In an effort to determine the stakeholders’ level of awareness and knowledge about invasive alien species (IAS) specifically on buyo-buyo (Piper aduncum L.) in the area, the Mining and Degraded Areas Rehabilitation Research Center (MDARRC) conducted the Focus Group Discussion (FGD) and Stakeholders’ Forum on April 19, 2017 at Brgy. Lamlahak, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The said activity was in consonance with the center’s aim to increase awareness on the threats of IAS especially the buyo-buyo (locally known as ‘sguya unge’ by the T’bolis) to the biodiversity in the area which causes depletion of native flora and fauna and low crop productivity among farmers.

The one-day activity was attended by 20 stakeholders from different organizations in the barangay which were composed of selected barangay officials, peoples organization and sitio leaders, teachers, youth organization representatives, community peacekeepers, and barangay health workers.

In her message, Supervising SRS Vilma Flauta-Nitura, project leader of Technology Transfer and Extension (TTE) Project 2: ENR Technology Extension, reiterated the importance of the activity to instill knowledge about the effects of the proliferation of buyo-buyo as detrimental to the biodiversity and to pose action for its management and control.

The participants were asked about buyo-buyo following the criteria on social acceptability, technical feasibility, economic viability, environmental soundness, and political acceptability (STEEP) to generate different ideas and opinions about the species. The participants identified buyo-buyo as an alternative for fuelwood and as cheap raw material for charcoal making and in the construction of houses. Though it has significant purposes, it is still considered to have no major economic value by the participants because of its inferior quality. They further revealed that it has no cultural relevance since it is not part of the T’boli cultural practices.

Series of activities were also conducted during the stakeholders’ forum to encourage stakeholders’ participation in the project implementation which at the end of the activities the participants were able to identify their interest about buyo-buyo and its impact to them and their influence on the implementation and management of other projects and resources and in the decision making.

Senior SRS Araceli B. Dela Cruz, project leader of TTE Project 1: Packaging of ENR Technologies, said that MDARRC will conduct another activity in June to elicit action and cooperation towards eliminating buyo-buyo through its management and control using technologies generated by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB).

Brgy. Kagawad Evelyn A. Cafon expressed in behalf of the participants their willingness to support the project on the “Management and Control of Piper aduncum L. to Address Low Productivity of the Multiple-Use Zone Protected Area at the Allah Valley Protected Landscape” to make their area usable for agriculture and reforestation.

The project is part of the pilot testing of the technologies generated by the team of Dr. Carmelita Villamor of ERDB and the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) through the project on “Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in the Production and Protection Forests in Southeast Asia” of which the project site was also in Brgy. Lamlahak. (Jethrone M. Setenta, MDARRC)