New Protected Area Action for Indonesia and the Philippines

March 2004

The governments of Indonesia and the Philippines announced actions in February that are key to preserving vital land for endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran elephant and the Philippine eagle as well as hundreds of indigenous communities.

In the Philippines, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a presidential proclamation declaring the Quirino Protected Landscape, which covers some 206, 875 hectares.

The new protected area and the Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape proclaimed in October 2003 bookend the Sierra Madre Biodiversity Corridor, with the total area under permanent protection in the central part of the corridor now extended to 391,000 hectares. The area also serves as the watershed of the Cagayan River basin supporting several irrigation systems of the Cagayan Valley Region, considered the "rice bowl" of the Philippines.

A variety of stakeholders including members of the Protected Area Management Board, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Interim Local Government Unit of Quirino and local community and nongovernmental organizations led by Conservation International-Philippines worked together for years to make the project possible.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government publicly committed to creating 12 new protected areas in 2004, including Tesso Nilo in Sumatra’s Riau Province and Batang Gadis National Park in Northern Sumatra. The government announced the pledge in Kuala Lumpur during the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, where member states agreed to set aside 10 percent of their lands for biodiversity conservation.

The inclusion among the 12 of Batang Gadis National Park, just previously declared as a national park by officials at the district level, will make way for a declaration at the national level and, local officials hope, national funding for the park.

Tesso Nilo is one of the largest remaining blocks of flat, dry lowlands rain forest in Sumatra. Only about 350 Sumatran elephants are left in this region's forests. More than 300,000 hectares of Tesso Nilo's forest have been converted to industrial plantations since 1984.

“Tesso Nilo is more than just home for elephants and tigers, as it has been found to contain the world's richest vascular (plant) biodiversity,” H.M. Rusli Zainal, SE, Governor of Riau said. “Protecting Tesso Nilo will alleviate human-wildlife conflicts and prove that conservation can go with economic development in harmony.”

As part of an alliance led by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), more than two dozen local organizations have worked together to save Tesso Nilo with support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. As in the Philippines, these allied efforts have demonstrated the immense value of partnership and bottom-up approaches, clear conservation outcomes and the success that can be achieved when civil society joins forces with and complements the activities of governments.

In related news, WWF called on creditors and customers of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), one of the world's largest paper companies, to pressure the company to stop unsustainable logging operations in Sumatra. In stark contrast to the progress represented by the government pledge, a six-month negotiation between WWF and APP ended on Feb. 19 without an agreement on a sustainability action plan to provide added forest protection.

In August 2003, APP and its parent company, the Sinar Mas Group, signed a letter of intent with WWF agreeing to prepare an action plan for the next 12 years on the sustainability of APP's wood supplies and the conservation of forests of high social and environmental significance. WWF said some progress had been made but the company's recently proposed plan fell short on several counts, and APP is still proposing to cut 445,000 acres of natural forest over the next two years.

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