Protecting Ecosystem Goods and Services

Integrated Approach to Biodiversity Conservation in a Philippine Protected Area

Submitted By: Randy Vinluan, USAID/Philippines Environment Office; Ernesto Guiang and Wilbur Dee, DAI Global/Philippines Protect Wildlife; Jeanne Tabangay, Conservation International Philippines

Implementing Partners: DAI, Conservation International Philippines

One of the many scenic views when passing by Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in southern Palawan. Despite being a mighty, rugged mountain range that spans five municipalities, Mount Mantalingahan and the many biodiverse habitats and species within it have to contend with old and emerging threats to its environment. Photo by: USAID Protect Wildlife.
Funding Approach: Co-funded. Sectors Integrated: Climate Change; Biodiversity; and Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance.

Recognized by the judges as an example of integrated programming that describes processes and enabling conditions needed to facilitate integration and provides a clear narrative of steps taken in implementing integration.

Seventy percent of forest cover is intact in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in Palawan, the Philippines. This Landscape provides multiple ecosystem goods and services, including water services, food and medicine, fertile soils, wildlife habitat, and ecotourism opportunities. Indigenous peoples collect water use fees from downstream water users, which is used to support watershed conservation. Communities also receive 50 percent of tourist entrance fees from the protected area. These benefits amount to approximately US$1 million annually. However, undefined property rights have allowed encroachers and poachers to access forest lands and protected areas and resulted in mining activities, uncontrolled forest resource extraction, agricultural expansion, and wildlife poaching, all of which threaten biodiversity and pose a challenge to effective governance. This story describes how USAID/Philippines’s purposeful integration of biodiversity conservation, governance, and sustainable landscapes — activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the land use sector — in the Protect Wildlife activity contributes to improved landscape management, local livelihoods, and human well-being, and offers lessons learned on designing and implementing an integrated approach.

During the country strategy and activity design process, USAID/Philippines’s leadership and technical staff felt a holistic, integrated approach and collaboration across sectors and government agencies would be the most effective way to address threats and drivers to biodiversity. USAID/Philippines developed a theory of change that integrated strategic actions and clarified areas for collaboration and coordination among team members. The mission then shared the theory of change in a series of meetings with national and local government and other stakeholders, a process that took approximately six months.

Protect Wildlife has continued to use its theory of change as a roadmap for integration, and staff regularly review whether to revise assumptions and adjust strategic actions. The mission and implementing partners deliberately schedule opportunities to reflect on the integrated approach, including through regular team meetings, quarterly team planning meetings, annual pause-and-reflect sessions, and stakeholder consultations. This consistent, participatory, and process-oriented approach to planning and implementation has facilitated consensus-building and deepened local ownership, resulting in increased support for integration and improved management of the Landscape.

Protect Wildlife uses a holistic approach to promote education and awareness of biodiversity conservation, support income-generating options for local communities, and contribute to strong enforcement of environmental laws to achieve sustainable alternative livelihoods and promote lasting behavior change. The integrated interventions in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape have increased local awareness and commitment to coordinate individual efforts to enforce biodiversity-related laws, integrate conservation land uses with local development strategies, and align investment support for production, infrastructure, and social services and assistance to upland farmers and indigenous peoples. Increased local awareness and participatory land use planning have culminated in the placement of over 260,641 hectares of biologically significant areas under improved management and the expectation of positive biodiversity conservation results.

Governance interventions have resulted in an active protected area management board that has updated the protected area management plan and forest use plans, and local communities are engaged in site-based wildlife law enforcement. Protect Wildlife’s capacity building on forestry, wildlife, and environmental law for community and government officials that operate in Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape has resulted in 124 reported confiscations, seizures, and arrests related to illegal logging and fishing and wildlife trafficking, contributing to reduced environmental and wildlife crime. In addition, sustainable landscapes activities have resulted in 610,603 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduced, sequestered, or avoided, and the activity anticipates an increased reduction in the future as a result of improved management of mangroves and planned forest restoration activities.

Lessons Learned

Integrate purposely.

Start with a situation model and robust theory of change when adopting an integrated approach. Use a robust theory of change to show how integrating various interventions, usually in different sectors, contributes to a common result. Use a collaborating, learning, and adapting (CLA) approach to adjust, modify, or even completely abandon planned activities over time as intermediate results come in.

Integrate from the start.

Communicate the theory of change to stakeholders as early as possible to increase understanding of the activity from the beginning. Engage with stakeholders early to facilitate buy-in of the integrated approach and increase understanding of the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholder groups. Reflect assumptions in the theory of change.

Southern Palawan local government representatives chart and trace their forest land use plans for their respective community forest lands during a participatory mapping workshop for forest land use plans. Photo by: USAID Protect Wildlife.

Engage stakeholders and encourage wide participation.

Work with local stakeholders and employ participatory processes as these are key to the success of an integrated approach. The buy-in of local governments, national government agencies, and communities is critical, especially in adopting policy-consistent and technically-sound land uses, enforcing wildlife laws and zoning ordinances, and directing livelihood and infrastructure support for the marginalized upland communities and indigenous peoples.

Integrate together.

Define team members’ unique roles and their contributions to achieving activity objectives. Designate a person, or a group of persons, that coordinates all integration efforts. Remain open to learning from team members during planning and implementation. Share knowledge and lessons with each other and collectively reflect on necessary actions to achieve integration objectives.

Learn More

Explore more case studies on the USAID Biodiversity Integration Case Competition website.

Learn more about biodiversity integration with other USAID technical sectors on the Biodiversity Conservation Gateway.

For more information on USAID/Philippines’s work on biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes, please visit USAID/Philippines Environment page or DAI’s Philippines Protect Wildlife project page.


Randy Vinluan, Environment Office, USAID/Philippines

Rvinluan (at) usaid (dot) gov

Mount Mantalingahan is locally known as the “Mountain of God” because of its difficult trails, cliff edges, and steep slopes. The mountain stands at 2,086 meters above sea level, making it the highest peak in Palawan. Photo by: USAID Protect Wildlife.
USAID Biodiversity Integration Case Studies

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This 15-case collection illustrates how biodiversity conservation is critically linked to the journey to self-reliance and helps deliver development results.

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