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An In-depth Look at Marine Life By Porfirio M. Aliño and Antonette Juinio-Meñez Undiscovered values of a diverse life Situation – Status and Threats


t is only in this decade that there has been explicit recognition of the Philippines’ being the bosom of the world’s richest and most diverse area of marine life in the planet. Considering that two-thirds of the globe’s surface is water, thus, it is called the blue planet, it is no surprise that the Philippine archipelago depends on this diverse life lif

as the lifeblood of its people. But the significance of a diverse marine life to our daily lives is yet to be fully appreciated by our people. Our lack of appreciation and the undervalued perspective of the very high diversity in its various forms have led to the crisis that is upon us now. Filipino scientists and foreign partners have shown the reduction of reef fish diversity by at least 20% in the Visayas region in just over the last three decades. This profound change is faster

than the millennia of evolutionary time which has integrated our archipelago to the rich life of what it is today. We have experienced huge economic losses as a result of the undervalued perspective of our marine life which has led to the demise of our coral reefs, seagrass meadows, mangrove areas and other associated coastal ecosystems. The conversion of mangroves to fishponds due to low lease agreements in the coasts and oceans has reduced its area to less than 30% of what it was in the

1900’s. Should a crisis be upon us before we decisively act now? Taking Action Community-based coastal management and engagements with local scientists give initial signs of hope. Our Visayan colleagues have seen the wisdom of allocating marine reserve areas for protection to allow spillover, replenishment and refugia. This was stimulated by seminal works of Dr. Angel Alcala and colleagues in CHALLENGES, p. 2


FORUM September-October 2011 Dr. Antonette Juinio-Meñez and Dr. Porfirio Aliño

Seizing great opportunities: building communities of practice • Sustaining ecosystem goods and services: adaptive complex behaviors and simple rules Integrating environmental governance in the understanding and wise use of ecosystem goods and services shows the importance of good science in minimizing discretion in local and global initiatives. Recent ecosystem models highlight the importance of looking at trophic interactions and spatial CHALLENGES, p. 3 Photo courtesy of Rene Estremera, UP Mindanao

CHALLENGES, from p. 1 the late 1970’s demonstrating the biomass build-up derived from the protection through no-take marine reserves or sanctuaries generally referred as Marine Protected Areas (MPA). Upon reporting these results in an international symposia, the implications to the benefits of adjacent fisheries were initially considered an anomaly. After a decade of monitoring in the 1980’s, the initial results are now an important benchmark in showing the rich productivity that the reefs can support. Aside from scientific appreciation, these findings inspired the blossoming of over 500 locally-managed marine sanctuaries in the mid-1990's and embedded the encouragement of 15% of municipal waters to be allocated as marine fisheries reserves in the 1998 Philippine Fisheries Code. At around this period in the mid-1980’s, coral reef restoration was also initiated by UP Professor Emeritus Dr. Edgardo Gomez and colleagues, including efforts to bring back the threatened giant clam species Tridacna gigas. Pioneering efforts of UP Professor Emeritus Dr. Gavino Trono and associates led to the development of the seaweed industry in the country. In recent years, culture of other high-value marine invertebrates was developed to enhance the recovery of depleted fishery stocks and provide supplemental source of income for small fishers. These and similar efforts at the Marine Science Institute (MSI) prospered due to the funding support of the Department of Science and Technology– Philippine Council of Marine and Aquatic Research and Development (DOST PCMARD) and national government agencies like the Department of Environment and Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) complemented by funding from international agencies.

research with biotechnological tools and incorporating social responsibility through recognition of sharing of benefits of biodiversity discoveries and capacity building of local science. Using their complementarities ranging from taxonomic-ecological studies linked to the phylogenies of turrid, sponges and other marine microorganisms facilitate new perspectives, in their systematics and the novel bioactive compounds including structure– function relationships of molecules. Unraveling hundreds of new species offer more than new names to new life forms and provide leads to the treatment and diagnoses of human ailments and broadened appreciation for and new meaning of life’s wonders and surprises. Community-Based Coastal Resources Management (CBCRM), good coastal governance and MPA work have been important factors for integrated coastal management. Their inter-disciplinary work further melds scientific research investigations with the development needs of the country. Engagement of research, extension and development work through the Philippine Coral Reef Information Network (PhilReefs), the MPA (Marine Protected Areas) Support Network (MSN) and the Philippine Association of Marine Scientists (PAMS) has contributed to UP MSI's receiving the international Caloustrie Award for marine biodiversity. In addition, modeling of larval and genetic connectivity and pollution studies have been utilized to highlight the inter-hierarchical considerations of social and ecological systems i.e., local municipal efforts to bay-wide alliances and island clusters towards seascapes/large marine eco-regions arrangements. These scientific investigations complemented by collaborations with local communities offer decision support options in determining the needed sizes of MPAs and the level of fishing effort regulations to sustain fisheries utilization. Decision support tools are now starting to be applied in the region through the 6-country Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI). Analysis of the various implications on how to

