Advancing environmental management in the Philippines through Natural Capital Accounting

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SESAM faculty, staff, and students during the 2-day NCA Conference

A contingent of faculty, staff and students from the School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) actively participated in the first natural capital accounting (NCA) conference in the Philippines last 30-31 March 2017 in Marco Polo Hotel, Ortigas. With a theme “Accounting nature, capitalizing partnerships for the future,” the conference organized by the National Economic and Development (NEDA) in collaboration with the World Bank (WB) aimed to draw larger awareness on the importance of micro-macro-economic accounting in decision-making processes.

Countries’ economic performance has primarily been measured in terms of its gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP, however, only measures the value of finished product in a given time and it fails to take account broader forms of provided by the natural capital that have impact on long-term income and growth. Through the Global Partnership Program on Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES GPP), the NEDA and World Bank aims to operationalize sustainable development by integrating natural resources in development planning through national capital accounting as based on the United Nation’s System of Environmental-Economic Accounting of 2012 (UN-SEEA 2012), which measures the physical and monetary values of stocks and flows of natural assets and services. Natural capital accounts provide detailed statistics to determine the relationship of the environment and the economy and, hence, guide the formulation of management strategy that maximizes the contribution of natural resources to economic growth and to operationalize a sound decision-making process to achieve inclusive growth. World Bank-Philippines country director Mara Warwick elaborated during the conference that a country’s economic well-being should not be measured by economic output alone but also by the health and sustainability of its ecosystems.

The Philippines’ Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia also emphasized that NEDA is now developing indicators under the NCA approach for the proper valuation of the country’s natural resources. The Philippines joined the World Bank’s Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) in 2010. Outcomes of policy analyses and recommendations from WAVES, particularly related to Laguna Lake and Southern Palawan including mangroves and minerals, help the government in the formulation of appropriate strategies and programs. NEDA has been working with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to fully develop and make the NCA system operational.

Dr. Decibel Eslava, the Dean of SESAM, and Dr. Rico Ancog, assistant professor of SESAM who also served as a consultant in one of the components of Phil-WAVES, both served as session reactors. Several SESAM alumni and current graduate students gave oral and poster papers covering the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems using several economic valuation approaches in support to NCA. Indeed, with the past and on-going researches covering from resources and environmental assessments, impacts quantification of alternatives, to economic valuation, SESAM is in a very strategic position to provide analyses relevant to the natural capital accounting initiative of the country (J. Razo, M.C. Corales, E. Mandia).

SESAM joins EcoHealth learning visit in Thailand


From left: Mr. Roni De Castro; Dr. Rico Ancog; Dr. Eduardo Lapuz Jr.; Dr. Edwin C. Villar; Dr. Aurelie Binot; Dr. Flavie Goutard; Dr. Milagros Mananggit; Mrs. Corazon Ignacio; Dr. Augusto Baluyut Jr.

The School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) helped facilitate the learning visit of a Philippine delegation to Thailand last 27-31 March 2017. The team is composed of officials from DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), the Department of Agriculture Regional Office III, and the Provincial Veterinary Office of Pampanga, who are members of an ACIAR-PCAARRD project, “Improving the production and competitiveness of Australian and Philippine pig production through better health and disease control.”  The event was designed to learn first-hand best practices and knowledge on smallholder swine operations implemented using EcoHealth. As an interdisciplinary approach, EcoHealth considers the linkages between ecosystems, society and health of animals and humans, and presupposes that human survival depends on health and diverse ecosystems.

Though relatively new, Eco-Health approach has been tested by a number of countries in Southeast Asia through various programs and initiatives. Noteworthy is the case of GREASE (, a regional network that listed SESAM-UPLB as an Associate Member since 2012. Organized by CIRAD, GREASE support research activities for a better management of emerging epidemic risks in Southeast Asia. It is an active network that responds to the challenge of emerging transboundary animal infections and zoonotic diseases by producing theoretical and operational approaches in the framework of the “One Health” approach. Specifically, members of the visiting team were able to differentiate the aspects and characteristics of EH and OH approaches thru the lectures delivered by Dr. Aurelie Binot and Dr. Flavie Goutard who were the coordinators for GREASE network.

