August 2017 is a milestone for MCME because it commemorates a new beginning for MCME under the leadership of Director Roberto G. Visco. Incidentally as Dr. Visco celebrated his birthday on the 18th he reflected on his administration’s maiden year achievements and looked ahead to a more dynamic and responsive MCME in the next couple of years of his term as Director. The whole MCME staff organized a simple yet meaningful celebration of Dr. Visco’s birthday one day in advance which was made extra special by the presence of his better half, Dr. Emilia Visco.
Among the highlights of last year’s accomplishments include the issuance of a memo pertaining to the conduct of research, exploration, germplasm collection, and other research-related activities in the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve ASEAN Heritage Park (MMFR AHP). The initiative strengthens the implementation of MCME protocol to prevent bio-prospecting and to strictly implement the UPLB Intellectual Property Rights policy.
Furthermore, Dr. Visco also led the development of an access protocol for MMFR to secure the integrity and protection of the forest reserve’s resources and biodiversity. The access protocol also sets guidelines for recreational and extension-related activities inside MMFR.
In addition to the typical management activities done for MMFR, Dr. Visco being an action-man and troubleshooter of sorts, also led MCME’s involvement in three externally-funded projects: the NPC-funded Community Development program in Makiling-Banahaw Geothermal Reservations; the ERDB-funded Makiling Botanic Garden Development project; and the BMB-funded Mount Makiling Forest Reserve Biodiversity and Ecotourism project. Through these initiatives, MMFR stakeholders and visitors will be engaged in new activities and enjoy new facilities in the future.
Dr. Visco also invigorated the participation of the Local Government Units of Bay, Los Baños, Calamba City, and Sto. Tomas in the conduct of “Make It Makiling!”, the Annual Lenten Season Program of MCME that strengthens the partnerships with surrounding LGUs and other groups/agencies/sectors who regularly volunteer in this visitor management program.
The Tree Planting and Nurturing Program of MCME was also revitalized the past year to include new partners in the form of the following companies: AIR 21: Ube Media, DENSO, DENSO TEN, MARIWASA, and the Laguna Aquatech Resources Corporation. These companies have committed three years of continuous support and conduct of tree planting and growing activities which forms part of their companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility programs. This is a testament to the private sector’s mission to leave a greener and cleaner environment for the next generation.
Developing MCME human resources was also prioritized. A training related to the operation of a radio land mobile was conducted attended by selected MCME staff. Once the participants acquire their RLM/GROC license, the use of handheld radios will boost the implementation of monitoring and law and enforcement activities for MMFR. Another training on mountain guiding was attended by selected MCME staff to elevate their skills in ecotourism-related activities. Lastly, the annual office team-building and planning workshop activity was held in Sariaya, Quezon to chart the direction of MCME in the coming years.
Currently, UPLB has integrated ecotourism in its program thrusts. Intensified promotion of the Makiling Botanic Gardens (MBG) and other MMFR ecotourism facilities coupled with the re-assessment of user fees were done. The UPLB administration supported MCME’s move to increase collection from user fees to sustainability finance the improvement of ecotourism facilities in MMFR. Furthermore, the move also recognized the need to fund the management and development activities of MMFR.
During MCME’s 20th anniversary Dr. Visco led the planting of edible, fruit bearing forest tree species inside MBG which will be developed into a full-blown theme garden named, “Fructus”. The event symbolized MCME’s continued commitment to conservation of important tree species.
As MCME forges into the future, the center welcomes three new programs: the Carrying Capacity Determination and Valuation of MMFR ASEAN Heritage Park resources towards responsible and sustainable ecotourism; the Ex-situ Conservation of Threatened Philippine Plants: Restoring Philippine’s Plant Resources and Environment; and the Community-Based Natural Resource Management. These programs are all geared towards highlighting the key role that MMFR plays in holding biodiversity conservation, ecotourism and sustainable resource management at the forefront of its mandate.
UPLB’s steadfast dedication for the protection and conservation of MMFR remains firm through the support it gives to MCME. Under the supervision and administration of Dr. Visco, MCME continues to lead in mountain ecosystem management and protection and at the same time nurturing the UPLB community’s needs for instruction, research and extension venues.
ECGestiada & RTAndradaII
Photos credit to: ECGestiada