Some 250 environmental advocates from national government agencies, local government units, non-government organizations, media, youth and women’s groups, organizations of small farmers, fishers, academia, business sector, and indigenous peoples movements celebrated biodiversity and participated in the National Small Grants Programme (SGP) Conference 2018, held at the Timberland Sports and Nature Club in San Mateo, Rizal on July 24-27, 2018.
With the theme, “Realizing Community-based Biodiversity Conservation,” the conference aimed to draw insights from various biodiversity-based projects around the country; to showcase management models, approaches, and technologies that have had positive impacts to biodiversity conservation and community well-being; and to encourage an exchange of biodiversity-friendly agriculture and biodiversity-friendly enterprises.
The event was organized by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and SGP of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It is a milestone for the GEF-SGP, an international financial grants program. Since its inception in the Philippines in 1992, the programme has financed more than 290 environmental initiatives throughout the country. The current phase, which is the fifth, has provided financial grants to and overseen projects of numerous organizations primarily throughout Palawan, Samar Island, and the Sierra Madre Mountain Range over the last six years. SGP-5 seeks to promote community-based biodiversity conservation through the promotion and development of biodiversity-friendly enterprises among its grantees. The programme is also responsible for mainstreaming social inclusion in biodiversity conservation work, particularly the empowerment of women, farmers and fisherfolk, and indigenous people. SGP expects to finish its fifth operational phase (SGP-5) by December 2018.
Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 2018 (ENIPAS) or Republic Act No. 11038. Baguilat stated that the ENIPAS Act empowers indigenous peoples through the creation of coordination mechanisms in ancestral domains around the framework of IP rights. The act also strives to protect ancestral domains through sustainable modernization and technological development, and ensuring conservation of protected areas. In addition, Baguilat stressed that an efficient and unselfish government is the key to cultivating a political culture that promotes biodiversity conservation. Communities and public servants must empower each other in order to maintain the intricate weave that is biodiversity.In his keynote address to the conference, Ifugao Representative Teodoro “Teddy” Brawner Baguilat, Jr. commended the approval of the
“Communities are key to the effective and sustainable biodiversity conservation,” Baguilat said.
Other speakers for the conference included OIC Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez of BMB, UNDP Country Director Titon Mitra, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Executive Director Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Foundation for the Philippine Environment Executive Director Oliver Agoncillo, TV-5 Vice-President Roby Alamapay, and Forest Foundation of the Philippines Executive Director Jose Andres Carnivel.
The conference highlighted presentations by SGP-5 grantees and environmental leaders during numerous breakout and plenary sessions. The presentations covered a wide range of topics such as the state of biodiversity in the Philippines, balancing between economic and environmental interests, highlights of the best practices in SGP-5’s landscape and seascape work, popularizing biodiversity conservation, and many more. The presentations featured were designed to promote and encourage knowledge sharing for the network of biodiversity champions in the Philippines. The fellowship night featured Mr. Joey Ayala and an IP group performing songs composed and written by IP youth and artists, which was the output of their SGP supported project. The event was concluded by a workshop on landscape and seascape communications planning.
Another focal point for the conference was the signing of a manifesto designed to integrate and consolidate biodiversity integration efforts throughout the country. The manifesto espouses an ethical anthropocentric mindset in relation to biodiversity, claiming that a clean and healthy environment is a basic human right, and that biodiversity conservation must be interwoven with social development, justice, and good governance.
“The use of natural resources must not only be sustainable, but also must equitably benefit everyone. Biodiversity conservation and sustainable development are for all and by all, recognizing that the rights of the people must be accompanied by their responsibilities as citizens of this country and as custodians of the planet for the next generations to come,” the manifesto argues.
The manifesto calls for, among others, the proper and effective implementation of Republic Act (RA) 11038, and RA 9147, or the Wildlife Conservation Management Act, by national government agencies and local government units. According to the manifesto, the aforementioned organizations have an obligation to indigenous peoples and local communities to secure their rights in terms of conservation area management and to promote active participation in the enforcement of ENIPAS law. As with ENIPAS law, the approval of the Indigenous Community Conserved Areas (ICCA) Bill should also encourage the recognition and protection of IP rights and local area conservation.
Another highlight of the manifesto is its push for the development of Biodiversity-Friendly Enterprises (BDFEs), an effective social enterprise model that promotes the sustainable use of natural resources. This model is supported through the provision of free-assisted developmental recognition scheme, which incorporates support on value chain development, feasibility/valuation study, marketing linkage, and policy development. The manifesto entails for the government to invest in more biodiversity-friendly livelihoods to support communities in biodiversity conservation areas.
“A simpler and free certification scheme will boost community-based BDFEs,” the manifesto says.
The manifesto also cites the inequitable distribution of wealth, a profit-driven economy, unemployment and the lack of livelihood opportunities, a consumerist lifestyle, an ineffective governance, and corruption as factors that threaten the massive reservoir of wealth in Philippine biodiversity. It notes that those who belong to the marginalized sectors of society like subsistence farmers and fisherfolks, the urban poor and IPs who depend most on, but receive the least benefit from the bounty of nature are the ones who bear the most the burden of disasters resulting from environmental destruction like flooding and landslides, and the impacts of climate change. (SGP-5/ Justin Teodoro Biag)