Hosted by the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), the Mindanao Regional Future Earth Community Mobilization Workshop highlighted various sustainability issues and initiatives.

The event was held via Zoom on April 26 and 28, 2021 with the theme, “Synergizing knowledge and governance for sustainable development in Mindanao in the age of disruptions.” Around 140 representatives from different sectors such as the academe, local government units (LGUs), non-government organizations, and other members of the civil society participated.

Economies and cultures differ, and societies vary in their needs as well as in opportunities, resources and degrees of development. What then is a better way to be inclusive, responsive, and sustainable if not to go local? There is no other way but to belong,shared Dr. Marieta Bañez Sumagaysay, NRCP Executive Director.

Likewise, national scientist Dr. Lourdes J. Cruz, Future Earth Philippines (FEP) Project Leader, introduced the said program and stressed the importance of regional workshops to better understand the local setting and encourage participation from the ground.

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A screenshot of some participants during the FEP workshop for Mindanao.

Sustainability researches, case studies in Mindanao

To promote science-based approaches in sustainability implementation, different researches and case studies were presented by NRCP members:

Dr. Anthony C. Sales, Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Region XI Director, presented the “Status of Development Efforts and Implications on Sustainable Development of Mindanao in the Context of the New Normal.” He shared some strategies in building a resilient and sustainable Mindanao such as improving digital infrastructure, and conducting an integrated biodiversity conservation program.

Stressing the issues concerning Lake Lanao, Dr. Sukarno Tanggol, Chancellor of Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), shared the socio-ecological importance of Lake Lanao in his talk, “Lake Lanao Sustainability Challenges, Resources, and Opportunities.” Among the recommendations he cited to preserve the lake are: restoring the degraded forests, conduct of continuous research, and establishment of the Lake Lanao Rehabilitation Center.

Dr. Mario J. Aguja, Professor at MSU-General Santos City, discussed “Sustainable Management of the Ligawasan Marsh Transitional Peace.” He mentioned that addressing the degradation of Ligawasan Marsh entails the resolution of the ongoing conflicts between the government and rebel groups.

With his talk titled, “Sustaining the energy imperatives of Mindanao for development,” Dr. Randell U. Espina, Professor at Ateneo De Davao University, mentioned the potential of Mindanao for renewable energy sources. He enthused the need to optimize the utilization of free water from the river basins through small to medium-sized hydro power plants.

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Dr. Victor B. Amoroso shared the importance of biodiversity in Mindanao including its role in sustainable development.

Meanwhile, Dr. Victor B. Amoroso, Professor Emeritus at Central Mindanao University, highlighted the rich flora and fauna of Mindanao in his talk, “Biodiversity Inventory and Conservation Assessment in Mindanao.” He encouraged the participants to create conservation programs, citing that a healthy biodiversity ensures a healthy community.

Government initiatives to promote sustainability

Del Carmen Vice Mayor Alredo M. Coro II presented their activities to conserve the mangrove areas in the island, considered as the largest in the country. He cited ecotourism as one of their strategies given the island’s international reputation as a tourism hub. 

Coro also partnered with the NRCP to study the mangroves in Siargao towards generating approaches to preserve them. To address future challenges, Coro proposed the need for a blended finance that would ensure sustainable growth and equitable development in the island.

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Senator Pimentel shared his insights on sustainability during the FEP workshop for Mindanao.

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Secretary Piñol of MinDA, stressed the importance of sustainable agriculture to preserve the environment and develop the local economy.

On the side of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol, shared the importance of Mindanao in boosting the country’s agricultural development and how this can be done without compromising the forests. He reiterated the need to connect farming communities to the market and to push for renewable energy sources.

Likewise, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said that achieving a sustainable and inclusive economic security entails the strengthening of linkages between markets and production areas.

“We need to establish more physical linkages in Mindanao through building and improving our infrastructure, transport and communication facilities,” added Pimentel III.

Pimentel also underscored the need to generate sustainable jobs for the communities and to promote peace and security.

Indigenous Peoples as stewards of Mindanao’s environment

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Timuey Mansayagan, a Manobo tribe leader, shared the plight of the IPs and their roles in protecting Mindanao’s forests.

Stressing the critical role of indigenous peoples (IPs) in Mindanao’s sustainability, Timuey Jimid P. Mansayagan, a Manobo tribal leader and the Chairperson of the Governing Council of Lumad Mindanao People’s Federation, narrated how colonial and post-colonial policies and programs have ushered devastation to their ancestral domains. He cited that without the collective opposition of the Lumads and other IPs against extractive industries, no forests would remain in Mindanao.

“We, the IPs, have long been misunderstood and were even considered as backward and primitive but the international community recognizes that we play an integral role in protecting the planet and addressing climate change,” said Mansayagan.

Mansayagan expressed alarm over various proposed mining attempts within their ancestral domains.

“Noong nalogging at nakalbo ang aming mga kabundukan, nakita naman ng mga kapitalista ang mga ginto sa aming lupang ninuno. Ngayun, gusto nilang kunin (After logging and deforesting our mountains, the capitalists now want to mine the gold underneath),” said Mansayagan.

To address the plight of the IPs and arrest forest degradation in Mindanao, Mansayagan proposed “partnership and cooperation” with the government. He then called on the FEP proponents to raise their proposal to the national level.

Sharing of SDG Practices from the Ground

Aside from the lectures, the event also featured a digital talk show, wherein, representatives from the eight (8) identified LGUs shared their practices related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These LGUs are Davao, Iligan, Cagayan De Oro, Butuan, Zamboanga, General Santos, Marawi, and Cotabato.

During the second day, the participants were grouped according to LGUs and were tasked to identify sustainability issues using Problem Tree Analysis and propose solutions via Objective Tree Analysis. They then filled out a Log Framework, specifying the key strategies and timelines for the proposed solutions.

According to Dr. Rhodora V. Azanza, NAST President, the problems and solutions raised during the workshops can serve as a baseline of the LGUs in initiating programs that would boost Mindanao’s sustainability.