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MANILA -- The Philippines received some P20.2 million (294,151 pounds) from the United Kingdom to help stop the extinction of marine species in the five key biodiversity areas of Verde Island Passage, Palawan, Danajon Bank, Bohol, Polilio Islands, and Lanuza Bay, the UK embassy in the country said Tuesday.
Aside from highly biodiverse Philippines, Cambodia and Myanmar were the two other southeast Asian countries that received the Darwin Initiative grant of the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs and Department for International Development.
The Philippines is rich in coral reefs and has one of the most bio-diverse marine ecosystems. With more than half of Philippine communities mostly of subsistence fishermen located in coastal areas, this natural wealth -- if managed properly -- are crucial in the country’s future development. Unfortunately, fish extinctions have been detected in pilot studies off Bohol and more of these studies have to be made to help prevent the eventual dying away of local marine ecosystems.
The three-year project, entitled “Responding to fish extirpations in global epicenter of marine biodiversity,” is meant to maintain and improve the ecosystem in the five aforementioned sites. UK’s Newcastle University, Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), and Haribon Foundation launched the project May 14, ahead of the upcoming Rio+20 international conference in Brazil next month where world leaders will again meet to discuss how to direct the world toward sustainable economic development and green growth.
Calling the project a “really valuable addition to the Darwin portfolio,” British Ambassador Stephen Lillie said the project “goes to the heart of those sustainable development challenges that I have just outlined: how we reconcile conservation needs with sustainable livelihoods and better resource management.”
“Certainly, we stand at something of a crossroads, between protection and extinction of our biodiversity. This makes the Darwin Initiative more important than ever,” he added.
At the launch, project leader Professor Nicholas Polunin of Newcastle University said that the project will “reconcile conservation needs with sustainable livelihoods and enhance local capacity in resource management,” with the participation of both local governments and communities.
Among the outputs of the project will be: to identify vulnerable species in the five areas; to enhance the capacity of local government units for local resource management in conservation sites; and to submit policy recommendations made at local, national, and international levels.
Project co-coordinator Dr. Margarita Lavides of ADMU explained that the team will use different research methods and partner with other organisations to come up with a comprehensive study that will provide an effective template that can be replicated in other areas.
Crucial to economy
Much is at stake for the Philippines, according to Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Much of our economy, livelihood, food and nutrition are dependent on the sea. We have much to lose. The Philippines is the 8th largest producer of fish and 4th largest tuna supplier in the world. This project will guide us in our path towards recovery and sustainability,” Ignacio said.
“The project will give us important parameters to move ahead, starting with baseline information on the status, vulnerability and trend of our fish species in selected areas. The knowledge that we will gain from this project will be important to us in our management of marine protected areas as well as in the crafting of environmental policies,” he added.
Haribon Foundation Chairman John Lesaca 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. The Visayas Region, in particular, experienced low counts of reef fishes typically exploited,” he said.
“This is further exacerbated with the effects of climate change and habitat destruction. Philippine fisheries directly provide income to approximately 1.7 million fisher folk and their families. Our fishermen, along with farmers, are the backbone of this country supplying 43% of our protein intake,” he added.