improve the lives of the growing hungry and poor coastal communities in the face of climate change shows exacerbated effects of fisheries and coastal resources overexploitation, with the impact of sea surface temperature associated with the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and extreme weather events. Our options in our development trajectories in the coastal commons need to consider negative consequences for marginalized communities. For example, when fish kills occur due to excessive proliferation of aquaculture activities and poor land use practices, it is often the poor who are most affected. Building the resilience of ecosystems through protection of diverse species and functional groups, facilitating connectivity of ecosystems through MPA and MPA network corridors, and promoting responsible fishery production and management systems help sustain ecosystem goods and services. In our developing archipelago we see that the development imperatives of our nation require putting theory and practice in the engagement of learning and knowledge-based communities to enhance our world view of sustainable development. In many discussions of ecological theory and applications, it is urgent to understand how science can help society cope with the challenges and opportunities brought about by development. Studying, living and experiencing what it means to be at the center of the center of marine biodiversity is a unique learning experience. These opportunities to understand and apply the ecological concepts of disturbance and disequilibrium dynamics in driving diversity in ecological communities and populations and society require excellent scientific know-how and performance. Perhaps it comes as no surprise that many of the scientific contributions in the Philippines in the recent decade come from the marine sciences. In our archipelago where seas occupy six times our land area, our undervalued assets should lead us into rethinking our national development thrusts towards a more sustainable development trajectory.

Unraveling biodiversity wonders―multiplier effects in science and development On a complementary development, over two decades of collaborative work starting in the early 1980’s by Dr. Baldomero Olivera and UP Professor Emeritus and National Scientist Dr. Lourdes Cruz on Conus venom led to the discovery of its pain killer properties. Being more potent than morphine and with no addictive effects, they opened opportunities to the promising potentials of drug discovery research. The integrated approach of the Pharmaseas group of Dr. Giselle Concepcion and collaborators, further shows the value-added benefits in integrating biodiversity

Data collection is crucial to biodiversity research. In the photo, data on coral reefs in a Marine Protected Area (MPA) are being collected by Prof. Cleto Nañola, one of the Roundtable discussants.

FORUM September-October 2011 3 CHALLENGES, from p. 2 planning implications of habitat overlap to regulate commercial and municipal fishing. Stochastic and agent-based models offer novel insights into the complex behaviors of dynamic social and ecological systems whose interactions can be translated into simple rules of thumb which can be applicable for policy decision support. While these studies show that the race for the fish leads to the eventual demise of fisheries stocks and the continued devaluation of the fisheries ecosystem, due to fishing down the food chain; these tools also give some hope. Modeling provides the theoretical opportunities for scientific insights and the synergy from actual engagement among the scientists, the practitioners and the fishers and other stakeholders communities offer heuristic and pedagogic benefits. Investigations on the dynamics of stakeholder interactions and their degree of dependence on fishing provide basis for evaluating the likelihood of fishers being able to shift livelihoods and options to reduce conflicts. Engaging in diversifying livelihoods and the necessity for building capacity to engage in transformative stewardship arrangements can also be linked to the conditional cash transfer for fishers. Considering that fisher communities are the poorest of the poor and thus, the most vulnerable to catastrophic disturbances such as climate-associated disasters and risks, targeting the coastal fishers would be an important priority imperative. MPA and MPA networks systems have advanced with the variety of engagements of scientists and local community stewards to bring about resilient and adaptive knowledge-based communities. The MPA Support Network (MSN) which started with coral reef researchers through the PhilReefs supported by the DOST-PCAMRD and other NGOs and POs utilize MPA monitoring and standards to motivate improving and advocating for more effective MPAs in the country. This is seen in giving incentives through the biannual Para el MAR (MPA Awards and Recognition) event where outstanding MPA and good practices are recognized. Partnership with the PAMS does not only help improve processes, systems and standards in the conservation of marine biodiversity through MPAs but it also helps mainstream monitoring, evaluation, response and feedback system as developed through nationwide research partnerships and public-private engagements. Ecosystem structure and function: Diversity in time and space Learning how the various biomass and energy flows can be derived from understanding the trophic relationships that occur in predator-prey relationships or any competitive relationships helps us understand the processes that lead to their patterns of distribution in time and space. Population genetic patterns of species with different life histories and species distributions patterns, together with their geological history and oceanographic patterns, provide valuable insights on ecological and evolutionary processes that shape marine biodiversity in the Philippine archipelago. These patterns and processes at different spatial and temporal scales, have contributed in informing us on the urgent need to act adaptively on the imperatives by prioritizing and achieving synergy in our strategies. Identification of the marine biogeographic regions in the Philippines is useful in promoting collaboration among local state colleges and universities to achieve value-added benefits through alliances and networks at local to seascape levels. These networks also open diverse avenues to help us cope with new developments and learn from each other on what worked and what did not, in variable conditions. • Minding good business and moving towards equitable flows Mining and energy development is a strategic agenda necessary for mainstreaming environmental governance that would enhance sustainable development and strategic perspective. For example,

