Can payments for ecosystem services really restore degraded landscapes and watersheds? A case study from the Philippines

Authors: Dominique Cagalanan*, Coastal Carolina University
Topics: Natural Resources
Keywords: payments for ecosystem services, Philippines, reforestation, watershed rehabilitation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The challenge of achieving ‘win-win’ scenarios remains paramount in human-dominated landscapes, especially in rural areas of developing countries where population pressure is high and growing and the majority of people continue to have land-dependent livelihoods. In the Philippines, recent enthusiasm for payments for ecosystem services (PES) has increased as an approach to meet this challenge. This paper presents a case study of PES in San Carlos City, Philippines that has gained recognition as a model of success for reforestation and watershed restoration. It explores the motivations of ecosystem service providers for participating, the perceived landscape and livelihood outcomes as reported by both program managers and ecosystem service providers, and the challenges to scaling up reforestation and achieving the intended purpose of watershed restoration. It also compares the San Carlos PES model to that of the National Greening Program, essentially a state-funded nation-wide PES program for large-scale reforestation, discussing how the divergent approaches lead to different outcomes and face different challenges. Some of the achievements of the San Carlos program include having a continuous funding stream, having an intensively managed native tree nursery and seed sourcing network, planting only native species, having high planting density, achieving long-term success of program sites, and maintaining high levels of monitoring and long-term maintenance. However, the area of reforestation is limited by the lack of willing ecosystem service providers, sites are not targeted by restoration priority, implementation and monitoring are extremely labor-intensive, and some of the promised livelihood benefits are not able to be realized.

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