ELEVENTH HOUR: Philippine biodiversity at a crossroads

The Philippines, one of the megadiverse countries on the planet, is at a crossroads.

With new leaders poised to assume leadership in the coming weeks, the state of our endemic biodiversity and ecosystems lies in wait as the new decision-makers detail their plans for the Philippines.

On May 22, we celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity. This year’s observance calls on “Building a shared future for all life.” Biodiversity Day 2022’s pressing call for inclusivity and proactivity needs to share the spotlight along with the priorities of this new administration.

On multiple occasions, many of us may have heard about the Philippines being one of the 17 megadiverse countries on earth. Megadiverse countries are home to the highest concentration of endemic species both above land and below water. In fact, three of these countries are in Southeast Asia. The Philippines, together with our neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia are considered biodiversity-rich.

Ironically, only Cambodia has signed on as a member of the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People in the region. The HAC is an intergovernmental group that champions the protection of 30 percent of the earth’s land and ocean by 2030. This goal is the third target of the draft Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, a proposal by the Convention on Biological Diversity working group, which provides 21 action-oriented targets that will put biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030 for the ultimate benefit of the planet and people.

30x30 SEA Coalition calls for further and quicker action from our leaders in order to save what we have left for future generations. Join the 30x30 SEA Coalition through this link.

Also known as 30x30, this global initiative captured the commitment of over 90 countries to become members of the HAC. With the commitment comes opportunities to access funding to implement biodiversity-centered programs, including the empowerment of indigenous peoples and local communities who are at the frontline of local conservation measures.

The challenge for our new leaders this time is to take a stand. Not just on paper, but in its succeeding programs centered on the environment and its stakeholders.

Turning over a new leaf for the Philippines

Our archipelagic country hugely benefits from the ecosystem services our environment provides. From the resources we harvest for food and goods, climate and disease regulation to culture, education, and recreation, we owe a lot to nature and biodiversity.

The Philippine economy, especially the tourism industry, has been gradually recovering from huge losses brought by the pandemic and destructive typhoons over the past two years. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve come to witness how nature began to “heal itself” as global tourism operations halted along with destructive practices that came with it. The easing of quarantine guidelines prompted several organizations and companies to invest in sustainability as the tourism industry bit by bit recharges to accommodate restless tourists caged by the travel restrictions.

Our indigenous peoples have been at a disadvantage in keeping and managing their ancestral domains for several years. Indigenous peoples, along with local communities, have been subject to exploitation and human rights violations, as reported by media and human rights groups. These same citizens lead local conservation efforts as they acknowledge the importance of nature to their cultural identity, livelihood, and much more.

If you are an artist, filmmaker, or photographer who advocates for biodiversity conservation and the environment, 30x30 SEA welcomes submissions from you. For queries, details, or interest to collaborate, you may reach 30x30 at 30x30philippines@gmail.com.

This year’s Biodiversity Day emphasized the importance of sharing a progressive future for all. In the Philippines, the new leaders must take our indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) by the hand toward an inclusive tomorrow. One crucial way is for the leaders to ensure that the implementation of programs will not only protect and conserve our unique ecosystems but also lift IPLCs whose lives are at stake in this ecological crisis.

30x30 in Southeast Asia

Our leaders are at the tipping point of this narrative too.

Should the Philippines finally join the HAC, this decision will definitely become a catalyst for other ASEAN member-states to sign in, creating a domino effect.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has notably aligned with the science supporting the 30x30 goals, as well as standing firm on ensuring the explicit reference to the rights of IPLCs during the recent set of negotiations held in Geneva, Switzerland last March. Campaign for Nature, the leading organization in promoting 30x30 and HAC membership, commended the Philippines and DENR for these affirmative positions.

The 30x30 Southeast Asia Coalition has taken root and signed on more than 200 individual and organization members in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Led by the Centre for Sustainability PH, Kids for Kids, and Youth Engaged in Wetlands, the 30x30 SEA Coalition tirelessly lobbies for the national governments of these megadiverse countries to join the HAC.

30x0 SEA is open to collaborating with academic institutions and non-formal education groups, in organizing learning sessions together with coalition members based in your country. For queries, details, or interest to collaborate, you may reach 30x30 at 30x30philippines@gmail.com.

The 30x30 SEA Coalition is calling on more individuals, institutions, and organizations to take part in amplifying this global movement into the corners of the region.

The coalition is not just exclusive to those that solely focus on climate action and environment conservation and protection. All groups and individuals from different sectors are welcome to learn about and ultimately join the 30x30 global campaign.

Local governments can also play a big part in making waves by working closely with IPLCs and biodiversity-conservation organizations in passing policies at the municipal and provincial levels.

The Philippines is at a critical moment. Our country committing to 30x30 and joining the HAC is just the first step. Beyond that, our next set of leaders must ensure that biodiversity protection programs are people-centered and science-based.


About the Author

Keith Brandon Cari-an is the communications manager of the 30x30 Southeast Asia Coalition, a multi-sectoral coalition in the ASEAN region calling on our governmental bodies and those in authority to sign on to the High Ambition Coalition (HAC) for Nature and People in order to protect 30% of our natural land and water forms by 2030.

The Climate Reality Project Philippines is a member of the 30x30 Southeast Asia Coalition. For inquiries about the Coalition, contact Keith at keith@centreforsustainabilityph.org.