The LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System is a web-based mobile application used by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to organize and modernize planning, patrolling, and the response of patrollers and managers to environmental threats. It utilizes a web-based, open-source software called “Cyber-Tracker” for data collection and the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for data analysis, mapping, and report generation.
Background and Problem
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) is the principal implementer of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act of 1992 and the Expanded NIPAS Act of 2018, which provides the system framework for the conservation of 240 ‘protected areas’ ( 5.44 M hectares of biodiversity areas) or PAs. Despite more than 2 decades of implementation of the NIPAS Act and the recent enactment of eNIPAS, the DENR-PAWB is still strained with challenges in the implementation of protected areas management which further facilitate drivers of biodiversity loss. A report published on the state of PAs suggested that the lack of innovative governance and limited capacity for protected area management are still among the key issues in PA management: “ there are limited resources for demarcation; enforcement is weak; there are deficiencies in management systems and tools; the structure and functioning management boards of protected areas need improvement, and there is no systematized framework for monitoring and evaluation for keeping track of the management effectiveness.”
Solution and Impact
With the conscious will to strengthen conservation efforts, the DENR actively sought the support of its stakeholders in addressing systemic barriers in protected area management. In partnership with the United States Agency for International Development Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (USAIS B+WISER) program, the agency developed the LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System (LFBPS) to enhance the agency’s response mechanisms on addressing threats and to ensure sustainability of conservation efforts inside the country’s PAs on a long-term basis. The LFBPS project or LAWIN project provides accurate, real-time information on the status of PAs covered by NIPAS through the application of free, open-source software called CyberTracker for geo-referenced data collection and the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for data analysis, mapping, and report generation.
At the grassroots level, the LAWIN project has been particularly advantageous at quickly reporting environmental crimes by allowing wildlife officers and community volunteers to upload observations and photos of evidence of environmental crimes to concerned law enforcement agencies. In the same manner, it aids managers and patrollers at the national and local levels in speeding up the creation and utilization of data and information for the formulation of informed reports and implementation of action plans aimed at monitoring and resolving environmental crimes.
The DENR and USAID’s B+ Wiser Program started developing and pilot-testing the LAWIN System in seven protected areas in the Philippines in 2015. At the time, there had been 780,000 hectares of key biodiversity areas analyzed, conservation areas identified, and conservation objectives formulated to enhance Protected Area Management Plans. There had also been at least 670 resources, data managers, and community volunteers trained for the project. On March 10, 2016, after the results of pilot-testing and further improvement of the system, the DENR formally adopted LAWIN as a national strategy for forest and biodiversity protection. A Joint Forest Management Bureau (FMB) and Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Technical Bulletin had also been signed during the LAWIN launching event to serve as a guide in the national level implementation of the project.
A series of capacity-building activities had been conducted afterward in DENR local offices to capacitate forest guards and technicians on the use of LAWIN equipment and system. In 2017, the DENR and USAID B+WISER updated the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) software of LAWIN from SMART 4.1 to SMART 5.0.1 in response to feedback that there were delays in availability of information at higher DENR levels because of difficulties in uploading data due to file sizes of images. This upgrade in the LAWIN system prompted another series of training for data managers in all DENR levels. DENR reported that for 2017, LAWIN accomplished key outputs such as (1) training of more than 3,200 forest patrollers and data managers; (2) formation of LAWIN Unit at DENR-FMB; (3) increased and enhanced access of DENR offices to patrol data, and; (4) formulation of response protocols, LAWIN manuals, and LAWIN Department Administrative Order. Then in February 2018, a national workshop had been organized by DENR to assess the results of the implementation of the LAWIN system in 2017 and to formulate a plan for its continued implementation. More than 200 participants from 16 DENR regional offices participated in the workshop.
The DENR and USAID B+ WISER attempted to expand the scope of LAWIN to include a peace and development component. As a commitment to Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Prosperous Community) or PAMANA, the national government’s program and framework for peace and development, the DENR Region 7 and USAID B+ WISER trained PAMANA forest guards on LFBPS and provided simulation exercises on patrolling, planning, and submission of reports, among others. In August 2018, the DENR and USAID B+ WISER organized 2 LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System Data Management Conferences in which over 200 key decision-makers and data managers of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) convened to enhance knowledge and skills in various types of data analysis and report results. Finally, the DENR Secretary Roy A. Cimatu issued DENR Administrative Order 2018-21 entitled “Adoption of the LAWIN Forest and Biodiversity Protection System as a National Strategy for Forest and Biodiversity Protection in the Philippines” on October 3, 2019.