DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) together with its partner agencies is currently drafting a training standard or curriculum for a proposed skills program that aims to properly train and equip indigenous people in guarding the forests.
Jayson Ibañez, research and conservation director of PEF said the creation of the “forest guarding program” under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) will help provide a better life for IPs in the uplands apart from providing them effective ways of environmental conservation.
“It started with the desire to provide practical benefits, more long-term, systematic and sustainable means for our IPs,” he said.
Under the proposed program, IP forest guards will undergo a more systematic, competent, and a longer period of training and workshops in relation to environmental conservation such as the proper conduct of patrols, wildlife observations and others.
Graduates of the program will also be given a National Certificate and Certificate of Competency.
Once approved and accredited by Tesda, Ibañez said it will be implemented to the pilot batch composed of IP forest guards who are already working for the city government of Davao.
“The priority would be those forest guards who are already engaged by the city government especially those who already have a clear track record, and the performers because we want this to be a sort of reward or incentive for their hard work,” he said.
However, he stressed that the number of forest guard trainees for the pilot batch will depend upon the accumulated fund from PEF and other partner agencies.
Ibañez added that part of the project is finding potential employers for the forest guards after they complete the course. This includes renewable energy companies, local government units and non-government organizations.
PEF and its partners are targeting to finish the training standard this year so that Tesda and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) will be able to evaluate and approve it.
Ibañez said the NCIP officials and the IPs gave the proposal a positive response and underscored that “they are very excited.”
Currently, there are at least 200 trained forest guards around the city’s watershed and forest areas to prevent illegal logging, wildlife poaching and also help out when disasters happen.
In 2017, City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio vowed to provide compensation for the forest guards. They are receiving P2,000 per month and with the proposed Tesda program, Ibañez added, they will also get a basic salary once their employers hire them as regular staff, which could help them improve their lives.
“Poverty is a very important issue that needs to be addressed in the uplands and one of the practical things we do is to engage IPs as forest guards,” he said. (davaotoday.com)