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By Henrylito D. Tacio (2018)

Motorcycle logging

“A few decades ago, the wildlife of the Philippines was notable for its abundance; now, it is notable for
its variety; if present trend of destruction continues, Philippine wildlife will be notable for its absence.” –
Dr. Lee Talbot, who used to head the Southeast Asia Project on Wildlife Conservation for Nature and
Natural Resources

Foreigners come to the Philippines because of its dreamy beaches and crystal-clear waters. But there’s
more to it as its landscapes are many and varied, from coral atolls to mountain ranges, from sand
beaches to vast tracts of dense tropical rainforest.

Truly, the Philippines is the “pearl of the Orient Seas.” Lindsay Bennett, author of “Island Guide:
Philippines,” hailed the country’s beauty in these words: “Copious rainfall and hot sun combined with
volcanic soil result in abundant fertility. The country’s untamed territories are incredibly diverse. Seven
thousand island ecosystems have resulted in some of the most specialized animal species in the world,
many only found in tiny enclaves. Diversity on land is mirrored by diversity offshore.”

That makes the Philippines unique when it comes to biological diversity (biodiversity for short). “The
Philippines is considered a mega-diversity country rivaled only by a few countries in the world when it
comes to variety of ecosystems, species and genetic resources,” said the Biodiversity Management
Bureau (BMB).

The Philippines, with 7,107 islands, hosts more than 52,177 described species of which more than half is
found nowhere else in the world. “On a per unit area basis, the Philippines probably harbors more
diversity of life than any other country on the planet,” the BMB pointed out.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) gives us a glimpse of how rich and
diverse the biodiversity of the Philippines is:

In Philippine forests, at least 13,500 plant species are found representing 5% of the world’s flora. The
ferns, fern allies, gymnosperms and angiosperms constitute 22.5% of the Malesian and 3.88% of the
world’s vascular flora. Twenty-five genera of plants are endemic, with about 10% of the flora still to be

About 45% of the identified 1,085 species of terrestrial vertebrates found in the country’s forest cover
are endemic. Of these, 179 species are mammals, 558 species are birds, 252 species are reptiles, and 96
species are amphibians.
The country’s wetlands harbor a rich variety of plant and animal life estimated at 1,616 species of flora
and 3,308 species of fauna.

There’s more: Some 4,951 species of plants and animals are living in coastal and marine habitats. Coral
reefs are by far the most diverse with 3,967 species. Seagrass beds follow with 481 species and then
mangroves with 370 species.

Almost two decades ago, “Time” magazine named the Philippines as one of “the world’s top 25
biodiversity hot spots,” areas disturbed by human activity but which remain exceptionally rich in animal
and plant species found nowhere else.

“At the rate our ecosystems are getting destroyed, many species may no longer be there when we need
them,” deplored Samuel Peñafiel, who was then the director of Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau (the
precursor of BMB) when he said those words.

The environment department blames deforestation as the major cause of the decline of the country’s
wildlife population and the attendant loss of species. When Ferdinand Magellan “rediscovered” the
Philippines on March 16, 1521, the country was totally covered with forests.

In the 1950s, only three-fourths of the archipelago was covered with forest, according to the
environment department. By 1972, the figure had shrunk to half – and by 1988 only quarter was
wooded and just one tiny fraction of this was virgin forest.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said about 7,665,000 hectares of the country is
forested. Between 1990 and 2010, the country lost an average of 54,750 hectares per year.

Deforestation is mainly caused by destructive logging activities (both legal and illegal), fires, slash-and-
burning farming (more popularly known as “kaingin”), mining, volcanic eruption, and pests and diseases.

“Deforestation is a leading cause of habitat destruction that negatively impacts biodiversity on an

exponential scale,” the Foundation of Philippine Environment (FPE) claims. “Poorly controlled logging
and mining activities have created mostly irreparable damage to forest cover.”

Philippine eagle
Take the case of Philippine eagle, now included in the endangered list. “The Philippine eagle has become
a critically endangered species because the loss of the forest had made it lose its natural habitat,” said
Dennis Joseph I. Salvador, the executive director of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

Studies show a pair of Philippine eagle needs at least 7,000 to 13,000 hectares of forest as a nesting
territory. “Without the forest, the species cannot survive over the long term,” said Salvador.

Another major cause of the country’s decline of wildlife population is the high demand of these species
in foreign markets. Philippine monkeys, for instance, are high-prized abroad for use in chemical and
biomedical researches. Thousands of birds are also exported for pet lovers and pet shop displays and
sometimes as meat delicacies.

Dugongs, which used to abound in Philippine waters, are fast vanishing because they are prized for their
meat. Those who have eaten the dugong’s meat said that it is tasty and can be compared to that of
beef. As such, it commands a good price in the local market; in areas where they abound, the meat is
served to special visitors.

The market for shoes, belts, bags and other by-products made of skins from crocodiles is big. “Due to
the uncontrolled hunting of crocodiles for their valuable hides and other parts and the continued
destruction of their natural habitat by human beings, the crocodile population in the Philippines
dwindled,” the environment department reported.

Overhunting has been blamed for driving tamaraw – the country’s largest and rarest endemic land
animal – almost into extinction. From a population of 10,000 in the early 1900s, only around 345
remained in 2013.

It is also the continuous operations of coral smugglers that caused the destruction of the country’s coral
reefs. Philippine coral reefs are reportedly smuggled to the United States, Japan and other countries. Of
the 1.5 million kilograms of corals harvested annually as part of the international trade, the Philippines
account for more than a third of the total.

