Science for peace and sustainable development 

Seventh Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserve Network Meeting

UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programmehas as its founding principle, the attainment and maintenance of a balanced relationship between people and their environment. For implementing the Programme on the ground, MAB relies on the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.Considered living laboratories for sustainable development, Biosphere Reserves are sites established by countries and recognized by UNESCO MAB to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.

 
Established in 1998, the Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserve Network (SeaBRnet) functions as a regional network of BRs in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam to promote biodiversity conservation and sustainable socio-economic development.SeaBRnet regional meetings are held every two years, with the last four meetings having been hosted by Cambodia (3rd meeting, 2003), Lao PDR (4th meeting, 2005), China (5th meeting, 2007), and Indonesia (6th meeting, 2011). It was the Philippines’ turn to host the SeaBRnet meeting in 2013. 
 
The Philippines hosted the 7thSeaBRnet meeting in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on 23-27 October 2013 with the Provincial Government of Palawan, through its PCSD, providing local hospitality and attending to local arrangements. NatCom and UNESCO-Jakarta took charge of other organizational tasks and funded the travel of Manila and regional/international participants to Palawan.The theme of the Seventh SeaBRnet meeting was Biosphere Partnerships for Green Economy. The meeting opened with welcome messages from Puerto Princesa City Mayor LuciloBayron, PCSD Vice Chairman and Palawan Vice Governor Dennis Socrates, NatCom Secretary-General Virginia Miralao, NatCom S&T Committee Chair Reynaldo Vea, and UNESCO Office Jakarta Deputy Director and Senior Programme Specialist for Science Shahbaz Khan. Also on hand to welcome the participants were PCSD Executive Director and Romeo Dorado and DENR representative, Ms. Amelita Ortiz.  Keynote addresses for the meeting were delivered by Shabhaz Khan and NatCom S&T Commissioner Lorenzo Tan, also president of World Wide Fund Philippines and member of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board. Other resource persons included Drs. Miguel Fortes and Domingo Madulid, eminent marine scientist and botanist, respectively, who have shared their expertise over the years with NatCom and MAB Philippines.
 
Participants to the Seventh SeaBRnet Meeting, 24-26 October 2013, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (Photo courtesy of PCSD)

 

Dr. Shahbaz Khan of the UNESCO Jakarta Office delivers his keynote address.  (Photo courtesy of PCSD)

 

Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo P. Tan of the World Wide Fund-Philippines speaksbefore local and foreign delegates. (Photo courtesy of PCSD)

 

As SeaBRnet meetings are meant to provide sharing and learning avenues for BR managers in the region, country delegates took turns presenting the experience(s) of their respective BR’s in terms of the topics or theme of the meeting. Country presentations were delivered by: Mr. Nguyen Van Cong of Vietnam’s Center for Marine Life Conservation and Community Development, Red River Delta BR on “Interprovincial Coordination Mechanism in Red River Delta BR: Role of Non-State Actor in Building Partnership Toward a Shared Vision;” Mr. Le ThanhTuyen of MAB Vietnam on “Systems Thinking, Local Community Participation and Sustainable Development in the Cat Ba Archipelago BR;” Mr. YohanesPurwanto of MAB Indonesia on “Lessons Learned: Partnership Management in the Indonesian BR;” Mr. HarisSuronoWardiAtmodjo, Mr. Canecio Muñoz and Mr. Suprianto of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Forestry on “GiamSiak Kecil-Bukit Batu, Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia: The First BR in the World, Initiated and Co-managed by the  Private Sector;” Mr. Henry Subigadi of GunungGedePangrango National Park, Cibodas BR on “The Implementation of Cibodas Biosphere Reserve Management;” Mr. Long Kheng of Cambodia’s PrekToal Core Area, Tonle Sap BR on “Overview of Tonle Sap BR Management: A  Case Study on Conservation Success of Breeding Colonies of Large Waterbirds in PrekToal Core Area, Battambang Province;” Mr. Ben Thearath of Cambodia’s BoeungTonleChhmar Core Area, Tonle Sap BR on “Management of the BoeungTonleChhmar Core Area, Tonle Sap BR;” Mr. Xuerong Ma of MAB China on “Man and the Biosphere Programme in China;” Mr. WijanMeepol of Thailand’s Rangong Mangrove Forest Research Center on “Considerations for Sustainable Management of Mangroves in Ranong BR;” Mr. Demetrio de Amaral de Carvalho of MAB TimosterLeste on “The Reviving of Local Knowledge to Strengthening Local and Regional Conservation;” and Mr. U Than Naing of Myanmar’s Taninthayi Nature Reserve on “Roles of Awareness Program and Importance of Staff Capacity in Taninthayi Nature Reserve.”

Joining the foreign delegates were 60 other local participants from Palawan and Manila, representing schools/universities, key government agencies, professionals and scientists, NGOs, and local associations/communities. The meeting included a field trip to allow participants to experience what everyday life and activities are within the Palawan Biosphere Reserve and to visit Palawan’s World Heritage-listed Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park through the kind sponsorship of the Puerto Princesa City Government and ably guided by site management.
 
The 7th SeaBRnet meeting ended with the adoption of a declaration enjoining relevant authorities and BR site managers to secure public-private partnerships to promote Green Economy ventures and enterprises to address both the sustainability concerns of BRs and the need to grow local economies.