addressing the unsettled ancestral domains with indigenous peoples in the coastal and ocean commons would open confidence-building opportunities such as pursuing joint research in the Kalayaan Islands, West Philippines Seas and the Palawan area. Pursuing cooperative international research and conservation in this area of high marine biodiversity conservation priority area would require decisive bold steps, yet would help meet the impending crisis and seize the opportunities for win-win solutions. Many of our energy needs also fuel the transport and the maritime industry which has been an important engine of our economic and cultural development as an archipelagic state. Aside from the heaviest oil transport traffic which passes through the West Philippine Sea, its contribution of at least 20% of the total coral reef area in the country and our fisheries production should be part of the environmental governance regime of the area. Fulfilling our international archipelagic commitments and our target for achieving 20%

resiliency through an ecosystem-based management approach, mainstreaming and good governance will help restore ecosystem goods and services. 1. Pursuing strategies to adjust to the present comprehensive land use plans, conservation and MPA and MPA network plans and an ecosystem approach to fisheries management to meet the climate change potential impacts. Our group has devised cross-cutting RESTORED strategies (Resiliency, Effectiveness, Sustainability, Threshold limits, Organizational development, Restoration, Enhancement of management and Disaster risk reduction): • Establishing a convergence arrangement in UP such as NOCCHAN (National Oceanographic Climate Change Harmonization Adaptation Network) to enhance opportunities for joint research and developments partnerships with DOST-PAGASA and DENR-NAMRIA and DA-BFAR.

In photo is a bleached coral affected by the 2011 El Niño-related increase in sea surface temperature which killed many corals in the Philippines. This was taken by Milledel Quibilan in Taytay, Palawan.

management effectiveness of critical areas and 10% full protection by 2020 would require us to harmonize our local initiatives and our global efforts. In addition, investments in management costs should be balanced with short- and long-term benefits for the general welfare of our people. Again, we see that good science facilitates informed policy and enhances operational functionality through a Sustainable Philippine Archipelagic Development Agenda (SPADA). • The climate change challenge: averting the trophic meltdown While many challenges and opportunities abound, seizing these opportunities as individuals, institutions, communities and as a nation requires us to: (i) to elucidate on and communicate the choices which are upon us; (ii) facilitate making decisions through science-based, timely and accurate information; (iii) act boldly through clear accountable management bodies with appropriate budgets and where participatory decision making is encouraged. Being in the world’s center of global marine biodiversity behooves us to avert the crisis now. This is crucial to our life and to our nation’s development imperatives. Through the years our universities, research and development institutions have been engaged in understanding and acting adaptively on these imperatives. In the last decades, the decline of natural resources especially our coastal commons has jeopardized our social and ecological systems and our means to cope with climate change. Building

• Enhancing complementation and cooperation among sectors such as the MSN, PAMS and PO public-private partnerships and pursuing the institutionalization of MERFs as an adaptive management strategy and incentives for good performance. 2. Achieving synergies through knowledge-based communities by linking local communities of practice to regional and global initiatives and initiating the total valuation of its ecosystem goods and services and including this in the practice of payment for ecosystem services. 3. Harmonizing various national strategies such as the Sustainable Development Strategy, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Philippine Archipelagic Development Agenda (SPADA) to integrate fisheries management and biodiversity conservation to illustrate how achieving resiliency of healthy ecosystems help sustain ecosystem goods and services. Working together in the center of marine biodiversity has made us learn to value and continue to build on the wealth of the knowledge and know-how so that we can be better stewards of our common future. -------------------Dr. Porfirio M. Aliño and Dr. Antonette JuinioMeñez are professors at the UP Diliman Marine Science Institute. Email the authors at pmalino2002@yahoo. com and


FORUM September-October 2011



Nestor T. Baguinon, PhD Professor, College of Forestry and Natural Resources UP Los Baños Affiliate Faculty, Faculty of Management and Development Studies UP Open University

Baguinon: Our country is a megabiodiversity of the world. But what is biodiversity? The word biodiversity compounds bio (life) plus diversitas (variety). However, not all living things are part of the country’s biodiversity. Only native species are members. People who arrived in the country only during the last glacial maximum (c. 20,000 years B.P.) including their domesticated animals and plants are aliens. Endemics are found only in the Philippines, nowhere else. Nonendemics are natives found naturally also in other countries. Philippine biodiversity is 60% endemic. When alien species overwhelm natives, they are bioinvasive. Since foresters view forests as either artificial or natural, they planted more alien trees in reforestation. Green activists call this ecological substitution, not forest restoration. Biodiversity, defined as the attribute of an area in terms of its native species, habitats and gene pools, resides in natural ecosystems. Too many people in a finite space inevitably convert forests into human settlements, farms, built-up areas, orchards and pastures. The country consists of two mutually exclusive ecosystems, the natural (P) ecosystem and the man-made (Q) ecosystem, i.e. 1 = P + Q. Then Q increased at the expense of P since, P = 1 – Q.

