UST REFI bags P16.5M grant for Siquijor’s conservation efforts

The UST Research and Endowment Foundation Inc. (REFI) won a P16.5 million grant recently to conduct an action research project on environmental conservation and ecotourism in Siquijor province.

UST REFI was awarded the grant by the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and the Philippine office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the project titled “Siquijor Island Conservation and Restoration: Toward a Regenerative Ecotourism Destination”.

This action research project was among 11 recipients of grants from GRF’s program called INSPIRE or Investing in Sustainable Partnerships for Inclusive Growth and Regenerative Ecosystems.

Looking at both seascapes and landscapes, the project aims to ensure that the island’s natural ecosystems “will be conserved and restored, leading to a sustainable and regenerative Siquijor Island”. For 2.5 years, this action research project hopes to aid Siquijor’s collaborative governance efforts on environmental protection, environmental conservation education, and achieving community-based sustainable livelihood.

The project seeks to empower Siquijor’s provincial and municipal governments to regulate the use of trees and medicinal plants, curb illegal and unregulated fishing activities, encourage tourism development, reduce solid and liquid wastes, and control freshwater consumption. These efforts contribute to the vision of making Siquijor a “zero-waste island”.

A team from REFI will spearhead the project, led by Executive Director Fr. Maximo Gatela, O.P. and Technical Team Leader Dr. Moises Norman Garcia of the College of Science. Team members include Dr. Maria Rosario Virginia Cobar-Garcia (Science), Dr. Arlen Ancheta and Dr. Alain Jomarie Santos (both from the Faculty of Arts and Letters), as well as Asst. Prof. Arnold Distor and Asst. Prof. Racquel Layco (Science).

Dr. Ancheta, Dr. Cobar-Garcia, Dr. Garcia, and Asst. Prof. Layco had done studies on the zero-waste island concept, covering solid waste management, energy efficiency, food and water, and sustainable use of natural resources. These previous studies were conducted for a global advocacy group, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), under the auspices of the Research Center for Social Sciences and Education (or RCSSED, UST’s social sciences research arm).

According to team leader Dr. Moises Norman Garcia, the previous studies and the current INSPIRE-funded project will capitalize on “environmental advocacy to counter climate change and [take inspiration from] Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sí.”

This INSPIRE-funded project contributes to climate change action, says this full professor of Biological Sciences, by directly aligning the project to some of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

UST REFI formalized its receipt of the INSPIRE grants during a May 22 grants awarding ceremony at the National Museum of Natural History, with the US Ambassador to the Philippines, Her Excellency Mary Kay L. Carlson, gracing the event.

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