Last November 19-21, 2014 the 2nd International Conference on Forestry Education and Research for the Asia-Pacific Region with the theme, “Forestry Education and Research: Gearing Towards ASEAN 2015” was held at the Umali Auditorium of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna.
The conference aimed to strengthen the contribution of forestry education and research towards sustainable forest management in the context of the changing priorities and needs of the Asia-Pacific Region. The College of Forestry and Natural Resources sent two students to attend the conference. James Alvic Delmier Baloto and me!
Climate change and REDD+ Initiative
A large number of participants came from different state colleges in the Philippines to attend the conference such as Isabela State University, Palawan State University, Mindanao State University, and Central Visayas State University. In addition, delegates from Australia, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia -like the delegates coming from Bogor Agricultural University (IPB)- were also present.
As an opening remark, Dr. Juan M. Pulhin, Dean of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, shared a brief introduction about Mount Makiling Forest Reserve and its importance as a heritage park.
During the second day, there were four parallel sessions, among the ones I chose to attend the Climate Change session, as this is a topic which I’m really interested in.
All speakers took the opportunity to showcase their projects on biodiversity assessment, fire management, and hydrology. It was particularly fascinating listening to the presentation about REDD+ initiative in the Philippines.
Cross course for graduate students
In the last day of the conference, I attended the afternoon plenary session. Dr. Diomedes A. Racelis, my adviser, was the moderator. The topic was about the country initiatives on Forestry Education and Research towards ASEAN 2015 Integration. Deans from six ASEAN universities (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Lao PDR) shared their country programs and challenges in promoting forestry education.
The main challenge addressed by all the speakers was the lack of funding and support from the government. Most state universities rely on the budget provided by the nation, that is why some proposals for the improvement of facilities and scholarships grants are difficult to process.
There is, however, a proposed collaboration with the ASEAN University Network (AUN) members to have a cross-course to offer for graduate students taking Masters. Even if the proposal is good, a more in dept discussion is needed for this to be implemented.
Students' Key Role in institutional decisions
There was an open discussion so that the audience could comment and share their thoughts about the presentations. Among the different questions raised to the speakers, one participant, Forester Katherine Arquio, highlighted the need of including a Social Forestry department in some countries' curriculum, except for Malysia and Indonesia, which already have it.
The chat was followed by the awarding of certificates and plaque for the speakers. Dr. Marlon Mendoza, Associate Dean of the College of Forestry and Natural Resources, came up with a synthesis of the most important points tackled during the sessions.
After attending FORED 2014, I have realized the importance of communication as focal point to promote forestry education and research. Students’ opinions and views play a significant role in institutional decisions affecting their interests and welfare. This is why as a youth and a future stakeholder of these policies, I recommend you all to attend such gatherings.