Deforestation during the last 50 years was very rapid. Forest cover decreased from 15M ha to 5M ha. This inversely coincided with the increased rate of timber production, for example, 1M m3/yr in 1950 to 12M m3/yr in 1980 and population growth, from 17M to 80M. Population density today is 5people/ ha, 50 years ago it was 2people/ha. These statistics show that biodiversity conservation was mere lip service in spite of policy issuances designed to protect forests and biodiversity (e.g. National Integrated Protected Area System or NIPAS)! Worse hit are coastal forests and lowland dipterocarp forests outside NIPAS areas (e.g. 0-1000 m asl) where 80% of flowering plants live. Some NIPAS areas, especially those traversed by roads like the Bicol National Park, were converted into farms in spite of local Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) presence. Loggers and swidden farmers together destroy natural forests causing loss of biodiversity. Loggers construct roads to market timber. Farmers use the same road to access logged-over forests converting them into manmade ecosystems. Few residual forests remain. Loggers claim logging residual forests provide the funds to protect forests. Thus logging residual forests is sugar-coated as sustainable forest


Agustin L. Arcenas, PhD Associate Professor, Environmental and Natural Resource Economics School of Economics UP Diliman

Samuel M. Go, MSPH Assistant Professor and Chair Department of Biology College of Arts and Sciences UP Manila

Q How can UP help in ecosystem management (SFEM). Conversely, green activists push for total log ban to save biodiversity and watersheds. On February 4, 2011, President Noynoy Aquino issued Executive Order No. 23, or the Moratorium to Logging of Natural Forests coupled with a National Greening Program to recover forests and minimize landslides/floods. Now the question, how can UP help promote biodiversity amidst the debate being participated in by its alumni? One group―the greens (e.g. environmental lawyers Tony Oposa et al, Haribon, Philippine Federation for Environmental Concern, Partido Kalikasan, the Green Convergence, etc.)―welcome EO 23 as an initiative that is worth trying because it could address both biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. On the other hand, pro-logging groups despise EO 23. They say a total log ban will increase poverty which in turn increases deforestation. They say landslides and floods are due to climate change, not logging. UP follows the green initiative and sticks to the ethics and wisdom of informed-decision making (based

on science, backed by empirical data). UP helps reconcile man-and-nature contradiction by integrating this issue in its curriculum so that P (representing biodiversity) and Q (representing human realm) complement each other inter-generationally in time and in space. Some rethinking and retooling may take place, like concepts of man-versusman anarchy to ecological anarchy, social contract to ecological contract, traditional governance to ecological governance with a strong capabilitybuilding program and a transition from market-driven consumption/production to sustainable consumption/production economic mode. UP takes steps on policy studies that address population management coupled with a socializedequitable-accountable natural resource management in a decentralized setup because “the usual privatized, business as usual scheme” will certainly undermine the aforementioned green initiative. The road to de-alienation of man from nature is elusive, but UP constituents will lead the way to a national participatory land use plan wherein promotion of biodiversity will just be among the many positive goals that would unfold in the pursuit of the common good.

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Cleto L. Nañola, Jr., MSMSc Assistant Professor Department of Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies College of Science and Mathematics UP Mindanao

Anna Talia Basman, BS, DIP University Research Associate College of Architecture UP Diliman

promoting biodiversity? Arcenas: UP can do what it does best in helping promote biodiversity by supplying the country with technical expertise and engaging in research on the state of our natural environment. In this regard, I think UP has significantly contributed in bridging the knowledge gap in biodiversity management through scientific and social research and the collection of baseline data. I believe that we have been providing planners and policy-makers the necessary inputs to map out courses of action—even as I admit that there is still so much research and knowledge building that we need to do as an institution. I think that through the information we generate, we should be able to disturb a sufficient number of people (if not all) enough that something concrete and significant would be done. Go: Biodiversity is a measure of the complexity of a particular ecosystem. Just as there are complex ecosystems such as those found in the tropics, there are ecosystems that are relatively simple and composed of a few species. It would be safer to say

that preserving the natural diversity of an ecosystem would be the more correct approach than increasing its biodiversity. Once the ecosystem is stable, the built-in biological systems would maintain its components and allow for ecosystems to “evolve” in time. This simply means conserving the environment as much as possible without introducing new or foreign species into the system. As an advocacy, the promotion of environmental conservation and biodiversity no longer raises questions. It may not be lacking in publicity, but there is a lack of understanding of what it is and how it can be achieved. We are at this point in history where environmental degradation and climate change are more commonly heard in the news and different media sources. There is also an ever-increasing number of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and other groups, individuals, and company-sponsored activities to promote one or more environment conservation projects. But my question is: How can we determine if these efforts have a local or national impact? Something

Pauline Dianne Santos Student, Institute of Biology College of Science Chairperson, AGHAM YOUTH UP Diliman

Jesus F. Eroles Student, College of Agriculture Head, National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates (NNARA) UP Los Baños

is amiss. In my opinion, three things are needed to ensure the success of environment projects. One is the right perspective and understanding of the environment. The other is commitment, where one exerts effort in preserving the environment not only when it is convenient. The last one is coordination and cooperation. The University of the Philippines has a role to play in all of these. A sad truth about environmental problems is that they are never seen as problems until they become problems. The forest remains a forest as long as a few remaining trees are still present. Until then, uncontrolled tree cutting, kaingin and animal poaching will continue. Rivers continue to accommodate domestic and industrial waste until there is a visible change in the quality of the water. Mangroves in coastal areas are cut, coral and natural debris are removed, and artifi cial sand is dumped to give it a more “Boracay” look. Our social understanding of the environment is shallow and incomplete. Our duty then is not just to teach our students what and how we should take care of our natural resources but to educate the whole country. Environmentally sustainable development is a word foreign to many,

