Standard procedures in the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of mangrove projects under the Mangrove and Beach Forest Development Project (MBFDP) and the Expanded - National Greening Program (E-NGP) were discussed during a levelling-off meeting held in Iloilo City and Guimaras Island, Iloilo last May 26-27, 2017. The meeting involved key officials of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), who have expressed desire to see how mangrove rehabilitation is being done in the field.

The participants were comprised of DENR Assistant Secretary for Policy and Planning Service, Corazon C. Davis; DBM Undersecretary for Budget Preparation and Execution, Luz M. Cantor; ERDB Director, Henry A. Adornado; Center Head of the Biodiversity, Coastal, Wetlands and Ecotourism Research Center (BCWERC), Dr. Alicia L. Lustica; DENR Director Angelito V. Fontanilla; and Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Officer (PENRO), Vicente A. Sardina. Planning and Finance Officers from the DENR Central Office, ERDB, and DENR Region 6 also joined the said activity.

The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), MBFDP overall coordinator, designed the activity to guide the DBM and DENR Planning Unit on procedures involved in mangrove rehabilitation, particularly on the MBFDP accomplishments in PENRO Guimaras.

BCWERC Head, Dr. Alicia L. Lustica welcomed the guests and presented the MBFDP accomplishments in the region. ERDB Director, Dr. Henry A. Adornado as well introduced the role of research in the different DENR projects.

Moreover, Usec Cantor of DBM in her opening speech appreciated the MBFDP implementation in Guimaras. "What you observe on field differs substantially from that which can be read on documents submitted in the office,” USEC Cantor said. She shared an adage which she herself coined - ‘Sa bawat kwenta, may kwento,’ which is roughly translated as “the story behind each peso.” Through the years, the DBM workforce has widely used such phrase in describing the deeper purpose and meaning of their work: beyond crunching the numbers, to ensure that these figures add up to the country’s vision for progress. She emphasized that the government does not forget the people in far-flung areas in terms of health benefits and livelihood opportunities. ‘The government wanted to improve your quality of life, that is why you are involved in the projects designed to help you become empowered,’ Cantor stated.

ASEC Davis of DENR on the other hand, highlighted the importance of benchmarking activities to include the ecological, social, and economic impacts for the different projects undertaken in the province of Guimaras. Davis believes that there should be assessment to gauge valuable impacts of MBFDP such as economic sustainability in terms of fish catches. She emphasized further that PENRO Guimaras should also look into species diversity especially in determining how reforestation projects enhance biodiversity in project sites.

Furthermore, PENRO Vicente A. Sardina presented the accomplishments of DENR projects in Guimaras highlighting the achievements of MBFDP. Director Adornado of ERDB likewise has committed that the research bureau will assist and provide technical assistance in promoting and developing ecotourism in the island.

A site visit to the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR) highlighted the 2-day activity. The visit exhibited strong participation of different stakeholders including the People’s Organization (POs) and the deep involvement of women in the MBFDP in Guimaras. During the meeting with the People’s Organization (POs), Asec Davis cited the DBM tagline ‘Sa bawat kwenta, may kwento,’ wherein she challenged the PENRO and the People’s Organization (POs) in Guimaras to come up with a project proposal for funding.