But it’s still the folly of some Filipinos that made these natural treasures to be devoid of. Destructive
fishing methods are the main culprits why coral reefs are destroyed. Dynamite fishing is one example.
Then, there’s cyanide fishing. “Coral polyps (the living organisms in coral reefs) die when exposed to the
chemical,” said Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero, former director of the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine
Research and Development.
Seagrasses are on the brink of depletion due to various destructive disturbances caused by both natural
and man-made influences. Man-made causes include agricultural cultivation and mining which led to
heavy siltation in estuarine areas which, in turn, resulted in lower productivity and even burial of

“It is about time that we, Filipinos, stop making ourselves internationally blind to the real status of our
wildlife resources,” noted Filipino wildlife expert Dioscoro Rabor said some years back. “We should face
the fact that our country is no longer rich in forests and consequently, of wildlife which used to be a
normal component of our forests.”

Once a species is extinct, it cannot be brought back again. “When the last individual of a race of living
beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again,”
naturalist William Beebe reminded.

That statement is a good reminder for every Filipino. If each will do his or her part, the world would be a
better place to live. “If we are to build a world without hunger, we have to conserve and sustain
biodiversity and use it equitably,” declares Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, a former Ramon Magsaysay Awardee.


Why are We Losing Species?

Why are We Losing Species?

Extinction is part of the natural evolutionary process. Various species of plants and animals eventually
die out (succumb to extinction) over time. However, loss of biodiversity in the modern world has
become significantly influenced by factors such as habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change,
all of which have become heavily human-influenced.

Extinction is part of the natural evolutionary process. Various species of plants and animals eventually
die out (succumb to extinction) over time. However, loss of biodiversity in the modern world has
become significantly influenced by factors such as habitat destruction, exploitation, and climate change,
all of which have become heavily human-influenced.

Habitat Destruction
The encroachment of human populations on several plant and animal species’ natural habitats has been
a primary agent for the loss of biodiversity. Displacement from one’s habitat leaves species vulnerable
to harsher new living conditions, predation from other species, and scarcity or inaccessibility of
resources required for survival. Worthy of note in this case is the heightened vulnerability of endemic
species, or those that belong within a very restricted geographic area.

In the Philippines, deforestation (forest denudation and fragmentation) is a leading cause of habitat
destruction that negatively impacts biodiversity on an exponential scale. Poorly controlled logging and
mining activities have created mostly irreparable damage to forest cover, affecting the diverse
assemblages of flora and fauna that inhabit those primary forest territories. Findings stated in the DENR-
FMB’s (Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Forest Management Bureau) 2011 Philippine
Forest Statistics establish that only about 24% remains of the country’s forest cover, with lows falling as
badly as 20% in the late 1990s. Regardless of the slight improvement over the past decade, these
numbers still illustrate a severe drop from 70% at the start of the 20th century.

Through the years, conversion of land for residential and commercial use has also contributed the same
effects in lower-lying habitats.

In like manner, marine habitats such as coral reefs are being destroyed by way of irresponsible and
unsustainable fishing and aquaculture is harming marine habitats ecosystems all over the country.
Notable examples of these are dynamite and poison-dependent fishing practices that are still being
practiced to this day, as well as more recent developments such as black sand mining in the northern
Philippines. As a result, the Philippine coral reef system is down to 5% in terms of being in excellent
condition, as over 32% are already severely damaged. The World Resources Institute more recently (July
2013) reports that 85% of the reefs in the Coral Triangle (the region covering countries such as the
Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, et al.) are threatened, shadowing the global average which stands at

Ecosystem Diversity in the Philippines

Environmental Challenges: The FPE’s National and Regional Environmental Agenda

Exploitation of Natural Resources and Wildlife

One more horrifyingly deliberate cause of biodiversity loss is the participation in the extraction and
exploitation of natural resources, including wildlife itself, for economic purposes. What started out as
mere “subsistence hunting and gathering” among traditional societies have been exacerbated into far
less sustainable practices upon the advancement of international economic relationships.
Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that this happens both within legal bounds as well as beyond

Mining and forestry – leading contributors to habitat destruction, as described above – is also an
example of exploitative utilization of resources. Meanwhile, when it comes to wildlife, the demand for
“exotic” plants and animals, for example, perpetuates the species decline crisis.

Many critically endangered species today, both on land and at sea, have over-exploitative and misguided
hunting and practices to blame for their current plight. It’s important to note “misguided” in this
argument, because much of wildlife trade today is driven by demand for certain animal parts that are
used for byproducts that promise unproven or non-scientific benefits. Take, for instance, rhinoceros
horns and shark fins.

Beyond such inappropriate hunting practices, unsustainable means of natural resource gathering are
also a legitimate concern. The state of aquatic resources illustrates this effect very well, as over-fishing
and use of unsound fishing equipment (trawl nets, dynamite, cyanide, et al.) have contributed to a
widespread fish stock depletion in many areas around the world. Coral mining is likewise an
unsustainable resource-gathering practice, and equates with habitat destruction for numerous marine

Whether sold directly or used as food, raw materials for various types of manufactured products, and
captive exhibition, the unsound exploitation of natural resources and wildlife unequivocally
irresponsible and unsustainable. Unfortunately, a large fraction of the public is unaware of the
ecological impact of this line of trade, and are thus still drawn to their unique appeal.

