Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje called on Filipinos to protect and preserve the country’s biodiversity and ecosystems for the essential goods and ecological services they provide.
“The Philippines has the distinction of being one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. This is a reason to rejoice. Biodiversity, as we know, provides the essential goods and ecological service that constitute the source of life for all,” Paje said in a message during the celebration of International Day for Biological Diversity (IDBD) on Thursday at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City.
With theme, Island Biodiversity, Paje also stressed the one-day festivity gave the country the chance to "showcase its awesome endemic species and promote the importance of conserving our islands as habitats of these unique life forms."
Paje said the country's 7,107 islands provide habitat to very rich and unique species of flora and fauna, the reason why the Philippines was named as one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. He said among these unique species are the tamaraw and the Philippine eagle, both considered as critically-endangered.
Known as the country's largest and most impressive mammal, the tamaraw can only be found on Mindoro Island. While the Philippine eagle, a national symbol that stands more than three feet tall with a headdress of spiky feathers, lives only in the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Samar and Leyte.
Paje said the country was also lucky to have the Verde Island Passage Marine Corridor that has been identified by scientists as the "center of the center of marine shorefish diversity in the world." Verde Island is within the Sulu Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, which is recognized as having the highest coral diversity in the world.
But despite having one of the greatest biodiversities on the planet, he said the country is facing biodiversity loss with the list of threatened and endangered species increasing every year.
“Ironically, however, our country is also identified as one of the hottest of hotspots in terms of biodiversity loss," he lamented.
The DENR official blamed the accelerating biodiversity loss to habitat destruction, over-utilization and poaching. He said the country also has to deal with the destruction brought by natural disasters and the threats of climate change on biodiversity.
It is for this reason, he said, "protection of biodiversity is high on the agenda of the DENR."
"We have programs to combat desertification and to rehabilitate critical watershed ecosystems especially in the islands of Luzon and Mindanao where many species are threatened," Paje said.
He added: "Another program to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems, especially for sensitive habitats, is to place those areas under the coverage of the National Integrated Protected Areas System or NIPAS. Many of our biodiverse and critical islands have been put under the protection of NIPAS."
Paje also urged for continued public awareness on the importance of protecting and preserving biological diversity by making "biodiversity conservation a shared responsibility."
“We can all be catalysts of change, through conscious efforts to practice conservation in our daily lives. By working together, I believe that there is hope for our biodiversity," he stressed.
He then enjoined the public to participate more actively in environmental programs, especially those aimed at protecting biodiversity and the ecosystems, such as the National Greening Program which aims to grow more forests as wildlife habitats.
He likewise encouraged the more than 80 student participants to the Biodiversity Management Bureau’s summer youth camp at the NAPWC to become “future advocates and champions for biodiversity conservation” by sharing their learning and experiences and committing to conservation practices.
The IDBD celebration also saw the launching of a coffee table book entitled, “Treasures of the Philippine Wild,” which brings focus to six threatened wildlife species found in the country. These are the Philippine Eagle, Philippine crocodile, tamaraw, the golden-crowned flying fox, the Philippine cockatoo and marine turtles.
The book was produced by BMB as part of its continuing information campaign on biodiversity conservation, and was distributed to partners in conservation and other government agencies such as the Department of Education.
Another highlight of the program was the announcement of winners of the biodiversity photo contest themed “Protecting the Reservoir of Life, Selfie for Biodiversity”. The contest, which was open to the public from April 15 to May 15, was organized by the BMB, together with the German International Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Each of the grand prize winners for the digital camera and mobile phone categories were awarded with all-expense paid trips to Palawan and Mt. Pulag, respectively.
The BMB also kicked off the Philippine Biodiversity Festival at the NAPWC grounds. The month-long activity will exhibit various eco-friendly products from various regions and provinces, and educational materials on their biodiversity.
The IDB is celebrated every May 22 of the year to commemorate the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992.
Paje Calls for Protection of Island Biodiversity, Ecosystems
Saturday, 24 May 2014 00:00