Report on Philippines Field Experience, MDP team at Philippines National Commission for UNESCO


Philippines Field Experience: University of Minnesota—Philippines National Commission for UNESCO

 In June 2015, three graduate students (Abdiwahab Ali, Felipe Barroso, and Mavic Punay) from the University of Minnesota’s Master of Development Practice program, in collaboration with the Philippines National Commission for UNESCO (NatCom), carried out a two month-long assessment of Mount Malindang Range Natural Park’s (MMRNP) potential to become a successful UNESCO Biosphere Reserve[1]. The Team developed a three phase process that engaged local communities, local government units, subject matter experts, and regional organizations.
Phase I—Contextual Scan

The contextual scan was designed to provide the Team sufficient knowledge of the site, national conservation laws, and stakeholders for the community consultation to take place. Through knowledge-sharing sessions, policy field mapping, and a literature review, the Team attested that:

a) The environments surrounding MMRNP are closely linked to the mountain range and highly dependent on the ecosystem services it provides;

b) Several conservation programs and conservation laws were already in place prior to this project;

c) MMRNP’s biodiversity and biophysical endowments are of high value and appropriate for the MAB Programme.

Phase II—Site Visit and Community Consultation

UNESCO’s MAB Programme requires high involvement of local stakeholders both during the nomination process and in the management of the Biosphere Reserve. Therefore, the Team designed a community consultation process highly inclusive of the residents of MMRNP, indigenous communities, and local authorities. The consultation had the following objectives: a) to gather the input from local stakeholders on how to better manage a potential UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and; b) to measure the stakeholder’s present capacity to fulfill MAB’s three functions.

The Team conducted village assemblies with the residents of the mountain range and focus groups discussions with the political leadership of the communities of the lowlands. In the village assemblies, the Team used large manila papers to gather inputs from the highest amount of residents possible, irrespective of political hierarchy. In the focus group discussions, the Team provided note cards where the participants would write the answers.

The questions were related to natural resource management, activities dependent on the MMRNP, and their vision for the future of the mountain range.

The answer from the village assemblies and focus group discussions were coded (and translated) for further analysis.

Phase III—Result Analysis

Equipped with the results from phases I and II, the Team recommended that 10 discussion points be addressed by the local stakeholders if MMRNP is to become a successful UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

1) Implementation of sustainable livelihoods and social safety nets for communities on MMRNP;

2) Ensuring there is adequate patrolling;

3) Participation on MMRNP stakeholders in the operationalization of conservation programs;

4) Provision of basic social services for communities on MMRNP;

5) Developing ecotourism with equitable benefit-sharing between Core and Buffer Zone communities;

6) Development of markets for sustainable livelihoods;

7) Meaningful participation of communities in management board activities;

8) Having a reliable platform of research publications;

9) Establishment and promotion of interpretation centers;

10) Designation of a Transition Zone.


[1] The UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) confers Biosphere Reserve designations to sites that have demonstrated present capacity and future potential to fulfill the programme’s three functions: conservation, sustainable development, and logistic.

Project faculty supervisor was Dr. Dave Wilsey.
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