First National Biodiversity Congress coincides with International Day of Biodiversity

International Biodiversity Day offers a timely reminder of the importance of effective management of a country’s natural wealth. Few places in the world are as rich in biodiversity as the Philippines: considered as one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries, harboring more diversity of life per hectare than any other country in the world. This immense natural wealth is however at significant risk. Overexploitation and unsustainable practices, encroachment in forested areas, pollution, overfishing, poor land management practices, and natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are contributing significantly to an alarming rate of biodiversity loss.

Biodiversity conservation is a critical economic and social issue. Biodiversity managed effectively can help reduce poverty, preserve livelihoods and traditional lifestyles, and can make a significant contribution to national economic growth. Almost 70% of the country’s population is dependent on the environment and natural resources for a living. These resources utilized sustainably can make a remarkable difference to the lives of many Filipinos.

Recognizing the importance of managing biodiversity, national and local governments, civil society, academe and private sector have been working for years to involve Filipino communities in developing local solutions for biodiversity conservation. Many of these initiatives have achieved varying levels of success, presenting viable models and plausible lessons in different contexts and aspects of biodiversity conservation work.

The three-day First National Biodiversity Congress, which also coincides with the International Day for Biological Diversity, provides a venue for sharing these models and lessons on conservation initiatives in both large territories and small communities. The Congress shall feature interactive plenary and breakout sessions on five thematic areas covering a wide array of topics related to biodiversity management:

Theme 1: Managing Protected Areas. Management modalities, strategies for establishment, and protection of protected areas
Theme 2: Biodiversity-friendly enterprises: setting standards and developing value chains. Certification and guaranty systems, value-chain analysis, and the importance of community organizations in biodiversity-friendly enterprises
Theme 3: Landscapes and seascapes. Global indicators of landscapes and seascapes, linking protected areas and ecosystems, and balancing livelihood needs against conservation efforts
Theme 4: Biodiversity Financing. Priority areas for biodiversity financing and funding windows for civil society organizations for biodiversity initiatives
Theme 5: Special topics: Building an inclusive biodiversity community. Participation in biodiversity conservation of indigenous peoples, women, youth and communities in conflict-affected areas

The Congress aims to encourage and sustain interaction among local stakeholders, especially among civil society organizations, and help forge partnerships on technological and information exchanges, skills enhancement and policy development.

The Congress shall also feature the following milestone events:
• Launch of the popular version of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), the country’s blueprint in managing its natural wealth. The PBSAP was developed through extensive consultations with various sectors at the national and local levels to ensure that the plan will be able to identify and address priority global and domestic needs and be easily integrated into the plans and programs of various government agencies, including local governments.
• Adoption of the Philippine Government’s Voluntary Commitments to the Sustainable Development Goal 14: Life Below Water, that will be presented to the Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June which aims to be the game changer that will reverse the decline in the health of the world’s oceans.
• Launch of DENR’s Coastal and Marine Ecosystems Management Program (CMEMP), a 12-year (2017-2028) national program – the Philippine Government’s response to comprehensively manage, address and effectively reduce the drivers and threats of degradation of the coastal and marine ecosystems in order to achieve and promote sustainability of ecosystem services, food security and climate change resiliency for the benefit of the present and future generations.
• Formulation of a road map that will expand and deepen the participation of CSOs in designing and implementing Global Environment Facility programs, thereby contribute to the environmental protection and sustainable development goals of the GEF.
• Special multistakeholder forum on the seaweed industry as a biodiversity-friendly enterprise.
• Special forums to explore funding opportunities to support the biodiversity conservation initiatives of civil society organizations and local governments.
• Exhibit of various community biodiversity-friendly enterprise products.
• The announcement of the winners of the “Selfie for Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism 2017”, a photo contest mounted by the DENR – Biodiversity Management Bureau with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on the theme “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism”. The entries feature conservation efforts of unique Philippine flora and fauna in relation to sustainable tourism.

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