IN the lead-up to the World Environment Day on June 5 and to mark the Month of the Oceans this May, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) has launched a new partnership to help strengthen the protection, conservation and management of marine key biodiversity areas in the Philippines.
The Marine Key Biodiversity Areas (MKBA) Project, with a P352-million ($8-million) funding from the Global Environment Facility, will be implemented in five sites, namely, the Verde Island Passage, Lanuza Bay, Davao Gulf, Southern Palawan and Tanon Strait.
The Philippines ranks third in terms of marine biodiversity in the world, and hosts a total of 464 reef-building coral species, or nearly half of all known coral species. The Philippine waters are estimated to harbor an estimated 10,000 species, or approximately one-fifth of all known species. The country’s marine waters are also widely regarded by marine biologists as the epicenter of marine biodiversity—having 123 key marine biodiversity areas.
“We all know, however, that these are at significant risk threatened by over exploitation and unsustainable practices,” UNDP Philippines Country Director Titon Mitra said at the launch. “The argument for conservation is not just about preserving natural beauty and diversity—the country’s biodiverse species also have significant income generating potential.”
“If biodiversity management becomes effective, it produces revenue, which, in turn, provides the financing for biodiversity management and then provides further impetus for enabling policies and practices for marine biodiversity. It can also provide for sustainable livelihoods for the coastal poor—encouraging them to conserve biodiversity,” Mitra added.
“Moreover, if the condition of the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems are improved and enhanced, their contribution to resilience building of coastal communities to the effects of anthropogenic and natural pressures like climate change is better and their ability to provide ecological goods is increased.”
The five-year MKBA Project will assist in accelerating establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Marine Protected Area Networks (MPANs) to include more key marine biodiversity areas. The project will also help improve management effectiveness and financial sustainability of MPAs and MPANs and establish an enabling policy framework for marine biodiversity conservation.
The launch, held at the Oakwood Premier Joy-Nostalg Center in Ortigas, Pasig City, was also attended by DENR-BMB Executive Director Vincent Hilomen and DENR – BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim. Also present were project partners, including National Fisheries Research and Development Institute of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Conservation International-Philippines, World Wildlife Fund-Philippines, RARE Philippines, Haribon Foundation, FishBase Information and Research Group Inc., University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute, and the local government units in the involved sites.