even among the educated population. Until a municipality is able to come up with a comprehensive development program with the preservation of the natural environment included in its plan all future development plans, as history has shown, will come at a cost to Mother Nature. Land and coastal areas will be cut, rehabilitated and transformed to suit our needs. How many among us know our ecological footprint? This is our material requirement from the environment that is based on a way of life or lifestyle. This test shows that one need not necessarily be at the forefront of environmental rehabilitation activities in order to help save the environment. One can do so by observing an environmentfriendly lifestyle. The question is: Are we doing it now? How many among us can actually say that I have an acceptable ecological footprint? How many among our UP constituents can say that I am living an environmentfriendly lifestyle? I see some key individuals who serve as role models for the Filipino people. The next dream would be municipalities that do not degrade their environment. The last requirement for success is cooperation and coordination. While the DENR has drawn the ROUNDTABLE, p. 6


FORUM September-October 2011

ROUNDTABLE, from p. 5 plans for national environmental preservation and rehabilitation, efforts are not consistent. Environmental conservation programs have always been short-lived and of little success. My vision for UP is for it to commit itself to efforts in support of the conservation and/or rehabilitation of a specific area/several areas. This will serve as an example for other institutions and organizations which they can replicate in their own communities. Cooperation between UP and the local government units (LGUs) and other agencies is critical in sustaining practices that will prevent environmental degradation. Nañola: There are several ways the University of the Philippines (UP) can help in promoting biodiversity. These can be classified into two: advocacy and direct involvement (i.e. research work). In UP Mindanao, we have a general education (GE) course on biodiversity, MST 6 (Biodiversity Challenge), now BIO 8. I have taught the subject and it is a good venue where biodiversity is explained and appreciated by the students in a formal education setting. As a concrete example of this advocacy, years back while teaching the course, one of my students, a nonBS Biology major, informed me that he was going to be an emcee in a biodiversity forum outside UP. When he provided feedback after the

event, he stressed that he was really grateful that he took the course where his appreciation for biodiversity was honed. In the forum, he became an effective emcee because he knew the subject well enough that he was able to fill the gaps in his script and even ad-libbed some parts. Another way for UP to promote biodiversity is through research, particularly in the field of biology. The UP faculty must provide research outputs through publications that are not only limited to the discovery and distribution of species but more importantly the inclusion of the anthropogenic factors that directly and indirectly affect biodiversity. The other fields of social science like development communication, and the media can help in information dissemination in a more understandable manner. In a research project with colleagues from the Marine Science Institute (MSI) in UP Diliman and a professor from Old Dominion University in the USA, we discovered that the

Visayas Region, dubbed as the center of the center of reef fish diversity, is no longer the way it used to be. There has been species loss due to overfishing and destruction of reef areas. We published a technical paper but a popular version of the subject matter was summarized by someone else in this web address (http://www. practicalfi php?sid=3430). This shows that cooperation and interaction among various fields of specialization can

convey the message to a wider audience in a better way. A more direct way of promoting biodiversity is by supporting and acknowledging the establishment of protected areas, national parks and other similar sites. UP, being the national university, must actively tie up with the local government units (LGUs) in providing their constituents scientifi c information about the status and proper use of the environment that are not limited to the LGUs development plan and environment code. We d o n o t h a v e t o f u l l y understand what biodiversity is per se; understanding the factors that can affect biodiversity is enough. At home, biodiversity starts from the kind of packing materials―plastics, re-usable or biodegradable―we use and how we dispose of our trash. How do we treat our backyard? Do we use more concrete flooring and plastic shading or grassy areas with trees as shade, thus providing a natural home for birds and other invertebrates? We can promote diversity by protecting our environment and we can start with our own homes in our own little ways. Basman: Biodiversity is all about balance. It is not a case of preserving a number of certain species but more of ensuring that a significant number of these species will thrive to avoid extinction. Extinction provides a space for imbalance in the environment which can affect other species as well. While it weakens those species dependent on the extinct species, extinction can also endanger them and eventually make them extinct, too. It is a vicious cycle. Awareness is the start of every advocacy. We can include biodiversity in the UP curriculum and make students aware of the consequences of their action to the ecosystem. We can also conduct symposia, fora, and other conferences to increase biodiversity awareness.

Many different species thrive in the university, it being a barren land before it became what it is now. UP is a bird corridor, as shown by the presence here of bird enthusiasts on certain times of the year. According to Prof. Gerry de Villa, a birdwatcher, the birds from Sierra Madre go to the UP Integrated School, then pass through the university, to the Quezon Memorial Circle, to the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife, and so on. The university is not just an educational institution. It is part of a bigger community that affects the biodiversity of other places just by changing anything in its area. As much as possible, we should not touch animal habitat. These species are as important to the environment as we are. Biodiversity is not only about the fauna but also about the flora. There is an advocacy to start planting only native trees in the university. Introduction of species not native to us might pose harm to the species that are inherently ours. It is our job to protect them. Non-native plants have the tendency to become invasive in the sense that they might destroy the native plants we should be protecting. UP changes its land use plan from time to time. We allocate spaces as protected areas. These spaces are home to species that we want to save from harm. The maintenance of this undisturbed place can contribute not only to our biodiversity but also to our resilience to climate change. In fact, the more diverse an area is, the more resistant we become to changes as they provide us a leeway to become adaptable to these changes. A lot of things can be done but we should help spread the word. One person can only do so much. Be informed and inform.

