In the mountains of Cabangan, Zambales, the majestic banaba tree, Lagerstroemia speciosa, stands tall - its lineage tracing back to ancient narratives. Historically celebrated by the Ayta community for its medicinal attributes, this tree is now the subject of scientific researches and implementation of an international agreement.

abs maporac ayta herbanext laboratories moa 600px 3Key signatories and witnesses to the MOA signing between MAO-CADT and Herbanext Laboratories, Inc. (Photo credit: ABS Project)

In August 2023, the Ayta community of Sitio Maporac, Barangay New San Juan, Cabangan, Zambales, and the Herbanext Laboratories, Inc., a prominent figure in the Philippine botanical research and development, entered into an innovative partnership for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the utilization of as a genetic resource.

This collaboration marks the Philippines’ first Access and Benefit Sharing initiative under the Nagoya Protocol. Facilitated by the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) Project, the agreement seeks to provide economic opportunities to indigenous communities in the country.

abs maporac ayta herbanext laboratories moa 600px 2Paul Felipe Cruz, president of Herbanext Laboratories, Inc. (Photo credit: ABS Project)

The project is spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) and supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). It emphasizes the critical role of indigenous peoples in biodiversity conservation and the promotion of sustainable practices.

The involvement of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Region III, in accordance with Section 24 of the 2012 revised Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) guidelines, was pivotal to this agreement. The Maporac Ayta Organization (MAO) CADT Inc., led by its chieftain Salvador Dimain, consented to the access of genetic resources within their territory and their traditional knowledge through a community resolution after a series of consultations with the community. The process and the resulting decision honored their customary laws in compliance with Section 35 of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).

abs maporac ayta herbanext laboratories moa 600px 1Salvador Dimain, chieftain of the MAO-CADT Inc. (Photo credit: ABS Project)

Based on the agreement, Herbanext Laboratories will conduct research on the banaba trees within the Maporac Ayta Organization’s ancestral lands. On their part, the Ayta community will adopt production practices and processing for the sustainability of banaba.

While hoping that the banaba species growing in the area would yield a significant level of phytochemical content for commercial production, Salvador Dimain was grateful nonetheless for a chance to uplift the lives of Ayta community members.

The partnership is not going down as a historical footnote but as an inspiration. It invites stakeholders and industry leaders to cultivate the Philippines’ emerging bio-industry, incentivize biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, and realize fair and equitable benefit-sharing with indigenous peoples and local communities. Within this blend of age-old customs and modern enterprise lies a vision for a sustainable future. (ABS/ Orange Omengan)


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