SESAM trains academe, government, and private organizations quantify and value ecosystem services

In its 3rd run of the Short Online Course on Ecosystems Valuation on 22 to 24 June 2022, the University of the Philippines Los Baños School of Environmental Science and Management, through its Continuing Education and Training Division (CETD), trained 40 stakeholders from the academe (33), private organizations (3), local government units (2), national government agency (1), and free-lancer (1). 

The training participants were mostly from the academe comprised mainly of faculty members with some holding administrative positions. Educational institutions indeed recognize that they have to be abreast with the necessary information, approaches, methods, and tools to effectively perform their noble role of providing knowledge and skills to students to equip them become environmental champions. Graduate students, two of whom are from UP Los Baños, and research staff were also part of the participants from the academe. 

A Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer and a Project Development Officer from the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources were among the trainees from the local government units. The Environment and Natural Resources Office is in charge of ensuring the delivery of basic services and the provision of adequate facilities related to environment and natural resources services as mandated by the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160).

From the a national government agency, an Associate Social and Environmental Safeguards Officer from the Department of Agriculture (DA) also participated in the training. DA in the Philippines is responsible for the promotion of agricultural development.

From the private organizations, a real estate processor from a law firm, an architect from a construction operations and management company, and an environment and community relations manager from a mining corporation were also among the graduates of the short course.

The short course is offered by SESAM annually with an aim to assist concerned stakeholders in understanding how to quantity and value ecosystem services. It also aims to capacitate and train the participants in analyzing the flow and trend of ecosystem services, in conducting a more comprehensive and holistic assessment for the quantification and valuation of ecosystem services, and use these information in improved decision-making.

The training was formally opened by the PNEE President and President of the Palawan State University, Dr. Ramon M. Docto and SESAM Dean, Dr. Rico C. Ancog. They emphasized the importance of valuation to evidence-based decision making. Dr. Ancog also called for serious reflections as regards to making decisions with a key concern on economic invisibility of nature. He considers the training as an opportunity to reach out to everyone to “make sure that we improve our skill sets, the way we look at the world, the process that we do business or whatever mandate we have, and send the message across to solve economic invisibility which can also be done using economic valuation tools and techniques”, he said. 

The first lecture covered the Introduction to Basic Concepts on the Economics of Natural Resources by Dr. Asa Jose U. Sajise, a Professor from the UPLB College of Economics and Management. He highlighted the importance of understanding the complex relationships and dynamics of ecosystems. An overview of the cost-benefit analysis, its importance and uses to people, decision-making, and policy making were presented by Dr. Marites M. Tiongco, a Professor from the School of Economics in De La Salle University. She also discussed the categories of environmental benefits and some valuation methods. A lecture and hands-on training using the STATA software were delivered by Ms. Ma. Christina Corales, a Program Specialist from SEARCA. She taught the participants various commands and functions and some basic statistical analysis using the software. STATA is a tool used for statistical analysis, data management, manipulation, and visualization. It can be used to estimate willingness to pay from a contingent valuation survey. 

Different methodologies for economic assessment were discussed by Professor Paul Joseph B. Ramirez from the Department of Economics, UPLB College of Economics and Management. He focused on the Change of Productivity Approach while Dr. Ancog focused on Revealed Preference Approach particularly on Travel Cost Method (TCM), and Dr. Canesio D. Predo, Professor from the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources, on Stated Preference Approach focusing on Contingent Valuation Method (CVM). A workshop on Crafting Economic Valuation Studies for Environmental Management was also facilitated by Dr. Ancog and the CETD toward the end of the course. Here, the participants were able to integrate their learnings from the 3-day sessions and also learned from the feedback of the facilitation team and of other participants.

“…I felt super happy as well when I found out during one of the lectures how the local ecological knowledge of fisherfolks could be integrated into future decision-making processes…, how the future policies could be co-created with the inclusion of their long term perception about lake/lagoon ecosystems. There are definitely new tools to explore after the training,” remarked a PhD student Ms Jimlea Nadezhda Mendoza, one of the trainees who is currently working on her thesis on local knowledge of local fishers and their long term perception on the ecosystem services in the Laguna Lake region and the Lagoon of Venice, Italy.

“The experience, knowledge, and practical learnings that I have learned in this online course will not just increase my capacity as MENRO (Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer) but will also help aid us in our goal towards sustainable development,” Engr. Razaele Paul N. Labiste said.

Being a participant in this online training is an opportunity and a challenge for Dr. Alexander Morados, a Professor and Director for Research of a state college in Camiguin, Northern Mindanao. He was grateful for the opportunity to learn from the pool of experts, and since “Camiguin is facing environmental problems from ridge to reef”, he mentioned that, as part of the academe, they “need to support the local government officials through research with evidences and outputs and guide them in policy formulation, implementation and review”.

Arch. Dennis S. Mota appreciated the approach of the training wherein the “practical applications of the lessons will help enhance and appreciate ecosystems valuation better and also found this is a vital beginnings for foundational learnings”.

Dr. Rolando A. Alimen, the Vice President of PNEE closed the program with congratulatory message and appreciation to UPLB-SESAM and PNEE, the resource speakers, and the organizers. He was hopeful that the learnings and experiences from the course will be useful and beneficial to professional work. “We have the responsibility to learn and improve ourselves,” he also added.

The short course was offered in collaboration with the Philippines Network of Educators on the Environment (PNEE). PNEE is a national network of universities, colleges, and individuals collaborating for the advancement of environmental education for sustainable development. The short course was first offered by SESAM-CETD last September 2021 with 42 professionals and students from the academe, national government agencies, private companies, and local government units. With UPLB’s commitment to help Mindanao in protecting its rich natural resources, the 2nd episode of the short course was offered exclusively for stakeholders in the area last April 2022 also via online conferencing. Twenty-two Mindanao-based professionals and students completed the course, which was offered in collaboration with the PNEE and with the UPLB’S off-campus- the UP Professional School for Agriculture and the Environment (UP PSAE).Offering short courses is part of the thematic focus areas of CETD wherein they provide capacity building and technical assistance to several clients engaged in environmental initiatives. The activity also fosters partnerships, cooperation, and linkages towards environmental stewardship and sustainable development. These are integrated in the Sustainability and Accelerated Innovation in Learning and Solutions (SAILS) Strategic Framework that guides SESAM in its instruction, research, extension, and administrative functions. CETD is the unit of SESAM responsible for the School’s provision of extension services. Under the supervision of the Dean, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, it is functioning with the active performance of its Research, Extension, and Professional Staff (REPS) with the leadership of For. Sofia A. Alaira. (CSPadilla, JOAquino, RPMCabangbang)

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