Biodiversity conservation is 'a top priority' says Philippines Environment Secretary


Ramón J.P. Paje is the 19th Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of the Philippines. In this interview he explains why biodiversity conservation matters so much for his country, and how the Biodiversity Finance Initiative is helping underpin his country's national strategy and action plan on biodiversity.

Why is protecting, sustaining and fairly sharing the benefits of biodiversity important for the Philippines? 

We have a population of 100 million. Fishermen and women and farmers are typically the poorest and the most dependent on natural resources for their lives and livelihoods. We’re also one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, so ensuring our biodiversity is properly conserved is a top priority.

Agriculture and fisheries make up about 15% of our GDP.  Ecosystem services, which underpin these sectors, are essential to sustain our country’s economic growth. Moreover, ecotourism has contributed greatly to our revenue.  Natural destinations such as protected areas, beaches, dive sites, caves, rivers and lakes and the wildlife found there continues to attract both local and foreign tourists. This is a major boost to local jobs and the wider national economy.

We are hit by typically at least 20 typhoons a year. This makes protecting our biodiversity doubly important. The Asian Development Bank estimates that losses from typhoons and earthquakes cost the Philippines around 1.6bn US Dollars each year. The World Bank estimates the annual typhoon season typically shaves 0.8 percentage points off our annual GDP growth.  Ensuring that our ecosystems, particularly forests, mangroves and coral reefs, remain robust and healthy helps mitigate the adverse impacts of these natural calamities.


Why does BIOFIN matter to the Philippines?

The BIOFIN methodology is a pioneering initiative that seeks to transform biodiversity investment. It is very welcome.  We hope that the inclusive process that the methodology encourages will bring in more stakeholders, both government and non-government, into the biodiversity conservation discourse. 

We also see that BIOFIN directly supports our efforts to formulate and implement our Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) as it sharpens our focus on actions and targets that are more strategic. This shared understanding of both the BIOFIN methodology and PBSAP among stakeholders builds increased confidence and a deepened partnership among the key actors, which ultimately makes all better managers of our biodiversity.  The solid information base on policy, institutional and expenditure review, the PBSAP costing and resource mobilization that will be generated through the BIOFIN process will guide us in discussions with current and potential partners in conservation.

What progress have you made implementing BIOFIN so far? and are there aspects you think other countries could learn from?

We are finalizing the policy and institutional review and the PBSAP costing.  Initial work has been done on the public expenditure review.  The BIOFIN methodology on policy and institutional review raised participants’ awareness of the positive and negative biodiversity factors, but a tendency to take an academic approach remains.  Also, the workbook may not be exhaustive enough to cover all biodiversity-related policies.  The “what” and the “who” may have been identified, but the more important question of “how” in BIOFIN may not have been nipped in the bud at this point. With regard to the costing component, the exercise has shown that we need a more strategic approach by the lead government agency, in this case the Biodiversity Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in terms of the directions and targets of the PBSAP.


What do you expect from the upcoming CBD COP?

Through our 5th National Report, the Philippines hopes to contribute to reviewing progress towards the implementation of the Global Strategic Plan. We are committed to completing our PBSAP within the year. 

We will take note of and bring home lessons, including successful and innovative conservation strategies and solutions highlighted by the global community towards the achievement of the Aichi Targets.

We regard with keen interest developments on the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol and look forward to its first Conference of Parties. 

We look forward to discussions on resource mobilization strategies that showcase good examples of modalities we can consider in the Philippines.  Likewise, we look to the continued support of developed countries to sustain the financial mechanism for the full implementation of the Convention.