THIS YEAR’s International Day for Biodiversity is a strong call for all of us to walk the talk when it comes to protecting our biodiversity areas. It’s theme, “From Agreement to Action: Build Back Biodiversity,” holds meaning as it prompts us to rejuvenate our passion, commitment, and hope for the future generation with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework at COP 15. While there have been significant biodiversity-related interventions when we launched the 2030 Agenda and development partners have publicly committed their resources for nature and climate, we still have quite a long way to go. At the brink of what is considered a Planetary Emergency, the cost of inaction in the face of a deteriorating planet is severe. The World is on track to breach a critical warming threshold in the next five years.
The Philippines is known as one of the world’s 18 megadiverse countries. It is home to two-thirds of the Earth’s biodiversity, and between 70% and 80% of the world’s plant and animal species. The country also ranks fifth in the number of plant species and maintains 5% of the world’s flora.
The Philippines has over 50,000 plant species, including over 3,000 endemic species. Moreover, it has over 100,000 animal species, including over 500 endemic species. The country’s over 7,000 islands are home to a variety of rainforests, mangrove forests, coral reefs, and other ecosystems.
The Philippines’ biodiversity is a valuable resource that provides many benefits to the country and the world. Biodiversity provides food, water, medicine, and other resources. It also helps to regulate the climate and protect our people against natural disasters.
However, only 37.47% of the country’s Key Biodiversity Areas are protected by law. Given the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau’s roadmap, protection coverage of terrestrial areas needs to increase from what is currently 4.54 million hectares to 5.55 million hectares. On coastal areas, there is a need to increase protection from 3.14 million hectares to 35.03 million hectares.
These numbers can only be achieved through our collaborative action. Together, we can build the resilience of our treasured ecosystems, local governments, and communities.
To support the DENR, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other development partners have committed to move and mobilize action to achieve the Philippines’ biodiversity targets outlined in the Philippines Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP). The support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through UNDP have been pivotal contributions to natural resources management and biodiversity conservation through the engagement with local communities. Not only that, soon, with support from the GEF, we will be supporting the Biodiversity Management Bureau with the updating of their PBSAP and drafting of their 7th National Report.
The government’s commitment and evident partnership-building work has enabled the broadened and improved biodiversity management interventions through the biodiversity corridor approach, improved capacities of Local Government Units (LGUs) and the empowerment of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), increased biodiversity financing and wealth creation through fair and equitable access and benefit sharing mechanisms, and the development of innovative local nature-based solutions for climate.
Recognizing nature-based solutions to improve biodiversity management and the participation of different stakeholders are critical to ensuring that biodiversity targets are met. For this, we will need the strong support of the private sector, whose existing and potential contributions to biodiversity cannot be underestimated. There is an urgent need for the government and development partners to work with the private sector in establishing the business case for biodiversity management interventions, and in ensuring that green and climate considerations are integrated in business models, both during project development and implementation stages.
It also bears noting that our communities, both indigenous and local communities, should be at the very heart of our biodiversity management interventions. They are the real voices and stewards of our rich biodiversity. It is through them that we are able to benefit from our resources.
We believe that through our collaborative efforts, we are building the resilience of our treasured ecosystems, local governments, and communities.
The World Health Organization has declared that we are transitioning to the long-term management of COVID-19. Now, we can establish a more robust build back better strategy and concrete actions for resilience-building. We have survived a pandemic — now it’s time to Build Back Biodiversity beyond the agreements and through action. As the adage goes, there is no Planet B.
Dr. Selva Ramachandran is the resident representative of UNDP Philippines.