NEWS ARTICLE

UNDP and DENR launch $4.5M grant facility for biodiversity conservation

A US$4.5M grant facility was recently launched by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to support the initiatives of NGOs and local community groups on biodiversity conservation.

The Fifth Operational Phase of the Global Environment Facility - Small Grants Programme in the Philippines (SGP-5) is the continuation of the grantmaking program that provides up to US$50,000 in grant funds per project that aims to improve the management of protected and production areas, and promote the wellbeing of communities that depend on biodiversity.

"A big difference is, whereas its predecessors were just part of a global program, SGP-5 is now a national program. This means that SGP-5 follows a program of action that is tailor-made for the Philippines. As such, it is able to define its focus and increase its budget from US$1.8M to US$4.5M," explained Atty. Rodolfo Ferdinand N. Quicho, Jr., SGP-5's Country Programme Manager.

The Philippines hosts more than 52,000 species of recorded plant and animal species (and many more are being discovered), many of which are found nowhere else, making it one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Many communities, especially poor farmers, fishers and indigenous peoples, depend on biodiversity for their life and livelihoods. Biodiversity also provides ecological services - food, water, air, medicine, etc. - that support rural and urban populations. Scientists also point to biodiversity as an important factor in ensuring resilience from climate change impacts. However, the destruction of forests and water bodies, pollution and overexploitation have caused tremendous biodiversity degradation. Given its rate of habitat and biodiversity destruction, the Philippines is considered the hottest of biodiversity hotspots.

"Local communities protect biodiversity as a matter of survival. Having maintained, while depending on, natural resources for several generations, they are arguably the best managers of these resources. This is especially true for indigenous peoples who have pursued their traditional resource use practices through hundreds of years," stated Amelia Supetran, Team Leader of the Energy and Environment Unit of UNDP Country Office in the Philippines.

Now implemented in some 125 countries, the Small Grants Programme was established by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in 1992, with the Philippines as one of its pilot countries, to support local community actions that fight global warming, pollution of international waters, destruction of biological diversity, depletion of the ozone layer, land degradation and prevalence of persistent organic pollutants. Recognizing the need for effective protection of its life forms, SGP-5 in the Philippines shall focus on supporting biodiversity conservation initiatives.

"The Philippines has international commitments to preserve its biodiversity to safeguard humanity from climate change impacts, ensure food security and alleviate poverty, contained in several legal instruments, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Millennium Development Goals, Agenda 21 and, lately, the Coral Triangle Initiative. Given their shared interest in biodiversity, local communities and government, especially the DENR, are strategic partners in ensuring the integrity of the country's biodiversity", said Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Mundita S. Lim.

SGP-5 aims to improve the sustainability of protected areas through community-based actions by building effective models for community-based governance, and mainstream biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in the management of production landscapes and seascapes by local stakeholders through biodiversity-friendly agriculture, fisheries, forestry, tourism and other industries. Quicho added that despite the valuable knowledge of local communities in managing natural resources, there is need to strengthen them not only by giving them funding support but also by harnessing their technical knowledge to enable them to cope with the complexities of biodiversity conservation, among them technology, communication, climate change, economics and policy. SGP-5 thus aims to capacitate NGOs, POs and CBOs to understand global environmental problems and develop local solutions.

"UNDP is interested in community empowerment, governance and policy. We want effective models of biodiversity management, and we want these models communicated to other communities and the whole world so that we can replicate best practices, scale up successes, sustain conservation triumphs and expand biodiversity protection areas," stated Mr. Maurice Dewulf, UNDP Country Director in the Philippines. Mr. Dewulf added that many SGP-supported projects in the past fast tracked the implementation of government policies, and some of them became the bases for new policy issuances and conservation approaches.

The project launch, held at the Crowne Plaza Galleria in Quezon City in the morning of May 21, 2014, also debuted the SGP-5 official website, www.sgp.org.ph, which contains the guidelines for accessing SGP-5 grant funds.


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