In order to disseminate and increase awareness on the threats of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) to the environment and natural resources (ENR), food and national security, the Mining and Degraded Areas Rehabilitation Research Center (MDARRC) of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) conducted a Regional Technology Forum on September 27, 2017. An exhibit which showcased the different IAS through posters was likewise installed to provide information about IAS.

Forty (40) participants from DENR XII regional and field offices, local government unit of lake Sebu and Brg. Lamlahak and the Allah Valley Landscape Development Alliance (AVLDA) of South Cotabato. attended the event which was conducted at Punta Isla Lake Resort, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Reporters from the local radio stations (DXMC Bombo Radyo and DXND Radyo Bida) in Koronadal City and representatives from the Regional Public Affairs Office of DENR XII provided media coverage of the technology forum.

In lieu of MDARRC OIC-Center Head Alma S. Uddin, Senior SRS Araceli B. Dela Cruz, Chief of the Planning Unit and Packaging of ENR Technologies Project leader, thanked the participants for the overwhelming response to the Center’s invitation. She hoped that through the forum the threats of IAS, specifically Piper aduncum L or locally known as buyo-buyo to the native ecosystems and biodiversity of Allah Valley Protected Landscape (AVPL) would be properly disseminated. “The forum will likewise serve as venue to elicit action and cooperation with you, our stakeholders, towards eliminating buyo-buyo in the mountains and adjacent community,” she added.

The one-day activity includes presentation on the different IAS and their threats to the country’s ENR, food and national security which was presented by Dr. Carmelita I. Villamor, Chief of the Coastal Zone and Freshwater Ecosystems Research Division (CZFERD) of the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB). According to Dr. Villamor, IAS were initially introduced in the Philippines for food production, reforestation, recreation and other related purposes but most are introduced into an area where they do not naturally occur, and which are likely to cause economic or ecological harm to the natural environment.

Dr. Villamor also presented the result of DENR-CABI’s project titled “Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in Production and Protection Forest in Southeast Asia”. The project primarily aimed to control the spread of a shrub known locally as buyo-buyo in AVPL particularly in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. “We need to diminish the adverse impacts of this IAS to the biodiversity and to farming communities of AVPL,” Dr. Villamor said. She added that in areas dominated by buyo-buyo, no other plants can thrive.

Meanwhile, Dr. Marilyn Q. Landicho of ERDB- Laboratory and Experimental Services Division (LESD) presented the charcoal briquetting technology and provided basic knowledge about charcoal briquette production using buyo-buyo as raw material. “During the process of eliminating this invasive species in your mountains, we can help provide alternative livelihood to the community”, Dr. Landicho said.

Dr. Landicho also informed the participants that the ERDB has provided charcoal briquetting equipment to Lake Sebu Upland Development Association (LASUDA) to gain an initial foothold on the charcoal briquetting technology. LASUDA is a people’s organization comprising of 230 Indigenous People (IP) members.

After the presentations, the resource persons were interviewed by Mr. Darwin Bito-on of DXMC Bombo Radyo- Koronadal City and was aired live over AM radio. Likewise, Ms. Emily J. Daban of DXND Radyo Bida- Koronadal City had live coverage of the event.

During the open forum, Mr. Rogelio Acosta, Project Manager of the AVLDA, suggested that in order to elicit more support and action, the ERDB-MDARRC can present its RDE results and other programs to the gatherings of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) or to the League of Municipal Mayors and Municipal Councilors. “Such initiative will surely encourage policy and decision makers to rally behind the initiatives of your office”, he added.

Meanwhile, Ms. Nide Dangli of the DENR XII said that the ERDB is exerting some initiatives to control the spread of IAS in the country, hence, other agencies like the Department of Agriculture or the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources need to do the same. The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and the Plant Quarantine Decree of 1978 have specific provisions on IAS, however, “harmonizing different policies should be done at the national level”, Dr. Villamor answered.

In her closing message, Supervising SRS Vilma Flauta-Nitura, ENR Technology Extension Project leader, said that the proper dissemination of the threats of IAS within the locality can be a key factor in putting a stop to its massive and uncontrolled proliferation in the area. “Let’s help stop the spread of IAS because they are the biggest threat to the biodiversity,” she reiterated.

Currently, ERDB-MDARRC is conducting massive IEC campaign as part of its Strategic Communication Plan on the management and control of Piper aduncum in AVPL reiterating the extensive invasion of buyo-buyo in the forests of AVPL replacing indigenous species existing in the area. Jethrone M. Setenta, MDARRC