communities will participate in establishing nurseries, producing and planting seedlings, as well as maintaining the plantations.
  • Objective 2: Agroforestry for 1,384 acres: this will provide alternative livelihoods for local communities within and adjacent to the project site through the promotion of agroforestry within the designated grass and brush land areas.

“From its popular Prius Hybrid to its partnership with Conservation International to protect some of the world’s most endangered forests, Toyota is demonstrating a true commitment to the environment,” said Glenn Prickett, CI’s Senior Vice President for Business and U.S. Government Relations. “This initiative is a true example of how the corporate and environmental communities can work together to demonstrate benefits for forests and communities.”

The Peñablanca reforestation project will be a validation of the concept of sustainable development, as pursued in partnership not only by local, but also by global stakeholders. Secretary Atienza said that it will generate livelihood opportunities for forest dwellers and give them a stake in conserving the environment and its extraordinary biodiversity.

Through its Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor Program, CI has been working in PPLS with local stakeholders since 2002 and has facilitated the expansion of the park from more than 10,775 acres to 291,574 acres, encompassing the remaining old growth forest, freshwater and marine ecosystem.

The Philippines is one of the most threatened of the world’s 34 biodiversity hotspots. The biodiversity hotspots are regions worldwide where 75 percent of the planet’s most-threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians survive within habitat covering just 2.3 percent of the Earth’s surface (roughly equivalent to the combined areas of the five largest U.S. states). Fully 50 percent of the Earth’s vascular plants and 42 percent of terrestrial vertebrates exist only in these 34 hotspots. Hotspots face extreme threats and have already lost at least 70 percent of their original vegetation.

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