DENR report admits Philippines is way behind biodiversity protection

In its first report in 20 years since the enactment of a law aimed to ensure the conservation of the country’s biodiversity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) acknowledged that much has to be done even as there have been gains in its efforts in protected areas management.

The 48-page report entitled “Communities in Nature: State of Protected Areas Management in the Philippines” admitted that the country’s biodiversity has remained threatened.

It said: “Many scientists have expressed the concern that despite the significant gains in protected areas management, the Philippines is still losing its remaining forest and coastal ecosystems at an alarming rate.”

“In other words, the country is either not effective in conserving its resources, or not fast enough in protecting ecosystems at risk,” the report said.

Nonetheless, the DENR was able to establish “a system of protected areas for biodiversity conservation and has rehabilitated and restored degraded ecosystems,” according to DENR Secretary Ramon Paje.

Dr. Mundita Lim, national project director of the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), said the government might have been “slow” in addressing biodiversity conservation because there have been gaps in the identification of protected areas nationwide, funding constraints as well as the capacities and awareness gaps among people, including DENR employees themselves.

“Management is a problem itself. We want to sustainably manage the protected areas themselves,” said Lim, who is also the director of the DENR Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB).

She stressed the need for the participation of stakeholders, particularly the local governments, which could invest their money in conservation efforts.

“They know that if they invest in protected areas, the returns would be huge. Everything would come in later. There should be the recognition of the people of the value of biodiversity to them, even the national government. Once the national government recognizes that (biodiversity) is actually the foundation for development, they would invest more than what we are getting at the moment,” Lim said.

Between 2005 and 2009, the PAWB was allocated less than P1 million to support activities for protected areas system management, according to the report.

But Lim also said that recognizing the problems in protected areas management was already a “good step towards addressing (the issue).”

While he has yet to see the report, Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan of the conservation group WWF-Philippines told the Inquirer by phone that “generally, protected areas management is insufficiently funded.”

“There is much room for improved management and enforcement. The rules of the NIPAS ACAT have by and large proven to be cumbersome, throwing, in many cases, too many roadblocks that would allow for improved effective management,” he said.  

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