Building Actors and Leaders for Advancing Community Excellence in Development Project (BALANCED Philippines)

firefoxIn key bioregions of the country, the threat of demographic factors on the biodiversity and productivity of marine ecosystems and the sustainability of conservation gains are highest. USAID/ BALANCED is a global project to advance and support results-oriented population, health, environment (PHE) field approaches in biodiversity-rich areas. BALANCED Philippines will promote the PHE approach to empower communities in globally significant marine bioregions - Verde Island Passage (VIP) Marine Biodiversity Corridor and the Danajon Double Barrier Reef (Visayan Bioregion) - to meet their expressed need for voluntary Family Planning (FP) services and information and educate them on the underlying linkages between reducing population pressure and improving the management and sustainability of coastal resources, and empower stakeholders to manage and conserve marine resources and biodiversity assets. The project will also create an enabling environment that promotes the integration of PHE into governmental plans and programs.

BALANCED Philippines will assist 29 municipal local government units (LGUs) located in the two bioregions,  reach over one million people , and serve an estimated 100,000 under-served women (15-49 years) with FP methods and PHE information, improve the management of an estimated 800 hectares of marine protected areas and increase incentives for coastal and marine conservation among fisher households.

BALANCED is implemented by The Coastal Resources Center-University of Rhode Island (CRC-URI) in partnership with PATH Foundation Philippines Inc. (PFPI) and Conservation International (CI). Started in December 2010, the project will run through August 2013.

GOAL

To build the leadership and implementation capacities of national and local governments and stakeholders to respond in an integrated manner to interrelated population, health and marine environmental issues.

PROJECT COMPONENTS

  1. Improving community's access to family planning/ reproductive health (FP/RH) services in key bioregions, through assistance to rural health units (RHUs) and NGOs, to enhance their knowledge and skills on FP/RH and population, health and environment (PHE) linkages, and establish alternative community-based distribution (CBD) outlets, and social marketing arrangements with municipal local government units (LGUs);
  2. Increasing community awareness and support of family planning and conservation as a means to improved health and food and environmental security through recruitment and training of adult peer educators and implementation of a behavior change communication strategy;
  3. Increasing local policy makers' commitment to FP/RH services, CRM and integrated PHE policies through joint PHE orientation and planning with stakeholders, national-level PHE orientation and advocacy and technical assistance for PHE activities;
  4. Improving governance capacities of provincial and municipal LGUs in the VIP and Danajon Bank marine ecosystems through strengthening of marine protected areas (MPA), Bantay Dagat Networks and fisheries management;
  5. Increasing incentives for coastal and marine conservation among coastal fisher households through provision of technical livelihood support

PROJECT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

BALANCED Philippines continues to promote integration of PHE in 28 municipalities of the Philippines located in the Danajon Bank bio region and Verde Island Passage bio-region – both of which are located in the global epicenter of marine biodiversity.  The project enjoys support from different sectors that are collaborating with PFPI to integrate PHE strategies and tools into their development plans and programs including Local Government Units, Non- Government Organizations, people’s organizations, youth groups and private entrepreneurs in the targeted communities. 

1. Establishment of Community Based Distribution (CBD) Systems

  • At the barangay (village) level, the project has helped to build CBD systems and services in 68% of the 716 targeted barangays as of October 2012.  Adult Peer Educators (APEs) have also been capacitated to counsel men and women of reproductive age about voluntary family planning and marine conservation.  The APEs also refer individuals to the rural health unit for screening should they decide to use family planning methods.  If they decide to use pills or condoms, the rural health unit directs them to the village based community based distributors where they can obtain supplies at very low cost.  This two way referral system is currently being practiced in 2 municipalities in Bohol (Trinidad and Talibon) and 2 municipalities in Batangas (Lobo and Mabini).

