BINHI is the first comprehensive private sector-led reforestation initiative in the Philippines that consolidates the goals of biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, socio-economic upliftment, and ecotourism -- under one program. It applies a holistic, scientific, and multi-pronged approach in bringing back the lushness of the country’s forests in order to provide the much needed vegetative cover and preserve the country’s vanishing indigenous tree species.
BINHI consists of four modules:
EDC geothermal project areas in Bonga, Sorsogon; Kananga, Leyte; Bago City, Negros Occidental; Valencia, Negros Oriental; Kidapawan, North Cotabato; Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, Isabela; and Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija. EDC wind and geothermal exploration sites in Mindanao. Selected schools and parks in Metro Manila, Laguna, and Batangas.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR); Department of Education (DepEd); University of the Philippines; First Gen Corporation; ABS-CBN Foundation; Clinton Global Initiative, Quezon City Government; St. Benedict Monastery; St. Francis de Sales Seminary; Ayala Property Management Corporation; Rotary Club of Paranaque; various public elementary/high schools, community associations, and Local Government Units (LGUs) in EDC’s project sites.
Biodiversity restoration and conservation, carbon sequestration, socioeconomic upliftment, and ecotourism development.
Research, linkage establishment/partnerships, information and advocacy campaigns, and program expansion are central to the strategies in implementing BINHI
Given the topographical and climate characteristics of EDC’s geothermal project areas, communities surrounding the projects are naturally vulnerable to disasters. Based on a community survey conducted by EDC in 2006 in its five project sites, it was found that one in three households in host barangays are located near or on mountain slopes, while one in five are located near bodies of water. A substantial number (10%) of families also live near highways. In terms of exposure to potential disasters, more than are exposed to the risk of landslide, 17.3% to typhoons and flash floods, and 6.7 to fires. These realities prompted the Company to organize the first seven Barangay Emergency Response Teams (BERTs) that same year.
Mountain barangays in Albay, Sorsogon, Leyte, Negros Oriental, and Cotabato.
LGUs, provincial chapters of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), and local safety training service providers.
In organizing BERTs, EDC:
From an initial number of seven, there are now 25 BERTs spread across EDC’s 43 host communities with a total membership of 636. The presence of BERTs has helped the host communities to become more cohesive, disaster-ready, and to be not too dependent on government assistance. In Valencia, Negros Oriental for instance, residents are confident of ready assistance since BERT members can be mobilized to respond to any emergency situation any time via SMS.
Funding for the organization of BERTs was shared by EDC and the host barangays. Financial investment to form one (1) BERT ranges from PhP 35,000.00 to PhP 80,000.00, which includes trainors’ honoraria for a five-day training course, medical and rescue kits, and administrative costs (e.g., handouts, snacks, transportation).
EDC has been building up the resource base of volunteers and future generation of emergency responders via school-based disaster risk management (DRM) interventions (e.g., conduct of information drives and seminars on disaster preparedness for elementary and high school students). The Company is helping install this system in 10 to 15 schools in each geothermal project site. The Company also capitalizes on available partnership opportunities to expand the scope and address the scarcity of resources of permanent institutions in the area. Likewise, continuous education and capacity building is critical in making sure that BERT members remain up-to-date with DRM issues and competent in administering aid to their constituents.
The following lessons were learned and can prove helpful in enhancing, replicating, and sustaining any community-based DRM program:
With many of its project areas located in typhoon-prone provinces, EDC has been implementing several landslide-mitigating measures, such as barrier construction, reforestation or tree planting activities with community residents, and the use of coco-fiber nets and cogon mats to cover and stabilize slopes.
All geothermal project areas of EDC in Albay-Sorsogon, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, and North Cotabato.
Various 225 farmers and community associations organized by EDC in its host areas.
Put in place appropriate methodologies and technologies to mitigate landslides and protect the integrity of EDC’s operations, and to ensure the safety of nearby host communities.
EDC formed a Landslide Risk Assessment Team in 2000 composed of geologists, hydrologists, civil engineers, and foresters. This team assesses and implements erosion control measures to protect company facilities and the communities downstream of its project areas.
The measures have been instrumental in minimizing accidents and stoppages in operation, thereby avoiding great financial exposure and maintaining the productivity of EDC’s geothermal production fields. Some organizations have recognized the measures, such as, the cogon-matting technology introduced in the Northern Negros Geothermal Project (NNGP). It was selected as one of the Success Story Awardees of the Pollution Control Association of the Philippines, Inc. in 2006 for being an exemplary innovation that effectively controls siltation and soil erosion as it generates income for the Landingan Farmers Association based in NNGP’s host municipality of Murcia.
EDC’s landslide mitigation strategies and technologies are operating expenses charged against internally-generated funds. The average annual budget for these range from PhP30 million to PhP50 million for the past three years.
The partnership with farmers and community associations in reforestation and in the production of coco fiber and cogon mats has given EDC a steady source of manpower and materials. The communities also acquire new skills and linkages while delivering these services to EDC, which is a form of empowerment in itself.
The cost of mitigation technologies can be very prohibitive, and some may not readily give the desired results. Through the years, however, EDC has been able to devise innovative and cost-effective means and to harness locally available talent and resources (such as tapping community residents and associations in fabricating slope protection mats out of the ubiquitous cogon) to address the challenges of erosion and even poverty.