Santos: The Philippines has widespread rainforests, rich marine wildlife and abundant flora and fauna endemic to its different islands. It is recognized as one of the world’s biologically richest countries. Today, however, our country faces biodiversity destruction because of the improper use of natural resources. Mining, for example, continues unabated. Mining, though not directly related to biodiversity, has a great impact on the habitats of even the smallest organism. Irresponsible mining in forests and the pollution of bodies of water due to improper disposal of hazardous chemicals has caused an

imbalance in the environment. We are aware that large-scale mining is still practiced because of the Mining Act of 1995 which grants foreign investors the freedom to extract vast quantities of our metallic and non-metallic resources. The Filipino people who are the rightful owners of these natural wealth are deprived of these benefits. The export orientation of our extractive industries is common especially in this field. Ores extracted from our own land are plundered by multinational companies. With this we experience the destruction of our natural resources and the lopsided distribution of our mineral products. Those who live in the uplands like the indigenous peoples are displaced from their communal lands by largescale logging and mining corporations

without provisions for relocation or supply of their basic needs. According to Poffenberger (2000), people and their culture depend on the forest such that the significant losses in forest cover over the last century affected almost two million plant species. Over 100 different indigenous cultures were also disturbed because of this. Due to massive deforestation, people are experiencing landslides in the highlands and flash and mud floods in cities, like what happened in Metro Manila at the height of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. It is a heartbreaking reality that because of the ignorance of most of us on the current state of our surroundings, we become the victims of our own mistakes. The Philippine marine life is also in a bad state. About 1,000 square kilometers or almost five percent of the total 27,000 square kilometers of marine wildlife remain in good condition. Recently, there were reports about black corals and sea turtles smuggled from the Southern Philippine Sea. The Bureau of Customs seized a shipment that contained 163 stuffed hawksbill and green turtles, 21,169 pieces of black corals, 7,340 pieces of trumpet and helmet shells and 196 kilos of sea whips. It is an inconvenient truth to know that our country is involved in this kind of a situation. In their ideal conditions, the Philippine coral reefs can supply as much as 35 tons of edible and economically valuable fisheries every year. A significant number of Filipinos depend on fishing for their livelihood. Thus, healthy coral reefs provide food security and ensure the livelihood ROUNDTABLE, p. 13

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A Brief Survey of the Past, Present and Future of Biodiversity Research in the Philippines By Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta


uring the last three decades of the 20th century, the world underwent a paradigm shift: For the first time in history, entire countries became aware that “the Earth’s biological resources…are a global asset of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been as great as it is today.”1 It is not an isolated problem but a common, human concern, demanding common, human actions to solve. On June 5, 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was opened for signing at the UN Conference on Environment and Development. Signatory-countries or Contracting Parties agreed to the objectives of the CBD, which was “the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies, taking into account all rights over those resources and to technologies, and by appropriate funding.”2 It entered into force on December 29, 1993, and has currently been ratified by 193 countries or Contracting Parties, including the Philippines. Under the CBD, Contracting Parties shall establish

measures for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, integrating the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into plans, programs and policies; identify and monitor the components of biodiversity as well as the activities that would likely have adverse impacts upon it; establish a system of protected areas or areas where special measures need to be taken to conserve biological diversity, and promote environmentally sound and sustainable development in areas adjacent to protected areas; rehabilitate degraded ecosystems and promote the recovery of threatened species, and so on. Other vital issues were public education and awarenessbuilding; environmental impact assessments; and the promotion of free exchange of information among the Contracting Parties.3 In addition, under the Convention the Contracting Parties are also tasked to establish programs for scientific and technical education and training in the identification, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity; promote and encourage research on biodiversity, particularly in developing countries; and facilitate or provide access to and transfer of technologies, particularly biotechnology, among the Contracting Parties.

2010 target missed In 2002, the UN CBD

Art by tilde102011

set a target “to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on Earth.” In keeping with this, the UN declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. The bad news is, the global target for biodiversity for 2010 has not been met. In the CBD Secretariat’s 2010 report entitled “Global Biodiversity Outlook 3”,4 it was noted that there were “multiple indications of continuing decline in biodiversity in all three of its components—genes, species and ecosystems.” The report mentioned that species which have been assessed for extinction risk are on average moving closer to extinction; natural habitats continue to decline, although there has been significant progress in slowing the rate of loss for tropical forests and mangroves in some regions; extensive fragmentation and degradation of forests, rivers and other systems have continued; crop and livestock genetic diversity continues to decline; the five principal pressures directly driving biodiversity loss (habitat change, overexploitation, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change) are either constant or increasing; and humanity’s ecological footprint now exceeds the biological capacity of the earth by a wider margin than at the time the 2010 target was set. Given this grim outlook, countries across the globe renewed their commitment to the goal of significantly reducing biodiversity loss within the next ten years; hence the UN General Assembly’s declaration of 2011-2020 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity. As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in the report: “The consequences of this collective failure, if [they are] not quickly corrected, will be severe for us all.”