2. Increased LGU policy makers’ commitment

  • PFPI has entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with 24 municipalities for the implementation of BALANCED-Philippines project activities in the focal areas. 
  • The municipalities of Hindang in Leyte and Looc in Occidental Mindoro went a step further by passing a PHE ordinance.  The ordinance ensures the sustainability of PHE integration in these municipalities via the creation of a PHE council.   The council assures that policies in support of FP/RH and biodiversity conservation are enacted with corresponding fund support while at the same time coordinating efforts of the different sectors so that their inputs complement each other in support of PHE approaches.
  • PHE perspectives were incorporated into 10 draft CRM plans (5 in Leyte and 5 in Bohol).  In Clarin, Bohol the CRM plan with strategies to address population and health issues was approved.

3. Improved governance capacities in managing ecosystems

  • In recognition of the fact that increasing population-consumption pressures pose threats to biodiversity conservation and the productivity of life-sustaining  marine/coastal ecosystems, the project works to strengthen the management of 12 marine protected areas (MPAs) located in coastal areas of Bohol (5) and in the VIP (7).  These MPAs were selected based on the results of assessments that used the Management Effectiveness Assessment Tool (MEAT), which identifies the current stage and effectiveness of MPA management.  The project focuses on those MPAs that showed the weakest MEAT scores and extends technical support for the MPA managers to develop their own plans for improving local marine protected area management.  Foremost among the strategies that were identified was to build the capacity of local management bodies.  The project will also assists these bodies to integrate family planning and reproductive health interventions in their management plans programs and projects so as to assure the sustainability of MPA gains in the long term.  Massive information campaigns are also planned to engage the health sector in conservation activities.
  • The project has facilitated a number of MPA Forums in Calapan , Oriental Mindoro and Batangas City.  In support of the barangay level MPA managers, representatives from the LGU were present to lend support to the initiative.  A major agenda is the MEAT assessment where they discussed the status of their MPA management.  They also discussed the integration of Climate Change Adaptation strategies and PHE into their plans and programs.  In Oriental Mindoro, the event was also a venue for discussing ways in which the MPA managers or the fisheries sector could act as a local supplier for family planning commodities.
  • Collaborating NGO partners (CI and the Malampaya Foundation) and DENR organized a VIP summit which was convened on September 27-28, 2012.   The summit examined issues pertaining to CRM, biodiversity and climate change initiatives in the VIP.  During the summit, participants assessed existing management plans vis-à-vis the management framework plan of the VIP and identified emerging models of biodiversity conservation. A highlight of the summit was a presentation about PHE developed by a local champion,  Marilyn Alcanises (Provincial Agricultural Officer of Oriental Mindoro) and a fellowship night dedicated to a film showing and discussions on PHE.  This is intended to spur interest among non-BALANCED sites to adopt PHE as a strategy for promoting biodiversity and coastal resource management.

4. Increasing incentives for coastal and marine conservation

  • In Bohol, MPA managers are incentivized for good performing in the governance of their MPAs.  The project also supports livelihood improvement inputs.  For example, a training course on conservation enterprise was extended to members of the People’s Organizations in Cuaming, and Asinan.  As  result of these training courses, their members were able to identify environmentally-friendly enterprises that complement conservation efforts.
  • Managers of Asinan identified seaweed cultivation as a way of providing supplementary livelihoods to lessen dependence on fishing. They recently concluded a training course for seaweed production. 
  • In Cuaming, a certified trainer of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) is conducting a 20 day training course on rag and dress making.  This is intended to provide women with skills that they can use to earn money so as to diversity the income sources of their households which mainly engage in subsistence fishing.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Ronaldo Quintana, MD
Project Manager, BALANCED Philippines
PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc. (PFPI)
10F Unit 1009 Tower 2 Cityland Condominium 10
154 H.V. Dela Costa St., Salcedo Vill., Makati City
Tel No. (632) 817-5049; Fax No. (632) 893-5360
Email: rquintana@pfpi.org
Website: www.pfpi.org and http://balanced.crc.uri.edu/