Further Reading:

Ecosystem Diversity in the Philippines

Environmental Challenges: The FPE’s National and Regional Environmental Agenda

Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Website

Invasive Species

Foreign and exotic species can also drive native inhabitants to extinction, in the event that the former
are able to successfully adapt within the new habitat. Not all foreign species are built to adapt to new
territories, so those that are able to must have a distinct, innate resistance and resilience to unfamiliar
and often adverse living conditions. These advantages are often what make them problematic, from the
perspective of the native species, particularly if the latter have had no prior history of – and thus no
survival mechanism against – having predators or direct competition to primary resources such as food.

In the rare event that both native and exotic species (of closely related taxa) manage to coexist and
eventually cross-breed, the resulting hybridization still does not favor the native species due to the
decline in its genetic integrity.

Species invasion does occur naturally, but human (economic) factors, such as an interest in enhancing
food production can result in either intentional or inadvertent spread of new, invasive species. Also,
habitat destruction figures largely in the equation, as some displaced species are forced to move
towards new, often already inhabited territories.

Further Reading:

GEF Forest Invasives SEA: Removing Barriers to Invasive Species Management in Production and
Protection Forest in Southeast Asia

Waste and Pollution

Waste products and pollution are, of course, also very influential contributing factors to the decline in
biodiversity numbers. The IUCN has identified pollution in all forms – solid, liquid, and gaseous – are
critical threats to the survival of avian (12%), amphibian (29%), and mammalian (4%) species.

It’s not hard to imagine that this is further worsened by the continued growth of human populations.
Naturally, as population numbers grow, so does the amount of waste material generated. Solid waste,
particularly non-biodegradable plastics, always draws the most attention – and for good reason: people
are able to tangibly suffer the consequences of its mismanagement as much as wildlife does. For
instance, accumulated solid waste continues to add to the worsening flooding problems in the
Philippines, affecting and harming the day-to-day operations of urban and rural areas alike. Meanwhile,
solid waste that make it all the way to open water systems put marine life in constant danger. Large
marine animals such as cetaceans and sea turtles may ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for jellyfish,
and eventually suffer a slow and painful demise.
Chemical pollution is another prevalent issue that contributes to biodiversity loss in the Philippines. This
occurs mostly in the form of organochlorines, which are used for agriculture and pest control. Despite
being long banned across many countries, the impacts of its use from the past are still being felt today,
as residual by-products can be found in animal tissues. This poses an ecological risk, especially among
predatory species, in which accumulation of the residue to lethal amounts may occur through the
process called biomagnification.

Further Reading:

Environmental Challenges: The FPE’s National and Regional Environmental Agenda

What is the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch (2010 Online Article)

Climate Change and Global Warming

The presently observed significant upward trend in global atmospheric temperature is heavily influenced
and expedited by the release of harmful substances into the atmosphere as a byproduct of day-to-day
human activity. Likewise, human-caused damage to forest cover plays a big role, as nature’s built-in
buffers against harmful greenhouse gases are gradually being neutralized.

Climate change is causing direct and indirect effects on life in both terrestrial and aquatic territories.
Take for example the evolving weather patterns that are influencing the growth and behavior of many
land-based plants and animals, not to mention causing more frequent instances of extreme weather
such as typhoons and heat waves that tend to harm, if not outright destroy, food supplies. Meanwhile,
the oceans are being subjected to acidification and warming, while the rapid melting of permafrost and
arctic ice is causing global sea levels to rise and endanger low-lying coastal habitats of wildlife and
human communities alike.

Further Reading:


The first defense against biodiversity loss: Establishing local conservation areas

By Jonathan L. Mayuga - June 24, 2018

In Photo: Clad in loincloth and smoking tobacco in pipes, steely eyed Taw’buid Mangyan tribesmen
protect Mindoro’s Iglit-Baco mountain range from poachers. The park and its people are part of the New
Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project, which synthesizes locally managed zones to expand the
country’s protected areas by some 400,000 hectares.

First of two parts

With limited financial and human resources, the protection and conservation of the rich biological
diversity remain a major challenge in the Philippines.

Although not an entirely new concept, many Filipinos, including policy-makers remain oblivious to the
word “biodiversity” and its economic importance to ensure sustainable growth and development.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biodiversity as “the variability among living
organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the
ecological complexes of which they are part.”

Biodiversity includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

The Philippines’s system of accounting, however, negates to consider the biodiversity values in the
computation of the annual goods produced and services provided by various sectors.

Strong national policy

The Philippines, being a signatory to the CBD, is committed to protecting and conserving the country’s
rich biodiversity.

The country has a number of policies, including national laws, aimed at preventing environmental
destruction and degradation, particularly key biodiversity areas, to protect its unique and endangered
plant and animal species, against various threats.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution, for one, recognizes the right of every Filipino to a balanced and
healthful ecology.
Among the national laws are Republic Act 7586, or the National Integrated Protected Areas System
(Nipas) Act; RA 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Protection and Conservation Act; RA 9072, or the
National Cave and Cave Resources Mangement and Protection Act; Presidential Decree 705, or the
Revised Forestry Code of the Philippines; and RA 8550 and RA 10654, also known as the Philippine
Fisheries Code and Amended Fisheries Code, respectively.

Financing, action gaps

Despite the many environment-related laws, the budget for the protection and conservation of
biodiversity remains wanting.

The huge financing gap, estimated to be around 80 percent, was identified by a study of the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BioFin) Project.

In 2016 the UNDP-backed project revealed that P334 billion is needed for the next 13 years.

