The Philippines received a major grant from the British government to help protect and preserve its marine resources in five key biodiversity areas around the country.
Funded by the United Kingdom’s Darwin Initiative, the three-year project will aid the country in maintaining and improving the ecosystem in Verde Island Passage, Palawan, Danajon Bank, Bohol, Polillo Islands and Lanuza Bay until March 2016.
The grant assistance amounts to £294,151 or about P20.2 million.
“The project…will be a really valuable addition to the Darwin portfolio. It goes to the heart of those sustainable development challenges: how we reconcile conservation needs with sustainable livelihoods and better resource management,” British Ambassador Stephen Lillie said.
Since its launch in 1992, the Darwin Initiative has been assisting countries that are rich in biodiversity but poor in financial resources to meet their commitments under international conventions to protect marine and other endangered species.
Two other states from Southeast Asia receiving the same assistance are Myanmar and Cambodia.
The Philippines’ coral reefs and marine biodiversity are one of its greatest assets, Lillie said.
With more than half of Philippine communities located in coastal areas, he said these assets can make a huge contribution to the country’s future development if managed properly.
Unfortunately, fish extinctions have been detected in pilot studies off Bohol island in the southern Philippines and more of these studies have to be made to help prevent the eventual dying away of local marine ecosystems, the envoy said.
Project leader and Newcastle University professor Nicholas Polunin said the project seeks to identify vulnerable species in the five Philippine areas; enhance the capacity of local government units for local resource management in conservation sites; and submit policy recommendations made at local, national and international levels.
Dr. Margarita Lavides of the Ateneo de Manila University and project co-coordinator said they will use different research methods and partner with other organizations to come up with a comprehensive study that will provide an effective template that can be replicated in other areas.
Philippine Environment Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio called for immediate action to preserve the country’s marine resources, saying “much is at stake” for the country.
“Much of our economy, livelihood, food and nutrition are dependent on the sea,” Ignacio said. “We have much to lose.”
Environmental group Haribon Foundation commended the initiative.
“This project could not have come at a better time, with our capture fisheries being heavily exploited and in decline since the early 1900s,” Haribon chairman John Lesaca said. –KG, GMA News