Newly installed Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim on Tuesday vowed to intensify the promotion of biodiversity-friendly business enterprises in Southeast Asia.
Established in 2005, ACB is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’s response to the challenge of biodiversity loss. It is an intergovernmental organization that facilitates cooperation and coordination among 10 Asean member-states and with regional and international organizations on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such natural resources.
In her speech during the turnover ceremony at the ACB headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, Lim said the business sector relies on biodiversity for their raw materials and ecosystem services.
Lim addede as part of her 10-point thrusts as ACB’s new executive director, she will endeavor in mainstreaming biodiversity in Asean and promote biodiversity-friendly business enterprises through policy advocacy among the 10 Asean member-states, including the Philippines.
The other members-states of the Asean are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Lim lamented that irresponsible business practices contribute to biodiversity loss and bad investments.
“The business community holds so much human and financial resources, more than the combined resources of governments. As business is a problem and a solution, they should be part of our mainstreaming effort, therefore, engagement with them is inevitable,” Lim said.
According to Lim, biodiversity is a crosscutting concern and it cannot be separated from the development process.
“As the IUCN [International Convention for the Conservation of Nature] espouses, biodiversity conservation is a precondition for achieving sustainable development. As such, it needs to be integrated into all sectors and across sectors: biodiversity needs to be mainstreamed,” Lim said.
“We will focus on mainstreaming biodiversity by further strengthening our partnership with the Asean Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity, and working with the Asean Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment, Asean Working Group on Sustainable Cities, and other relevant Asean Working Groups. We will also work with the development sector and link with like-minded development organizations and individuals in our region so that we can leverage resources and avoid duplication of efforts,” she added.
Lim, a retired former director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) added: “The ACB will endeavor to create more meaningful private-sector partnerships by engaging the business community, and demonstrating that biodiversity is good for business.”
The lady official bested other applicants for the position left vacant by outgoing ACB Executive Director Roberto Oliva who held the position since 2013. The DENR-BMB’s Assistant Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez, a forester, is officially taking over as its director.
Lim was director of the DENR-BMB for more than 14 years.
She joined the DENR shortly after graduating with a degree in Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of the Philippines-Diliman in 1988, and was assigned at the DENR’s Pawikan Conservation Project based in the Turtle Islands in Tawi-Tawi during her first two years before her transfer as veterinarian of the Wildlife Rescue Center of the BMB, then known as the Protected Area Wildlife Bureau. Subsequently she became the WRC’s chief and was named assistant director and eventually, the BMB chief in 2003.
Cimatu hails outgoing BMB chief
During a simple turnover ceremony at the DENR-BMB office at the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Rescue Center in Quezon City, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu hailed Lim’s accomplishment as DENR-BMB chief.
Lim was instrumental in increasing the budgetary allocation from the national government for biodiversity conservation to as much as 70 percent in the last six years, Cimatu said.
“She spearheaded the development of policy frameworks on key conservation measures such as biodiversity-friendly business enterprises, the National Ecotourism Strategy, the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, and the expanded Nipas [National Integrated Protected Areas System] bill. She established close linkages with academe, such as the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology, the UP-Marine Science Institute, and the Siliman University, to address biodiversity research needs. She maintained excellent working relationships with other government agencies, NGOs, the private sector, the press and communities, in the implementation of agency programs and projects,” Cimatu said.
New BMB assured of Cimatu’s support
Cimatu, likewise, assured the incoming director of the BMB, who rose through the ranks since joining the DENR in Region 5 in 2005 as Forester 1 of his support.
“Krisma [Rodriguez] is tireless as a public servant. I personally witnessed this during the monitoring of Mayon Volcano’s unrest at the start of this year. The DENR Region 5’s response under her leadership at a time of crisis was prompt and well-coordinated. I witnessed how she led her team competently, and how she managed collaborative response with other agencies. And if I may add, she is also gifted with a golden voice, an attribute that can be very important in building fellowship and partnerships,” Cimatu said.
According to Cimatu, biodiversity as a concept can be difficult to comprehend.
“It is easier to deal with concrete phenomena: forests, rocks, seas, rivers, mangroves, fish, animals, trees, and insects. But biodiversity is not just the sum of all of these things. It also includes the processes involved in the inter-relationships among all living and non-living organisms,” he said.
“BMB people are perceived to be over-protective of everything because everything to them is part of the web of life. You lose one insect, your food or your rain may be imperiled. Thus the BMB is sometimes pressed to rein in or relax their mantra of “protecting and conserving” everything in biodiversity.”
The challenge for the new BMB chief, Cimatu said, is how to strike a balance between conservation and development.
“I do not believe, however, that we should choose one over the other, for both are essential to humanity’s survival. Homo sapiens cannot survive as the only species on this planet; we have to coexist with the rest of biodiversity,” he said.