The amount will cover projected expenses for actions on forest, coastal and marine areas, inland
wetlands, caves and cave systems, protected areas, invasive alien species, agrobiodiversity, access and
benefit-sharing and urban biodiversity, which are investments identified as a must to ensure funding for
the implementation of the Philippine Biosafety Strategy Action Plan (PBSAP).

Under the PBSAP, the annual funding requirement is pegged at P24 billion until 2028. However, the
current annual budget allocation by the government is only P5 billion, or a yearly budget gap of P19

LGUs to the rescue

Local government units (LGUs) play an important role in filling the gaps in national biodiversity-policy
financing and action.

In a telephone interview on June 12, Environment Undersecretary Jonas R. Leones said outside the
protected areas and national parks, there are a huge number of key biodiversity areas (KBAs) that need
protection against various threats, especially against drivers of biodiversity loss.
There are a total of 228 KBAs in the country, according to the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources’s (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB).

Protecting the country’s KBAs, he said, calls for the help and support of all stakeholders, particularly

“The DENR alone cannot protect all these KBAs,” said Leones, the spokesman of Environment Secretary
Roy A. Cimatu.

What is an LCA?

Josefina de Leon, chief of the DENR-BMB’s Wildlife Resources Division, said local conservation areas
(LCAs) are locations outside Nipas sites but within KBAs, including those with ecotourism potential.

“They are managed by local government units which are responsible for the protection of areas and the
conservation of resources, while promoting biodiversity-friendly enterprises like ecotourism,” she told
the BusinessMirror in response to a query through Messenger on June 17.

She said LCAs can boost the protection and conservation not only of the ecosystem or habitat but can
also help endangered species of plant and animals to eventually recover and thrive.

“Such approach will ensure the sustainable use of resources, the perpetuation of species and
improvement of the economic status of the local communities concerned,” she said.

From this definition, LCAs can be considered as the first line of defense against biodiversity loss, she

Reducing biodiversity loss

Best Alternatives Campaign Director Gregg Yan said that whether spearheaded by LGUs or indigenous
groups, the gradual expansion and enhancement of the country’s protected area systems could
dramatically reduce biodiversity loss while bolstering local pride and stewardship.
“Site-centric management has numerous advantages because community members are front-liners.
Trickle-down effects are also direct. We’re not just talking about ecotourism here. We’re talking about
direct benefits in the form of resources like food, water and medicine,” Yan said.

Yan cited Conserving Nature as Lifeways, a 2012 book authored by anthropologist Dr. Raoul Cola.

“Some cultures have mastered the sustainable use of their environment. In his book on the Tagbanua
tribe of Malampaya Sound, my good friend Dr. Raoul Cola revealed how the tribesfolk combined
hunting, fishing, foraging, gleaning and farming to optimize productivity, while protecting the
regenerative capacity of their local environment, year-on-year. So ,too, can we bolster local
conservation governance while learning from local practices,” Yan explained.

New conservation areas

From 2010 to 2015 the DENR implemented a project that recognizes new conservation areas, such as
those managed by indigenous peoples (IPs), local communities and LGUs.

Dubbed as New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP), it was viewed as an
opportunity to establish solid foundations for accelerated expansion of the terrestrial system in the

The project is an opportunity to establish solid foundations for accelerated expansion of the terrestrial
system in the Philippines, supported by strong management capacities and sustainable financing.

It seeks to identify conservation areas managed by IPs, local communities and LGUs in selected
provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa,
Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim

Local initiative

Leones said the DENR supports the establishment of LCAs in recognition of the important role played by
LGUs and in recognition of their local mandates and authority over territories within their political
Section 3 of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, states the shared responsibility
of the LGUs and the national government in the management and maintenance of ecological balance
within their territorial jurisdiction, subject to the provision of the law and other national policies.

LCAs can be established through local legislation—by ordinance.

An LCA may be established, he said, when the LGU came to realize the importance of conserving the
area, also because of their religious, cultural, historical, economic or tourism potentials, besides the
ecosystem services they provide or the biodiversity values they possess.

Many LCAs have started as a locally managed seascape, landscape, marine or fish sanctuary, game
reserve or natural park but “leveled up” over time to become initial components of the Nipas, thus,
becoming a protected area or national park that is managed by the DENR through the Protected Area
Management Boards.

Nipas ‘initial components’

According to Leones, protected areas and national parks that are not yet covered by laws are considered
as initial components of the Nipas Act.

There are 240 protected areas and national parks but only 13 are currently covered by laws enacted by
Congress. The rest were established by virtue of presidential proclamations or executive orders. Most of
these so-called protected areas were once locally managed conservation areas funded by the LGUs, he

“That is why Sen. Loren B. Legarda is pushing for the enactment of the Expanded-Nipas Act to increase
the number of protected areas and national parks that are covered by law,” he said.


Biodiversity in peril!

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - July 19, 2018 - 12:00am
Over seven billion people live on earth. Many cities have developed over the recent decade. Urban cities
are overpopulated. Rural areas need attention. Oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, mountains and valleys
need protection. The technical advances have had major impact on our planet. We have exploited our
natural resources. As a result, we have already damaged mother Earth. Many calls have been made to
save her, but to date, nothing drastic has been done to protect her.

The biosphere – a treasure for humanity

All the essential products and services upon which we depend on are made possible by the biodiversity
of our planet – the biosphere, the life within it – plant and animal life with the water and air vital to life.
This is the earth’s natural capital – a kind of life insurance for the human race.

