The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is collaborating with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to enhance the protection and conservation of the country's rich biological diversity.
The DENR and USAID on Monday launched the Protect Wildlife Project, a five-year, P1.2-billion initiative that seeks to address biodiversity loss and rampant wildlife trafficking in the Philippines.
DENR Secretary Gina Lopez and US Ambassador Sung Kim led the launch of the newest biodiversity conservation project in the country, held at Sequoia Hotel in Quezon City on March 6.
The event, co-organized by the USAID and the DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), was part of the World Wildlife Day celebration on March 3.
Amb. Kim said that the project was part of the continuing collaboration between the two governments, along with the private sector, civil society, and individual communities to strengthen natural and environmental resource management in the country.
“It will demonstrate that protecting and managing the Philippines’ diverse habitats and species lead to improved quality of life and sustainable development,” he said.
“’Protect wildlife’ is not only the name of our project. It is also the imperative for all of us to take care of the species with which we share the planet,” he added.
Lopez lauded the project’s tagline stating, “Conservation is not protecting nature from people. It is protecting nature for people.”
She reiterated that the perspective of the DENR under her leadership was area development, and making sure that the resources, especially its flora and fauna, in an area are enjoyed by the people themselves.
Noting that the species is home to a high level of endemicity, Lopez said that nurturing the country’s endemic species was the country’s contribution to humanity.
“Wildlife is therefore an integral part of developing areas. Taking care of them will give us great ecotourism zones that can help people in the communities and lift them out of poverty,” she stated.
According to BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim, the Protect Wildlife Project would also focus on improving benefits provided by ecosystems for food, water, livelihood and ecotourism.
"With the Philippines being both one of the world’s most megadiverse countries and a critical biodiversity hotspot, we need to see how we can communicate development programs more effectively so that people will appreciate better the benefits of conservation," Lim said.
Lim said that among the strategies to be used in the project include improving the attitude and behavior of stakeholders toward biodiversity, and intensifying their involvement in conserving and financing biodiversity initiatives.
The project will also enhance the competencies of stakeholders and implementers such as local government units, civil society organizations, the academe, and other government agencies on biodiversity conservation.
Two pilot areas have been selected for the project. These are the Palawan province including Tubbataha Reef, and the Sulu Archipelago including Zamboanga City and Tawi-Tawi province.
The USAID will ensure that the project’s impact is sustained by using an ecosystem approach in addressing threats to biodiversity within the sites. This would enable the local community to have a strong sense of ownership and promptly adapt to lessons they learn from the project.
Lim said the project also highlights the need to fight threats posed by wildlife trafficking, illegal fishing, land use conversion, irresponsible mining, and indifference of stakeholders.
"The more habitats deteriorate and wildlife existence is endangered, the less we benefit from the goods and services that ecosystems provide to sustain human life," Lim pointed out. ###