Science on our side Unplanned, indiscriminate science and technological progress as well as unsustainable and heavily consumerist economic and social systems have been blamed for the condition of the planet today. However, with the growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all life systems on Earth comes a growing belief in the possibility that science R&D and technological innovation can help stem the tide of destruction and create solutions. “While there is growing agreement that there are many ways to upset the apple cart of civilization—climate change, water scarcity, energy crisis, habitat destruction, species extinction—some scientists are intrigued with the ever-increasing possibility of discovering ways to again twiddle the dials and restore planetary homeostasis,” wrote Dan Clover in his essay “A New Earth”, published in the quarterly international online journal Environmental science, which incorporates such fields as atmospheric sciences, ecology, chemistry, geosciences and environmental engineering, emerged around the 60's and 70's as a multidisciplinary approach to the highly complex environmental problem. Biodiversity research incorporates such fields as biology, ecology, forestry, marine science, ecosystems studies, climate studies and conservation governance.6 As the CBD calls for each country to develop a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) to ensure the fulfillment of the Convention’s objectives at all levels and sectors in each country, it clarifies that the NBSAP “should be a living process by which increasing scientific information and knowledge, gained through the monitoring and evaluation of each phase of implementation knowledge, feed a permanent strategy review process.”7 SURVEY, p. 8


FORUM September-October 2011

SURVEY, from p. 7 A framework for Philippine biodiversity research In compliance with the Convention, the Philippines began formulating its biodiversity strategy and action plan through the Philippine Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (PSCBD) in 1994, and in 1995 undertook an assessment of the country’s biodiversity through the UNEP-assisted Philippine Biodiversity Country Study. Based on the results of this study, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was developed in 1997.8 Under this, the following strategies were undertaken: expansion and improvement of knowledge on the characteristics, uses, and values of biological diversity; enhancement and integration of existing and planned biodiversity conservation efforts with emphasis on in-situ activities; formulation of an integrated policy and legislative framework for the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of the benefits of biological diversity; the strengthening of capacities for integrating and institutionalizing biodiversity conservation and management; the mobilization of an integrated information, education and communication system for biodiversity conservation; the advocacy for a stronger international cooperation on biodiversity conservation and management. In 2002, the NBSAP was subjected to an extensive review conducted by multi-stakeholders groups. Among the results of this review was the identification of 206 conservation priority areas and species conservation priorities and identification of six major strategies: harmonize research with conservation needs; enhance and strengthen the protected areas system; institutionalize innovative but appropriate biodiversity conservation approaches, such as the biodiversity corridors; institutionalize monitoring and

evaluation systems of projects and of biodiversity; develop a national constituency for biodiversity conservation in the Philippines; and advocate stronger international cooperation on biodiversity conservation and management.

Biodiversity research in the Philippines (1998-2003) In a special report for the January-December 2004 issue of the Asean Biodiversity journal, Dr. Angel C. Alcala, director of the Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management of Silliman University, presented a review of completed research studies on biodiversity in the country for the period 1998-2003.9 “Biodiversity studies are directed at the four levels of biological organization: genes, species, communities and populations, and ecosystems,” he wrote in his introduction. “Such studies cut across or incorporate traditional disciplines such as ecology, evolution, genetics, systematics, biogeography, and conservation biology.” He noted that research at the gene level has not been done in the Philippines because we could not afford it. While there were studies on biodiversity at the species level in the country, these were only done in “very few laboratories and on a handful of organisms” due mainly to a “lack of trained taxonomists and systematists and probably a lack of incentives.” This was unfortunate, as the need for such biodiversity experts had been implied by statements from international experts dubbing the Philippines as one of the top “biodiversity hotspots.” Alcala considered biodiversity research at the population or community and ecosystem levels “urgent” due to the “massive destruction of the tropical rain forest and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves, all of which are repositories of a high diversity of

endemic tropical species.” For his review, Alcala classified research projects under 13 categories, namely: (1) Biodiversity Survey and Monitoring; (2) Biodiversity Uses; (3) Biomodeling Studies; (4) Biosafety and Biosecurity; (5) Connectivity Studies; (6) Ecology and Restoration Studies; (7) Evolution, Genetics, Taxonomy and Systematics; (8) Ex situ Conservation Research; (9) In situ Conservation Research; (10) Policy Research; (11) Protected Areas Research and Management; (12) Socio-economic and Resource Valuation; and (13) Sustainable Production. Of the completed biodiversity studies across the country in 1998-2003, Alcala observed the following: Of the 131 projects conducted from 1998 to 2003, 103 were marine; 26, terrestrial; and two, both marine and terrestrial, marking a need to balance the preponderance of marine research with terrestrial or both. Survey and Monitoring Projects comprised 37 percent of the project—understandable, because surveys are much simpler to conduct than experimental projects. Twentysix percent were projects on Sustainable Production and Biodiversity Uses, with Conservation and Management coming in third at 15 percent. There was, however, a dearth of studies on Evolution, Genetics, Taxonomy and Systematics. Only 22 of the 131 completed projects published their research results in books, conference proceedings and refereed journals. Higher education institutions, led by UP Diliman and UP Visayas, dominated the biodiversity research projects, while among the government agencies, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and its Protected Areas of Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) have the largest number of completed research projects. International and regional agencies and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) were also active in biodiversity research. SURVEY, p. 9