Thanks to biodiversity, we have a deposit of raw materials for food, clothing, and shelter. We have fibers
for clothing and ready supply of industrial and building materials. Plastic, glue and photographic film all
contain natural starches. Adhesive, inks, lubricants and polishes come from vegetable or animal oils and
fats. Paper, cardboard, packaging materials, varnish, erasers, tires and even babies’ diapers and chewing
gums are manufactured using materials found in trees.

A medicinal chest and a help for agronomy

Since early times, people have used substances found in plants and wild animals. Today, wild plants
remain one of the principal sources of molecules for the pharmaceutical industry. Aspirin, the world’s
most popular pain-relief medicine is made from a compound discovered in a riverside tree – the willow.
Curare, a natural poison used as a mortal weapon by the Amazonian Indians, is used in surgery for its
power as a muscle relaxant.

Substances, deriving mainly from marine organisms also contain promising components for medical
research because many of these animals use toxic substances as a means of defense. More than 500
marine organisms (crab, mollusks, sea lice, etc) produce chemical substances with anti-cancer

Genetic heritage preserved in natural environments is being used more and more in modern farming.
Natural environments and traditional farming methods help to preserve wild animal species and plant
varieties, whether ancient or hardy. These provide a vast reservoir of potential genetic materials for
modern agriculture.

Land in peril

Today, the scientific community unanimously agrees that natural environments are changing at a rate
unprecedented in the history of the Earth. For a long time, three or four species disappeared from the
face of the Earth. In the last few centuries, the rate has increased to approximately 27,000 species

Population growth and the conquest development of economic activities continually increase people’s
needs in terms of natural resources. The Earth contains riches preserved since it came into being four
billion years ago and has already fed over 80 billion human beings for the past 100,000 years. While the
planet may have the capacity to maintain a multitude of lives, it must also be given some time to
recover. Since the middle of the last century, however agriculture, industrial, tourist and other human
activities have exerted unrelenting pressure on natural environments and have over-exploited living
resources. Thus, was the case of Boracay and the many other natural environments visited by tourists.

The changing of ecosystems is the main cause of the loss of biodiversity around the world. Since the
1900s, half of the tropical forests have been destroyed (800 million hectares). Each minute, 40 more
hectares are converted for cattle farming, intensive agriculture or the timber industry, Today, this
deforestation is being pursued at breakneck speed: 0.6 percent of the remaining area is lost each year.
Farms are converted to man-made villages.

Water in peril

Marshes which purify water are drained for farming and urban expansion. The cutting of small trees and
bushes for firewood in dry regions result in the loss of pasture and desertification.

Due to the use of modern fishing techniques, ocean riches are being exhausted. The quantities of fish
caught today are lower and the fish are smaller in size.

Many species of birds, tropical fish, turtles, cats, monkeys and plants are also threatened by poachers.
Undue exploitation of furs, skins, tortoise shells, feathers, seashells, bulbs and the leaves of endangered
plants has led to the extinction of many species.

Environmental pollution and introduction of exotic species

Since the middle of the 20th century, the acceleration of industrial development has led to the
increasing pollution. Fossil fuels, mineral ores and chemical products are processed and used in greater
quantities. This has led to the release into nature of large amounts of chemicals that contaminate rivers
and lakes, the air and soil. Carbon dioxide is the chief pollutant of the atmosphere. The levels of this gas
recorded in our atmosphere are the highest the Earth has known for 100,000 years.
Pollution affects the climate of the planet and the capacity of living creatures to reproduce. In highly
polluted regions there has been a drop in the reproduction rates of a large number of species, including

In many cases, when animals or plants have been imported from other continents, whether deliberate
or accidental, the introduction often leads to the gradual elimination of rare native species.

Today, fishermen and hunters occasionally introduce new species of fish and game into the environment
without serious analysis of the possible consequences. Marine systems also suffer from the introduction
of foreign organisms when tankers discharge ballast water, the water that helps keep them stable when
empty, into foreign ports.

Disasters to come

If the loss of biodiversity continues at the present rate, the danger of climate change is inevitable. In
fact, we are already feeling the effects of it right now. Global warming has already arrived. In recent
years we have witnessed great calamities, stronger typhoons, disastrous floods, more earthquakes and
forest fires that have continued to threaten mankind.


Convention on Biological Diversity

Philippines - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The Philippines is one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries of the world, containing two-thirds of the earth’s
biodiversity and between 70% and 80% of the world’s plant and animal species. The Philippines ranks
fifth in the number of plant species and maintains 5% of the world’s flora. Species endemism is very
high, covering at least 25 genera of plants and 49% of terrestrial wildlife, while the country ranks fourth
in bird endemism. The Philippines is also one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots with at least 700
threatened species, thus making it one of the top global conservation areas. The national list of
threatened faunal species was established in 2004 and includes 42 species of land mammals, 127
species of birds, 24 species of reptiles and 14 species of amphibians. In terms of fishes, the Philippines
counts at least 3,214 species, of which about 121 are endemic and 76 threatened. In 2007, an
administrative order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources established a
national list of threatened plant species, indicating that 99 species were critically endangered, 187 were
endangered, 176 vulnerable as well as 64 other threatened species.

This unique biodiversity is supported by a large variety of ecosystems, landscapes and habitats, most of
which are also greatly threatened by human activities. According to the FAO definition, the Philippines
has 7.2 million ha of forest ecosystems, comprising approximately 24% of the total land area. It is
however estimated that, between 2000 and 2005, the Philippines lost 2.1% of its forest cover annually,
representing the second fastest rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia (second to Myanmar) and
seventh in the world. The country’s agricultural ecosystem is also noteworthy. The Philippines is part of
the center of diversity of rice, coconut, mung bean, taro and yam, as well as the center of origin and
diversity of bananas in Southeast Asia. Yet this agricultural biodiversity is nowadays experiencing general
decline, as is the land area devoted to these activities.

