School-led mangrove reforestation project in Palawan inspires young leaders at the 5th Asian Youth Forum

Youth from all over Asia gathered in Yokohama to propose new strategies to fuel prosperity in the region.

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SHARING MILESTONES AND CHALLENGES. CTI-SEA Deputy Team Leader for the Philippines Raul Roldan, and Grade 11 student Queena Valones, and Science Coordinator Diana Mercado shared information about CTI-SEA and the mangrove reforestation initiative of Central Taytay National High School to more than 170 youth leaders from the Asia and the Pacific region during the 5th Asian Youth Forum.

The Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia (CTI-SEA) project funded the participation of seven delegates to the 5th Asian Youth Forum (AYF) and the 50th Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank at the Pacifico Yokohama from 2-7 May 2017. The AYF aims to build youth’s leadership for sustainable development goals to ensure that they are empowered partners in achieving inclusive and sustainable prosperity in Asia and the Pacific.

Raul Roldan, CTI-SEA Deputy Team Leader from the Philippines, accompanied Diana Mercado, Science Coordinator, and Grade 11 student Queena Valones, both from Central Taytay National High School in Taytay, Palawan during the two events. The AYF featured a video produced by the Youth For Asia of their school’s successful three-year old mangrove reforestation project in Sitio Quilala to more than 170 youth delegates from over 30 countries.

The initiative was organized through CTI-SEA’s Heroes of the Environment campaign. It aimed to educate, inspire, and engage youth in coastal communities to protect the Coral Triangle’s resources.

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PLANTING SEEDS OF HOPE. Students and teachers from CTNHS strike a pose during their monitoring of their mangrove planting site Sitio Quilala. The propagules have grown to 1.5 meters from the time they were planted in August 2014.

“Youth should be at the forefront of protecting the environment because we are a force to be reckoned with. By tapping each other’s core strengths, we can all protect mother nature,” said Valones.

Valones and her fellow students and their teachers have planted 18,000 mangrove propagules in a deforested planting site from August 2014 to February 2016. Through their close monitoring and partnership with various community groups, they achieved 80-85% survival rate of the propagules.

Valones, on the other hand, valued the opportunity to share their knowledge and gain new supporters during the event. “I learned to network and connect with fellow youth without any gaps between us. I also learned more about project design and monitoring. I can use all these skills for sustainable development in my community.”

Representatives from the Coral Triangle Initiative

The other five participants supported by CTI-SEA were nominated by the National Coordinating Committees (NCC) of Indonesia and Malaysia and the Regional Secretariat of Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF).

Among them were Imam Fitrianto (Head of Cooperation Sub-Division, Directorate General Marine Spatial Management) and Nisaul Makmudah (staff from the Public Relation and Services Division, Secretariat Directorate General of Marine Spatial Management), both from the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia; Mohd Safuan Che Din, a graduate student from Universiti Malaysia Terengganu and Marni Rahman, Knowledge Management Specialist working as part of the National Secretariat in Malaysia; and Alvin Pahlevi from the Regional Secretariat. The representatives from the Philippines were not able to attend.

Aside from taking part in team building sessions, they worked with other delegates to solve case studies and design projects. The activities gave them a more solid grounding on youth involvement in social impact projects.

#YouthPower: The case of Central Taytay National High School

During the World Café session of Asian Youth Forum, Roldan, Valones, and Mercado set up a booth to showcase the project’s achievements related to youth engagement. They also shared their experiences with youth leaders and shared knowledge products such as the Tales from The Coral Triangle-Philippines storybook, brochures of the mangrove reforestation project of Central Taytay National High School, threatened species of the Coral Triangle bookmarks, and posters on Protected Philippine Aquatic Wildlife.  

“We really want to share what we have and replicate it in other communities if suitable,” she Mercado. “We can make a social hub, a blog or website, so we can reach more people and sustain all our gains.”

Last March, Central Taytay National High School rolled out its knowledge sharing project with its local partners, including the local government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine National Police, and the Regional Protection Security Unit. They prepared a 45-minute program including student testimonies, a music video that highlighted their journey in reforesting mangrove forests, and a brochure which they developed as part of CTI-SEA’s knowledge sharing workshop last year.

Roldan also affirmed the role of teachers who mentor the youth to become the next generation of environmental stewards. He has been supervising the implementation of the Heroes of the Environment Campaign not only in Taytay but also in Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay in Dumanquillas Bay and in Balabac, Palawan.

 “In 10 or so years, the youth we work with now could be our local officials, educators, dynamite fishers, and law enforcers” he said. “We need to mold their mindset, so we can set them on the right path in becoming the next generation of stewards for the environment.”

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YOUTH LEADERS UNITE. Queena Valones (2nd from R-L) work with other youth leaders on a case study. They drafted solutions and recommendations that were presented in the Annual Meeting.
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