‘WE must measure what we treasure as a country.”
This was stressed by Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga as she gave full support to a proposed measure to develop a system of accounting that accounts for the full value of the country’s natural assets that contribute to economic development. She aired her support during the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs hearing on the proposed Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System (Pencas).
Three senators—Loren Legarda, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Joel Villanueva—have separately filed with the Senate similar bills seeking to institutionalize Pencas. The counterpart measure was filed by Negros Occidental 3rd District Rep. Jose Francisco “Kiko” Benitez in the House of Representatives.
In a statement, the DENR chief said the agency strongly and categorically supports proposed measures that aim to institutionalize Pencas, saying it will not only provide the country with a snapshot of the environment, but its contribution to the economy as well.
“Pencas helps map possible directions in the development of the nation beyond traditional indicators and allow us to explore multiple trajectories for social, economic, and environmental development from the valuation of our natural resources,” she told lawmakers.
Loyzaga said Pencas will not only serve as a tool for determining the contributions of ecosystems to economic development but also for better management of natural resources and improving climate and disaster resilience.
“The Department believes that these bills will more accurately reflect the true state of the nation’s wealth as derived from its natural resources. It will enable strategic planning for sustainable development and climate and disaster resilience by establishing the baseline accounts for the Philippine Development Plan,” she pointed out.
Loyzaga said Pencas may serve as a core means of achieving agendas on biodiversity, climate, Sustainable Development Goals, and green recovery; lay out a comprehensive data framework of natural capital statistics and accounts; and provide tools and measures to contribute to the protection, conservation, restoration, and resiliency of ecosystems.
Moreover, Loyzaga said Pencas will help equip the Water Resources Management Office in the DENR, which was recently created by virtue of Executive Order No. 22 issued by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
She said Pencas can provide information on the physical flows of water within and between the economy and the environment; stocks of water assets and changes to these stocks; economic activity; and transactions related to water resources.
Loyzaga disclosed that the DENR had already identified significant actions it will undertake in support of Pencas in line with its mandates and the Roadmap to Institutionalize Natural Capital Accounting in the Philippines.
The DENR, she said, will lead efforts to put in place site-specific and area-based ecosystem accounts; establish the national geospatial database for natural resources as a key reference to natural capital accounting; promote awareness of valuable opportunities and benefits of the natural environment, biodiversity, and ecosystem; ensure availability of tools, methods, and skills; and cooperate with space agencies and spatial data providers to optimize the utilization of ground- and space-based monitoring in establishing the baseline conditions of ecosystems.
Legarda, who presided over the Senate hearing, said that institutionalizing Pencas “will allow the government to measure environmental inputs and outputs, and which information is vital for economic management and policy-making.”
The DENR earlier established its national natural resource geospatial database under Loyzaga’s leadership to enable it to identify and value the country’s natural resources, while keeping in mind how these should be sustainably developed and managed.
Loyzaga said the DENR supports the provisions in the Pencas bills pertaining to the establishment of a dedicated unit to carry out its responsibilities and allocating budgetary resources to meet the requirements for the effective implementation of the proposed system.
However, she said the agency suggests that Pencas establish clear concepts, definitions, and classifications of ecosystem services and their components to be able to set up an innovative payment scheme for ecological services that encourages local governments and businesses to reward people’s efforts.
Image credits: National Resilience Council/Zuellig Family Foundation