The trend is similar for inland water biodiversity, with findings indicating a decreasing trend in water
quality, fish, biodiversity and cultural value in the country’s largest lake (Laguna de Bay) and its tributary
rivers. The Philippines presents unique coastal, marine and island biodiversity. It is indeed located within
the Coral Triangle, at the center of highest marine biodiversity. A study conducted in 2005 noted that
there is a higher concentration of species per unit area in the country than anywhere in Indonesia and
Wallacea. Yet this ecosystem is also greatly at risk. While the 2005 review of the state of the marine and
coastal environment indicated an increase in the mangrove cover, reef cover, seagrass cover and fishery
production are nowadays decreasing substantially.

The Philippines derives large benefits from ecosystems. In particular, the country recognizes the
important role played by watersheds, river basins and coastal areas in the environment and in society as
a source of livelihood (supporting fisheries, recreation and tourism and many other activities). For
instance, a watershed with adequate forest cover provides water that supports lowland agriculture,
prevents soil erosion and siltation of coasts and water bodies, and sustains the supply of surface and
groundwater for domestic use. Likewise, the forest ecosystem provides ecological services that benefit
agriculture, industries, water and power needs. Production forest areas for tree plantations and
agroforestry activities are sources of jobs and revenues, with agriculture having represented 18.4% of
the country’s GDP in 2007.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Threats to biodiversity differ from one ecosystem to another. In the forest ecosystem, the primary
causes of forest loss are commercial exploitation and population growth (including lifestyle and
consumption patterns) and the introduction of invasive alien species. Loss of biodiversity in the
agricultural ecosystem is a direct consequence of habitat destruction via conversion of agricultural land
to other uses; the possible negative impacts of biotechnology; natural calamities or extreme weather
events associated with climate change; introduction of invasive alien species, pests and diseases; and
inherent institutional problems of government agencies responsible for conserving agrobiodiversity. Yet
the observed decline is also the indirect result of the increased demand for food, land and other agro-
based resources; pursuit of economic growth through intensive agriculture, export-oriented policies and
the promotion of extractive industries, such as mining, that are potentially damaging to the
environment; and lifestyle change of farmers brought about by urbanization. Major threats to inland
water biodiversity, as well as marine and coastal environments, include chemical pollution and
eutrophication, fisheries operations, habitat alteration, invasion of alien species and global climate

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The Philippines started formulating its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 1994 with the
formulation of the Philippine Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (PSCBD). In 1995, the
Philippines undertook an assessment of the country’s biodiversity through the UNEP-assisted Philippine
Biodiversity Country Study. As a result, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was
developed and published in 1997. Five years later, in 2002, a review of the NBSAP was undertaken that
identified 206 conservation priority areas and species conservation priorities, collectively known as the
Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities (PBCP), which is considered the second NBSAP revision
and incorporates six major strategies and immediate actions. Finally, the PBCP was reinforced in 2006
with 228 key biodiversity areas (KBAs) identified covering an estimated 10.56 million hectares.

The updating of the NBSAP is on-going. The process builds on the current status and achievements of
the Philippines with respect to biodiversity planning and reporting. It aims to integrate the Philippines’
obligations under the CBD into its national development and sectoral planning frameworks through a
renewed and participative ‘biodiversity planning’ and strategizing process. It is expected to produce
measurable targets for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. Interim biodiversity targets were
also incorporated into the Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Among the major achievements toward the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets is the increase of the forest
cover from 23.9% in 2003 to 52.6% of the total land area in 2006 (2007 MDG report), the extension of
the terrestrial protected areas network from 8.5% in 1992 to 12.8% of the total land area in 2008 (2007
MDG report), along with 1,169 marine protected areas (in the form of reserves, sanctuaries and parks),
and improvement in management effectiveness of these sites, which rose from 10-15% in 2000 to 20-
30% in 2007. In addition, threatened flora and fauna were given further protection through various
species conservation programs and executive and administrative issuances (with positive trends
recorded for marine turtles and mangroves); the number of confiscations of illegally traded wildlife
species regulated under CITES increased from 513 heads in 2005 to 11,124 heads in 2011; measures
such as fish farming and eco-tourism in protected areas are being implemented to promote sustainable
use and benefits for local livelihoods; indigenous knowledge and the practices of 16 tribes were
documented by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) between 2005 and 2008; policy-
making and access and benefit-sharing have been institutionalized through the process of free and prior
informed consent from indigenous and local communities.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination,

mainstreaming, etc.)

Traditionally, sectoral approaches have been used in the Philippines to manage environmental and
natural resources, which have led to separate governance mechanisms for different resource uses, and
conflicts in management. In the 1990s, the watershed approach, integrated Ecosystem Approach, bay
regional planning, integrated river basin and coastal zone management approach to development and
management emerged for planning and addressing issues that cut across ecosystems. Presidential
Memo Order No. 289 (1995) was issued, directing the integration of the NBSAP, as was Executive Order
No. 578 (2006) establishing national policy on biodiversity and directing all concerned government
agencies and offices and local government units to integrate and mainstream the protection,
conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into their policies, rules and regulations, programs and
development planning processes.