The visit also included a tour at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of Kasetsart University Bangkhen and Kamphaeng Saen Campuses and of Khon Kaen University with its state-of-the-art facilities. The team witnessed as well a small pig farm holder who practices integrated farming wherein fish, sugarcane and other crops are complementary grown aside from the backyard pigs. 

The visit in Khon Kaen, Thailand also included a discussion on the success of the Lawa Lake Model using the EcoHealth/OneHealth approach presented by Prof. Banchob Sripa of Khon Kaen University. This highlighted the liver-fluke disease problem that the residents around the Lawa Lake, Chi Kok Kor Village had acquired by eating raw fish, which was solved through the implementation of EcoHealth approach combined with elaborate information, education, and communication (IEC) solutions. 

With this EcoHealth learning visit, the Philippine team has established networks and contacts with specialists and practitioners of EcoHealth approach in Thailand for future knowledge exchange, collaboration and cooperation (Ryan Real and Glenn Oca).

Empowering Filipino Farmers Using the SARAI Training Toolkit for Rice and Corn

SARAI Participants

Participants interviewing a farmer scientist about his management practices for corn.

Based from the Training Needs Assessment (TNA) conducted by SARAI Project 4 (Capacity- and Knowledge-Building component) during the initial year of project implementation, it shows that the government, through trainings, ranks the most preferred lead in information dissemination by the farmers. With this, SARAI Project 4 developed a Training Toolkit for Rice and Corn with the help of SARAI experts. This toolkit serves as a guide for agricultural extension workers in capacitating the farmers with SARAI-generated knowledge and other essential information regarding agriculture.

Last March 9 to 10, 2017, SARAI Project 4 deployed the Training Toolkit for RICE in Occidental Mindoro. With the title “SARAI Training for RICE Toolkit”, the team introduced the toolkits and the different technologies and systems that were developed by SARAI for the past three years. This event was attended by the Assistant Provincial Agriculture Officer, Municipal Agricultural Officers (MAOs), and Agricultural Technicians (ATs) of Occidental Mindoro.


SARAI Participant

A Participant taking a photo of a disease of rice during the field work activity in Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.

This training was followed by the “SARAI Training for CORN Toolkit” last March 23 to 24, 2017 in Camputhaw, Cebu City in partnership with the Cebu Technological University (CTU). Faculty and researchers of CTU, a representative from Provincial Agricultural Office and MAOs, and ATs from selected corn producing municipalities in Cebu, attended this event. The event started with the welcome remarks from the CTU President, Rosein Ancheta, Jr.

The purpose of the two activities is to train the MAOs and ATs with the use of the toolkits, which are helpful for the farmers. It also aimed to transfer the skills and knowledge on the use of new technologies that may increase the production of rice and corn farmers. The following SARAI developed technologies and systems were also presented through an exhibit:

  • Automatic Weather Station (AWS)
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) / Drone
  • SARAI Enhanced Agricultural Monitoring System (SEAMS)
  • SARAI Knowledge Portal

The UAV was also used to take aerial shots of rice and corn fields in Occidental Mindoro and Cebu on the second day of the training. Participants were very excited to use the technologies presented and in fact, they requested another training for the use of SEAMS. They also asked for an estimated amount of the AWS and UAV, as they want their respective LGUs to have these kinds of efficient and innovative technologies for early warning system and monitoring.

“Makakatulong ang SARAI para ma-enhance talaga yung crop productivity ng ating mga farmers kasi nasa SARAI na lahat ng kailangan namin and in the long run, it can help address the food security issue ng ating bansa,” said Ms. Sunshine Sagun, Municipal Agriculturist of Mamburao.

Project SARAI or the Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines is a project funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) with UPLB as the implementing agency. –RM Areglado

LEAP Project to be featured in NCRP Scientific Conference

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The LEAP Project will be featured in the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) Scientific Conference and 84th General Membership Assembly on March 22, 2017 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City, Manila.

French Scientist Discussed Cave Aerology

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Prof. Nicolay Peyraube of the University of Bordeaux, France, discussed cave aerology.

Caves have been favorite tourist attractions all over the world. It promotes culture and history, as well as it is good place to spelunk or conduct nature treks. Caves are also research hotbeds. Aside from geologic findings, many species of flora and fauna are still waiting to be discovered in different caves all over the world.

