The Philippines is one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries in the world. These regions are home to roughly 70 percent of the world’s plants and animal species.
Yet, biodiversity loss in the Phillipines– largely due to illegal logging — is increasing at a rapid pace, making it a top priority for global conservation efforts. It is in this context that social entrepreneur Ann Dumaliang co-founded the Masungi Georeserve with her sister, Billie. Together with the community, they are building new ways for tourism to drive conservation in the Philippines.
Tony La Viña, a life-long teacher, lawyer, climate justice advocate, and social entrepreneur sat down with Ann to learn more in a conversation hosted during Coal + ICE, a six-week festival of climate related events. You can watch the full conversation here. Here are a few of the highlights.
Protecting the Philippines’ public forests
Located on the outskirts of Manila, population 24 million people, The Masungi Georeserve is part of the Sierra Madre Mountain range, among the richest biodiversity corridors in the world. But illegal logging, quarrying and land grabs have threatened this biodiversity and the communities who depend on it.
Thankfully, in 2017 a landmark ruling gave Ann and her team the mandate to restore nearly 2,700 hectares of degraded forestland. Since then, the Masungi team has been shaping a new eco-tourism model that responds to organized crimes that destroy land — including illegal logging and quarrying — while promoting a self-sustaining, regenerative approach to forest management.
Though these public forest lands are technically protected today, challenges remain:
Falling in love with nature through tourism
By building nature-based experiences for surrounding residents, the Masungi Georeserve is not only able to finance its conservation efforts, it is also helping people fall in love with nature all over again. And because we nurture what we love, visitors quickly become the Georeserve’s biggest advocates. With over 280,000 people watching over the park in person and on social media, Ann and team have made previously invisible land grabs and illegal deforestation and quarrying visible and actionable.
Cultivating a conservation mindset
Ann firmly believes that in order to protect the Philippines forestlands, they must partner with public and private sectors — despite experiencing some bumps along the way. Even after getting shot at by members of the military six years ago, Ann continued to build bridges. Today, the military partners with the Masungi Georeserve to ensure the lands are protected. Her team is working hard to build up a conservation mindset across sectors.
Inspired by faith
Ann’s passion for conservation is rooted in her faith and religious upbringing. She sees her work as a privilege — an opportunity to help maintain the integrity of creation and to solve the challenges our world is facing.