The Philippines’ Albay Biosphere Reserve hosts the 12th Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserves Network meeting

Against the backdrop of the spectacular Mount Mayon volcano, more than 140 delegates from across Asia and the Pacific gathered for in the 12th Southeast Asian Biosphere Reserves Network (SeaBRnet) meeting on 26 – 28 March 2019 in Legazpi City, Luzon Island – capital city of Albay Province, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to a population of 1.4 million.

Under the theme “Strengthening Networks for Sustainable Management of Biosphere Reserves”, the discussions in Albay sought to maximize the active networking within the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) community across Asia and the Pacific, particularly through direct exchange and collaboration among Biosphere Reserves across the region.
As part of the SeaBRnet meeting programme, an interactive field visit is included where participants were given the opportunity to explore and observe the implementation of the host’s Biosphere Reserve. In Albay, two parallel field visits were organized for the participants. The first field visit was conducted to observe conservation, tourism development, education to the sites of mountain hiking trails, an underground river, coastal and marine protected areas. The second one was offered to learn about the promotion of sustainable local economies within the Biosphere Reserve by visiting the Albay Farmer’s Bounty Village, a 15-hectare experimental site dedicated to testing and promotion of local agriculture products, currently being developed by the Provincial Government of Albay.

Organized as an annual planning and information-sharing event, SeaBRnet brings together Biosphere Reserves managers, stakeholders and MAB National Committees from across Southeast Asia. It also provides an opportunity to convene discussions on issues and challenges in managing BRs. In Legazpi, the representatives of Albay Biosphere Reserve and Wudalianchi Biosphere Reserve in China met to discuss the possible establishment a formal partnership between the two sites. Representing the private sectors, the AEON Foundation of Japan and Asia Pulp & Paper Group of Indonesia participated in the discussions, showcasing their partnership with the National Japan Biosphere Reserves Network (JBRN) and Indonesian BRs, respectively.  
The meeting also included a special session for the Asia and the Pacific Biosphere Reserves Network (APBRN) which brings together representatives from the region’s four subregional MAB networks: SeaBRNet, SACAM, EABRN and PacMAB. Three guidelines related to the management of  Biosphere Reserve were launched at the session:  Sustainability Science; Eco-labelling and Certification; and Legal Aspects of Biosphere Reserve Zonation. The three guidelines were at the request of APBRN members in 2014 and the publications were made possible through the support of Japan Funds-in-Trust.  

Finally, a specific focus was placed on youth engagement with the MAB Programme, with sessions dedicated to the upcoming 2nd Global MAB Youth Forum to be hosted by the Changbaishan Biosphere Reserve in China in September 2019, and the MAB Young Scientists Awards.

The meeting and associated events were hosted by the Provincial Government of Albay with the Philippines National Commission for UNESCO, facilitated by the SeaBRnet Secretariat at UNESCO Office Jakarta and supported by Japan Funds-in-Trust (JFIT). In a significant testimony to the strong commitment from the regional MAB community enjoyed by the network, the meeting was closed with the offer from Rinjani Lombok Biosphere Reserve in West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, to host the network’s 13th meeting in 2020.