One important research in caves, which is lesser known, is cave aerology. This was discussed in a seminar last March 14, 2017 at SESAM Lecture Hall, UP Los Baños by a visiting French Scientist, Dr. Nicolas Peyraube of University of Bordeaux, Talence, France. Students from different environmental science classes attended the seminar.

Dr. Peyraube said caves are underground confined environments, which can be found in limestones, or in volcanic stones (lava tubes) or in ice. He said there are different applications of cave aerology, which can be very beneficial to humans. These are cave painting conservation, mushroom culture, wine storage, data storage and even protection of cave visitors.

Dr. Peyraube said he studied two caves in France, which includes the popular tourist site, the Lascaux Cave. Already 17,000 years BP, with a length of 200 m long and 6 to 20 m deep, Lascaux Cave include the historic “Hall of Bulls” paintings. The other cave he studied, a newly discovered one, is the Cussac Cave. It is the site of his pilot study on cave aerology. Cussac Cave is 1.5 km long, with a depth of 20 to 70 m. It is older than the Lascaux Cave, which is 25,000 years BP.

Cave aerology studies the carbon dioxide (CO2) dynamics in caves. CO2 is important for painted cave conservation. It controls the aggressiveness of water on the walls and participates in the calcite deposition on the walls. “The Cussac Cave study is funded by the French government, they wanted to make sure that the study will help in the preservation of paintings, so we will not have any tourism problems in the future” Dr. Peyraube said.

Cave aerology also studies the ventilation inside caves. Cold air trap, an important factor in cave ventilation during warm season, shows that warm air does not get in, since cold air stays inside the cave. On the other hand, during cold season, warm air stays inside.

Cussac Cave has a stable temperature of 13O Celcius, while CO2 variable from 0.3 to 3%. Dr. Peyraube discovered that Cussac Cave has seasonal and daily patterns of CO2 and air ventilation. On the global carbon cycle, Dr. Peyraube said caves are sources of CO2.

“This study might also appeal to Filipino scientists since you have many caves here…  tourism is important, but if not managed properly, it can be destructive to the caves”, Dr. Peyraube said. For starters, Dr. Peyraube advised students to try and find out if caves in the Philippines have good ventilation or if there is a presence of “cold air trap”, which can initially be done by manual measurements in the absence of sophisticated equipment. 

Studying Particle Science can be Helpful in Pollution Control

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Dr. Jessica D. Villanueva discussed about contaminants, particularly trace metal hosts and transporters during a lecture at SESAM.

Pollution is one of the major concerns not only in environmental research, but also in our society. Waterways are the most vulnerable areas and it can carry pollutants.

It includes the issues of dispersion of the trace elements in the natural aqueous systems (including pharmaceuticals and hormones); engineered nanostructures (degradation concerns); and inefficiency of the water treatment plants (WTPs) to treat the trace elements.

These concerns were discussed in the lecture entitled “Trace Metal Hosts and Transporters- Zeta Potential and Contaminants” by Dr. Jessica D. Villanueva, Science Research Collaborator and PhD Graduate of University of Bordeaux, Pessac, France, last March 14, 2017 at SESAM Lecture Hall, UP Los Baños.

As a researcher in hydrogeochemistry, Dr. Villanueva characterized the particles as hosts and transporters of contaminants (trace metals). She also sought to know the importance of the zeta potential and particle suspension phase in natural tropical aqueous system (aggregate vs. suspension). Also in her study, she also described the general behavior of the particles and trace metals.

Dr. Villanueva defined zeta potentials as the surface change-- the potential difference between the dispersion medium and the stationary layer of fluids attached to a dispersed particle. She added that once the particle is in the water, it will be hydrated and its hydrodynamic size will change. 

“In particle science, 1 nanometer to 1 micrometer are called colloids, which can carry contaminants”, Dr. Villanueva said. She added commercial colloids are engineered for suspension to prevent sedimentation.

“It is really difficult to detect, since smaller particles are easily accessible to microorganisms and these microorganisms can be adsorbed and/or absorbed by organisms channeling to humans”, Dr. Villanueva stressed.

According to particle science, the factors considered in her study of particle science were surface change; nature/type of group; number and distribution dissociation; preferential adsorption; hydrophobic/hydrophilic balance; surface (interfacial) tension; and contact angle.

Dr. Villanueva graduated BS Economics at UP Los Baños and was a former research associate of SESAM in 2009. SESAM students, faculty and research staff attended her presentation.