Since then, several initiatives have been launched, notably in terms of integrated watershed
management. Moreover, Executive Order 533 (2006) mandated the adoption of integrated coastal
management (ICM), with a recent review indicating that significant resources had been invested into
ICM, with the participation of various stakeholders, and that several concerns were taken into account,
ranging from poverty alleviation to food security and sustainable development.

Finally, enhanced cooperation on biodiversity management is promoted through the formalization of

partnerships, either through Executive Orders, as in the case of the Bicol River Basin and the Watershed
Management Councils in Lake Lanao and Bukidnon Watershed, or through a Memorandum of
Agreement or Understanding, such as in the case of the Kabulnan Watershed Multi Sectoral Council.
Under said councils, multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary task forces, committees, and technical working
groups are organized to address specific policy decisions or implementation problems or issues, either at
the local, provincial or regional level, depending on the extent of coverage of the river basin and
watershed. A multi-sectoral, multi-institutional mechanism called “Network for Nature” (N4N) should be
put in place to proactively disseminate, monitor and coordinate the implementation of the Philippine
Biodiversity Conservation Priorities (PBCP).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Monitoring activities are led in relation to water quality, coral reefs cover (notably recording the impacts
of climate change in the framework of the ICE CREAM project), and species conservation. Several
biodiversity monitoring tools have been developed but sustaining the effort remains a challenge,
especially after donor exit. In 1999, the Biodiversity Monitoring System (BMS) was introduced as a tool
to collect data on priority species and resource use and to guide decision-making by the Protected Areas
Management Board (PAMB). This was institutionalized through policy. For a time, monitoring efforts
yielded promising results and resulted in management interventions. In some protected areas, the BMS
was sustained through local efforts but, in general, monitoring ceased due to lack of funds. Efforts
regarding the development and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest
management, requiring the participation of multi-disciplinary teams, etc., had a similar fate after donor
exit. The Biodiversity Indicators for National Use (BINU) for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems remain to be
implemented by other stakeholders, although the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is slowly
piloting them within its bureaucracy. Implementation of Conservation International’s framework for
monitoring biodiversity conservation outcomes held promise however has failed to fully take off due to
lack of funds.



Development practitioners all over the world have recognized the role of water governance in
addressing future water scarcity. In 2001, Kofi Anan of the United Nations and in 2002, Tadao Chino,
former Asian Development Bank (ADB) President, have both declared that the water crisis is a
governance crisis. An ADB report further stated that if some Asian countries will face a water crisis in the
future, it will not be because of physical scarcity of water, but because of inadequate or inappropriate
water governance (including management practices, institutional arrangements, and socio-political
conditions), which leave much to be desired (ADB 2007). For the Asia-Pacific region, the literature
contends that water shortage will become a major constraint in the economic and social development
of the region's individual countries unless equitable and efficient water allocation policies and
mechanisms are developed (UNESCAP 2000). Globally, the supply of water may not be limited as
gleaned from projections data of Rosegrant et al. (2002) where only 10 percent of total renewable water
shall have been withdrawn in 2025. In the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, only a small portion of the
renewable water sources can be tapped, even if statistically, the per capita

197 annual use of 400 cubic meters (m3) is only 12 percent of the 3,360 m3 per capita renewable water
resources in the area (Webster & Le-Huu 2003). Focusing on the Philippines, it was noted that the
annual water use accounts for only 12 percent of available supply (FAO,2002). Viewed in isolation, this
figure tends to suggest that the need to manage water use and conserve water resources is not a
pressing concern.However, several facts quickly dispel this notion in the case of the Philippines (Rola
&Francisco 2004). First, the per capita water availability has been declining over the years (Webster &
Le-Huu 2003) brought about by increased water demand arising from economic growth and population
increases and by decreased water supply associated with degradation of watersheds in the country.
Second, the data on aggregate availability are illusory in that they indicate the average supply per capita
per year, without regard to the distribution of available supply. True availability is contingent on time,
place, quality, and cost. In terms of spatial differences across the country, the projections for 2025 show
that in a high-economic growth scenario, the water balance, which is the difference between the
amount of water resources potential and the water demand, will be negative for some regions in the
Philippines due to rising water demand in Metro Manila. All Mindanao regions have positive water
balances (JICA/ NWRB 1998). In the low-economic growth scenario, Central Luzon region is still
projected to have a negative water balance.

This same study shows that 17 of the 20 major river basins in the Philippines will experience water
shortage in 2025. This is projected to happen in the high-economic growth scenario and on the
assumption that there is no water resources development program. The river basins in the Luzon region
will face the most serious shortages by the year 2025. Finally, the Philippine freshwater ecosystem faces
severe problems of pollution and rising costs of potable water supply. Surface water accounts for about
three quarters of freshwater supply, but many of the major rivers and lakes, particularly those passing
through or close to urban centers, are heavily polluted. Fifty of the major rivers are now considered
biologically dead, a term used to describe places that no longer support any life form because of over
pollution. While the main river systems in Metro Manila are “biologically dead”, the siltation and
chemical residues pose a serious problem to major lakes, including Laguna Lake, Lake Danao, Lake
Lanao, and Lake Leonard (Rola & Francisco 2004). This situation shows that ensuring potable water
supplies to households will become more costly as water treatment requirements increase. The increase
in population and economic activities has considerably increased the effluents being discharged to water
bodies. Domestic sewage has contributed about 52 percent of the pollution load while industries
account for the remaining 48 percent (NSCB 2006). Other sources of water pollution are inefficient and
improper operation of landfills or incinerators and inadequate public cooperation on the proper disposal
of sewage and solid wastes. Toxic red tide outbreak in Manila Bay occurs regularly, which simply shows
the extent of degradation of this resource. Relatedly, available data also point to an increasing incidence
of water-borne diseases, such as typhoid and paratyphoid, diarrhea, H-fever, malaria, schistosomiasis,
and cholera (Rola & Francisco 2004). In sum, therefore, the current state of water resources in the
Philippines should be a cause for concern among policymakers. Given the above, this paper surveyed
the literature to understand the current water governance environment in the Philippines guided by the
frameworks developed by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (2011) and by
Malayang (2004). These frameworks are discussed in Section 2. Section 3 discusses the results of the
review on the state of water governance in the Philippines; while Section 4 offers ways to move forward.
Section 5 contains brief conclusions and recommendations.


Impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services

Impacts of climate change on biodiversity and ecosystem services Impacts of climate change on
biodiversity and ecosystem services

Authors: Claire Brown (UNEP-WCMC), Robert Munroe (BirdLife), Climate Change Team (UNEP-WCMC),
Stavros Papageorgiou (CI) and Jenny Birch (BirdLife)

In the last 100 years average global temperature has increased by 0.74°C, rainfall patterns have changed
and the frequency of extreme events increased. Change has not been uniform on either a spatial or
temporal scale and the range of change, in terms of climate and weather, has also been variable.
Change in climate has consequences on the biophysical environment such as changes in the start and
length of the seasons, glacial retreat, and decrease in Arctic sea ice extent and a rise in sea level. These
changes have already had an observable impact on biodiversity at the species level, in term of
phenology, distribution & populations, and ecosystem level in terms of distribution, composition &

Many changes have been reported in the distribution of species. In general, many species have
expanded their ranges poleward in latitude and upward in elevation. Evidence of contraction in species’
distribution is limited, however, possibly due to reporting difficulties and time lag in such contractions
due to a wide variety of possible mechanism such as population dynamics. Populations of many species
have declined, and although in some cases climate change is believed to have contributed to the
decline, attributing this is fraught with difficulty as it is likely to be only one driver amongst many. At the
species level, changes observed that can be attributed to climate change involve those surrounding
phenology (the timing of events). Many birds and insects are showing changes, such as earlier onset of
migration, egg-laying and breeding. In terms of ecosystems, there has been some evidence on changes
in distribution. e.g. desert ecosystems have expanded, and tree lines in mountain systems have
changed. Changes in the composition of ecosystems have also been observed (e.g. increased lianas in
tropical forest). Such changes may affect ecosystem function and the ecosystem services they provide.
Changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services due to climate change are not all negative, with some
species either thriving or adapting.

Most of these observed changes are modest, which is possibly due to the limited change in climate that
has occurred. However, future projected changes in climate are much larger. IPCC AR4 suggests that
approximately 10% of species assessed so far will be at an increasingly high risk of extinction for every
1°C rise in global mean temperature, within the range of future scenarios modelled in impacts
assessments (typically <5°C global temperature rise). Aquatic freshwater habitats and wetlands,
mangroves, coral reefs, arctic and alpine ecosystems, and cloud forests are particularly vulnerable to the
impacts of climate change. Montane species and endemic species have been identified as being
particularly vulnerable because of narrow geographic and climatic ranges, limited dispersal
opportunities, and the degree of non-climate pressures. Potential impacts of climate change on genetic
diversity are little understood, though it is thought that genetic diversity will increase the resilience of
species to climate change.

Modelling studies on the potential impact of climate change on species indicates poleward shifts and
changes in altitude, range expansions or contractions corroborating the current evidence in the most
part. However, such studies highlight the individualistic nature of species’ responses to climate change,
which is likely to have a large impact on future composition of ecosystems. Structure of ecosystems may
also change. Models suggest this may have an impact on ecosystem function. For example, modelling
suggests increases in net primary production in northern Europe but decreases in areas where water is a
limiting resource. Changes in productivity are likely to change services such as nutrient cycling due to
changes in litter fall. Other potential changes to ecosystem services due to climate change, include
changes to the provisioning services (e.g. food, fiber, timber), carbon storage and sequestration, water
regulation and disease regulation.

Changes to ecosystems as a result of climate change are likely to have significant and often negative
social, cultural and economic consequences. However, there is still uncertainty about the extent and
speed at which climate change will impact biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the thresholds of
climate change above which ecosystems are irreversibly changed and no longer function in their current
form. Tipping points are points at which a system passes from one steady state to another. These are
used for either climate tipping points or ecosystem tipping points. An example of the latter is Amazon
forest dieback.

There are several methods and tools to assess the impact of climate change on biodiversity and
ecosystem services. Vulnerability assessments have particular meaning in the natural hazards and socio-
economic fields but are used more loosely and encompass a variety of methods in the field of
biodiversity and climate change. Climate envelope modelling is by far the most common tool used to
assess potential impacts (and to infer vulnerability) on species. Although these suffer a number of
limitations, they do provide a first cut assessment of the likely magnitude and direction of change.
Dynamic models, population models and mechanistic models are other modelling tools that have been
used to assess future impact and vulnerability on both species and ecosystems, though ecosystem
service modelling is still in its infancy. These latter models need to become more prominent as climate
envelop modelling mainly provide species exposure to climate change and thus only one facet of
vulnerability. Indeed vulnerability is defined as a function of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity.