ACB’s new home: A symbol of commitment

In Photo: Inside the newly inaugurated Asean Centre of Biodiversity (ACB) building in Los Baños are Laguna. Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim (seated, left) of the Biodiversity Management Bureau talks with Sen. Loren Legarda. At the back are Asean, ACB and Philippines officials and biodiversity advocates.

The Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has a new home. The regional biodiversity center inaugurated its new building within the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus in Laguna recently.

The historic event also saw the launching of ACB’s Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2 (ABO2) and the signing of the grant agreement for five-year Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas (BCAMP) program in Asean supported by the European Union (EU) with €10-million (P593.699 million as of July 29) funding.

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu (left) with ACB Director lawyer Roberto V. Oliva.

All these were part of ACB’s celebration of Asean 50th anniversary this year.

The ceremonies was led by ACB Executive Director lawyer Roberto Oliva and Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu. It was attended by officials of the Asean, ACB and the Philippines, diplomats and biodiversity advocates.

Although Asean occupies only 3 percent of the world’s Earth surface, Oliva said Asean is home to 18 percent of all known flora and fauna, 30 percent of coral reefs and 35 percent of mangrove forests.

“Three countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are considered among the 17 megadiverse countries in the world,” Oliva said in his speech.

He noted that other Asean countries are also megadiverse. “Even a small country like Singapore, prides itself as a city in a garden with biodiversity as the centerpiece of its further development. And Brunei has probably one of the most best preserved mangroves in the world.”

Dr. Sheila G. Vergara (left), ACB Biodiversity Information Management director, distributes the Asean Biodiversity Outlook 2 to (from second from left): ACB Executive Director lawyer Roberto V. Oliva; Director Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim of Biodiversity Management Bureau; Wendy Yap, director, International Relations National Biodiversity Centre, National Parks Board, Singapore; Win Naing Thaw, director, Nature and Wildlife Conservation Division, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, Myanmar; Chairman of ACB Governing Board Lonkham Atsanavong; Shaharudin Anwar, representative, Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation, Brunei Darussalam; Vann Monyneath, chairman, Asean Senior Officials on the Environment (Asoen)-Cambodia; Syaiful Anwar, representative, Research Centre; Nguyen Thi Thanh Tram, head, Deputy Asoen Office-Vietnam Department of International Cooperation and Science and Technology; and Asean Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee.

But, despite a these treasures, the region’s biodiversity is in peril, he said.

Symbol of commitment

As a global biodiversity hot spot, Southeast Asia is working hard on preservation and conservation. This is why its newly constructed headquarters in Laguna would serve as a beacon of all what the ACB and the rest of the Asean community firmly stands for, and a clear symbol of Asean’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and a gift of the Philippines to Asean and to the world, Oliva said.

“In 2005 the Asean Centre for Biodiversity was established to put together regional efforts toward biodiversity conservation,” he said. “Founded on the same principles of unity, friendship and cooperation, 12 years after, the establishment of the ACB [headquarters] and with the close guidance of ACB’s governing board and the working group of nature conservation in biodiversity, the ACB has gone a long way.”

For Cimatu, “the stakes are high,” noting in his speech that “the various ecological services we derive from our environment speak of our dependence on biodiversity.”

European Union (EU) Delegation to the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires Mattias Lentz (left) and ACB Executive Director lawyer Roberto V. Oliva show the documents after the signing of the five-year Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas program grant agreement with €10-million (approximately P593.699-million) funding from the EU.

He cited the people’s use of environment as source for medicine as cure for illnesses, materials for shelters, food for nourishment, sites for creation, among others.

He said the abusive use of natural resources “will lead to our own fall as many depend on the environment for livelihood.”

Cimatu also said the new ACB building is a humble share of the Filipinos in the noble cause of biodiversity conservation. He said it is a testament of endeavors in conservation.

“The government of the Philippines intends this edifice to be a sanctuary for biodiversity conservation. For all individuals, regardless of color and race, status and religion, come as one and share the resources in the noble cause in maintaining a liveable environment for the present and future generations,” Cimatu said.

Second biodiversity report    

Another milestone for the Asean biodiversity community was the launching of the second edition of the ABO2, a descriptive summary of the current state, research and recommendations for biodiversity conservation.

Dr. Sheila Vergara, director of biodiversity information-management unit of ACB, led the launch and turnover of the ABO2. A copy of the report was handed to Bambang Dahono Adji, chairman of the ACB-Asean Working Group on Nature Conservation and Biodiversity, and to members of the ACB governing board and other officials.

ABO2’s four chapters include progress reports in Asean’s efforts toward achieving the Aichi Biodiversity projects, the state of ecosystems and implementation of actions of Asean’s priorities, recommendations and the next biodiversity outlook for the year 2020 and beyond.

“The recommendations present our analysis that there is a need for a common understanding of our biodiversity in the region,” Vergara said. “Asean member-states with large jurisdictions are key to achieving area-based Aichi targets,” she added.

Aichi biodiversity targets were created in the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) held in Aichi Prefecture in Japan in 2010. The meeting adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the 2011-2020.

Vergara also highlighted the need to ensure effective management of protected areas and establish area networks.

“There is a need to expand the conservation community beyond the already informed support groups and we all need to be responsible for biodiversity conservation in the region,” she said.

5-year mission for conservation

The many years of partnership of the EU and the ACB gave birth to a new program—the BCAMP. The program aims to enhance conservation of biodiversity and effective management of protected areas in Southeast Asia.

EU Delegation to the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires Mattias Lentz, who delivered the speech of EU Ambassador Franz Jessen, said, “The EU is an important partner in promoting biodiversity in the international development agenda and advocates for ecosystems conservation in its development cooperation policy.”

Back in 2010 during the COP 10, the EU agreed on a strategic plan with all other participating parties to achieve 20 targets by 2020 which were the “Aichi biodiversity targets.” In 2012 and 2014, during the COP 11 and COP 12, the EU pledged to double its financial resources on biodiversity for developing countries between 2015 and 2020.

“This assistance has increased from €50 million in 2003 to €250 million in 2015,” Jessen said.

Since the ACB center was established in 2005, the EU and Germany have supported the center.

“The project [BCAMP] will improve the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation and the management of a number of national parks in Asean. It will enhance the scientific knowledge on biodiversity and mainstream the biodiversity dimension in the educational systems,” Jessen added.

Oliva said that the ACB’s commitment to conservation is for each and every citizen in the Asean region and the rest of the world.

“Our dream is to let every citizen of the Asean know the value of biodiversity whether an environmental advocate, student, lawyer, soldier or ordinary stakeholders. We want them to get involved in biodiversity conservation, because the prosperity and future of Asean depends on maintaining and preserving our rich biodiversity,” Oliva said. “And just like Asean, the ACB will become a model for biodiversity conservation in the world.”

Image Credits: Stephanie Tumampos

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Stephanie Tumampos has a Bachelor's degree in Applied Physics obtained at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and a master's degree in Environmental Engineering obtained from the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is currently a correspondent and a photojournalist for more than 3 years in BusinessMirror and writes under the Science, Biodiversity and Faith pages.

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