The Protect Wildlife Activity (PWA), a wildlife conservation initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was found to have contributed greatly to reduce the threats to wildlife and biodiversity.

This was observed by the evaluation team under the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca)-led Final Performance Evaluation of PWA commissioned by USAID.

 Covering several biodiversity hotspots in the Philippines, the PWA was evaluated so that the results can help inform similar natural resource-conservation activities at present or in the future, said Searca Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio.

He added that the findings can contribute to the growing body of evidence on good practices and a better understanding of the enabling and hindering factors in biodiversity conservation and anti-wildlife trafficking.

To disseminate the key findings of the evaluation and highlight the lessons learned from the PWA, Searca’s Emerging Innovation for Growth Department organized a virtual learning event that featured speakers who gave an overview of the PWA and discussed the overall results and synthesis of the evaluation.

Also presented were videos showcasing the efforts and contributions of the PWA to the various stakeholders in the six sites covered by the evaluation: Pasonanca Natural Park, Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat, Mt. Matutum Protected Landscape, and Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape.

 “USAID is a strong partner of the Philippine government in conserving the countries’ rich biodiversity resources and believes that conservation is an essential component to building prosperous, stable and equitable societies,” said Dr. John Edgar, USAID Environment Office chief.

He explained that the project evaluation is important to measure its effectiveness, relevance and efficiency, and to enable those who design and implement projects to refine the designs and introduce improvements for future efforts.

Edgar affirmed that the findings and results as presented in the learning event will be helpful to the stakeholders and also expressed hope that there will be more opportunities for future collaborations.

Rebecca Paz, PWA Chief of Party, presenting a brief background and accomplishments of the PWA, emphasized that “there is a connection between biodiversity conservation, the flow of ecosystems goods and services and the improvement of human well-being.”

She added: “The preservation of biodiversity in protected areas and in coastal and marine areas supports livelihoods and the growth of the local economy, thus, PWA is not about protecting nature from people but protecting nature for the people.”

 During the open forum, the evaluation team and stakeholders discussed the best practices of the PWA, which contributed greatly to the increase in income of the beneficiaries and reduced the threats to wildlife and biodiversity.

 The documentary videos were complemented by key local implementing partners who shared their plans after the PWA.

 Dr. Rey Navacilla, DAI Global Site Manager for Pasonanca Natural Park, said the formulation of the Ayala and Manicahan watershed management and development plan will be instrumental in looking at the potential of these dams as sources of water for Zamboanga City, which will help improve the natural park’s water resource sustainability.

Elizabeth Maclang, Protected Area Supervisor (PASu) of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, said they will prioritize the use of camera traps that help the enforcers monitor the activities inside the protected area as well as the continuation of the payment for ecosystem services.

 For Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, Forester Efren Hibaler, PASu, explained that they are focusing on the creation of a GIS team for DENR to facilitate the zoning system in the protected area. They will utilize spatial planning and other technologies, which they gained from the PWA.

Joy Ologuin, PASu for Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape, emphasized that they are going to continue the efforts of the PWA, especially the strengthening of enforcers, with the enforcement protocol developed, and institutionalizing the payment for ecosystem services.

Dr. Albert P. Aquino, USAID Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, said “protecting our wildlife doesn’t end here in our collective efforts as well as the stories that we tell. After all, these collective efforts to protect wildlife is a continuing story and still is evolving so please let’s do our share.”

Gregorio thanked USAID for partnering with Searca and expressed hope for more opportunities to work together. He affirmed that Searca strongly supports USAID not only to protect biodiversity in the Philippines, but also the rest of Southeast Asia and beyond.

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