Bacolod City – Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines Resident Representative Selva Ramachandran signed a Memorandum of Understanding to unlock finance for nature from unconventional sources that will contribute to the sustainable protection and conservation of the province’s biodiversity.
“I’m very thankful for the trust and confidence that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, UNDP Philippines and BIOFIN Global are showing us, and we are looking forward to this collaboration,” Governor Lacson said. “We’re very confident that this partnership will only bring good things to Negros Occidental.”
Together with the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PhilBio), the UNDP and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Biodiversity Finance Initiative or BIOFIN, will help Negros Occidental identify, access, combine and sequence sources of biodiversity funding such as those from the national and sub-national government agencies, the citizenry, and the private sector.
“The BIOFIN journey of the Philippines can only be enhanced multiple times by this experience working at the provincial level,” said Onno van den Heuvel, BIOFIN Global Manager. “Indeed, the natural capital of Negros Occidental are attractions with great potential in sustaining itself and the finance solutions closer to where biodiversity is may be the right formula to do this.”
Present in 41 countries, BIOFIN contributes to closing the financing gap for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity by generating revenues, realigning current expenditures, avoiding future expenditures, and delivering biodiversity management effort more effectively.
In the Philippines, BIOFIN is working with the DENR to finance the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP), the country’s roadmap to conserving its biodiversity. The PBSAP implementation costs PhP24B annually or PhP334B (USD 7.4B low estimate) from 2015 to 2028. However, public expenditure is estimated at only P4.9B per year (USD 110M), a deficit of almost PhP19B (USD 349M) annually. Several finance solutions to address this gap have been identified and are being piloted by BIOFIN including mainstreaming biodiversity into local plans and programs.
“Our vision at the UNDP is to bridge the financing gaps in provincial biodiversity targets,” said UNDP Philippines Resident Representative Selva Ramachandran. “We envision this partnership to address biodiversity threats at the level of the local government unit, enhance conservation efforts, promote sustainable tourism, and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and ultimately, to the betterment of the communities’ lives in the province.”
With the help of the UNDP and the DENR through BIOFIN, the province is set to increase its budget by continuously lobbying for the inclusion of the province’s biodiversity program priorities in the plans of key national government agencies, regional councils, and other relevant actors.
The Negros Island Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NIBSAP) is the central document that guides biodiversity conservation efforts of the two Negros provinces. Since its preparation in 2017, the province of Negros Occidental has narrowed its financing gap for conservation by allotting at least PhP30M of its budget to priority biodiversity conservation activities and involving NGOs and municipalities as implementers in the process.
BIOFIN will assist Negros Occidental to generate revenues through ecotourism by piloting an ecological fee charged to tourists visiting the province. Furthermore, assistance will be provided to access the trust fund created under the Energy Regulation 1-94 program, which intends to recompense communities hosting energy resources or energy generating facilities.
“With the rapid acceleration of threats to biodiversity especially in the Philippines, we seek to raise funds from any source possible and work with key stakeholders to halt these threats while contributing to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework targets,” DENR Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and concurrent Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) Marcial Amaro, Jr. said.
The Local Government Code of 1991 or RA 7160 empowers local government units (LGUs) to have meaningful autonomy to attain their full development and self-reliance so they can become effective partners in attaining national goals. The code provides fiscal powers and authority to local government officials to propose, appropriate, and release funds for programs, projects, services, activities, and other purposes to promote the welfare of their constituents. Seeing this function as an entry point, BIOFIN has been working with LGUs since 2016 to mainstream biodiversity in local plans and programs to ensure regular financing. The localization of the BIOFIN methodology including the implementation of finance solutions in the Negros Occidental province is set to be replicated in its neighboring province of Negros Oriental. (BIOFIN 2/ Angelique Ogena)