Interview with DOST-PCARRD Director Patricio Faylon The UP Forum interviewed Dr. Patricio S. Faylon, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD), in order to get an overview of the research trends and areas of concern regarding Philippine biodiversity that DOST agencies and universities must work or are currently working on. FORUM: What are the DOST-PCARRD’s priority areas in research and development (R&D)? Are there sub-areas on biodiversity survey and evaluation, conservation and protection? Are there special fields under biodiversity that need particular attention? FAYLON: In order to be relevant, PCARRD draws from and aligns its priorities with the: Millennium Development Goals, Medium-Term Development Plan, Philippine Agriculture 2020, National R&D Priorities Plan, the DOST’s 5Point Priority Programs and President Aquino’s Social Contract with the Filipino People (E.O. 43). These priorities are embodied under five themes: (1) Poverty Alleviation, (2) Food Security, (3) Economic and Sustainable Development, (4) Climate Change and 5) Support to Allied Industry. In support of the five themes are the R&D priority areas focusing on commodities of national and regional importance. Biodiversity is one of the priority commodities under the Environmental Services cluster, which PCARRD has been sustainably supporting from the previous S&T Agenda (STA) in the Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources (2006-2010) to the current STA (2011-2016). One key R&D area that we are trying to set direction in biodiversity is the improvement of biodiversity conservation and management strategies, integrating biodiversity conservation with ecotourism and management. We know for a fact that irresponsible tourism is one of the major threats to biodiversity and the usual poverty-based threat in the uplands where most of the wildlife habitats are located. Specifically, strategic R&D on biodiversity focus on improvement, conservation and management for sustainable crops, livestock and forestry ecosystem. On crops, we are looking at plant genetic resources conservation and utilization and on improving the production system of various priority crops. On livestock and poultry, the focus is conservation and utilization of native animals. The native animals and other newly domesticated endemic animal species can survive and reproduce under natural environment with minimal material and technological inputs. Thus, R&D focus is not merely limited to conservation of native animals but also to continuous improvement and utilization of the products and creation of livelihood from these products. However, sustainability and profitability of native animal production system is largely dependent on the availability and accessibility of genetic resources that meet the needs of small farmers and the demands and preferences of consumers who are ready to pay premium prices for the products. FORUM: In light of our country’s status as a biodiversity hotspot, what step must the government take to protect, conserve and improve conditions

for our biodiversity? FAYLON: Biodiversity protection primarily depends on the capacity of the government to strictly implement rules and regulations. Not only that, it should be supported/complemented with appropriate and enough manpower such as forest guards, facilities/tools and equipment and financial capacity to encourage more dedicated people to serve as guardians of biodiversity. Based on history and experience, protection and conservation of biodiversity cannot be done by DENR alone. We still believe that the most effective strategy is to combine the bottom-up and top-down approach in solving the problem. The “bottom-up” works on the forest community/dwellers. It is important to mobilize and provide them the opportunity to capacitate themselves and find ways these upland dwellers can become partners in protecting and conserving biodiversity. One way is to divert their unsustainable sources of income, like kaingin, into a more sustainable one. The local government units (LGUs) and other livelihood and technology-providers can address these concerns. The “top-down” works with the national government which is critical in setting policy directions to effect biodiversity conservation specifically in the delineation of boundaries of protected areas (PAs) within the forestlands. It is good that the current administration has declared as priority the passage of the Land-use Act which has been “in the making” for the last two decades. Without this, the effective and efficient protection of areas dedicated to biodiversity, which is within the protected areas, is difficult to achieve. The LGUs should act as a mediator, execute the policies initiated from the top, and serve as the direct link of the communities in knowing the specific interventions that must be done to support the local communities and become partners in conservation and management. This is where financial, manpower and support facilities are necessary for an effective biodiversity conservation and management―allow biodiversity to exist within their habitat and that the people should recognize these habitats. Unless this is done we will encounter a conflict scenario similar to what is happening in Agusan marsh (originally the natural habitat of crocodiles encroached by humans). FORUM: How can these steps be supported by science, technology and R&D? FAYLON: S&T can play a role in addressing food production sustainability in the sloping/upland areas where people (and biodiversity) exist in a particular ecosystem. Through sloping land agricultural cropping system/technologies, people tend to avoid transferring from one place to another thus preventing further expansion (cutting and burning of new forest areas). This will create sustainable FAYLON, p. 9

FORUM September-October 2011 9 Collection, evaluation and utilization of FAYLON, from p. 8 exportable agricultural products. This ongoing livelihood and divert their attention from further project on exportable products is a collaboration encroaching on biodiversity-rich forest habitats. between the government and the Mama Sita S&T is critical in providing capacity to delineate Foundation. It makes available the best of selected large tracts of land and their uses in support of the crop varieties to local growers who intend to have land-use demarcation and boundary delineation of these grown in large scale for export. Selected PAs within forestlands, identify land-use conflicts exportable agricultural crops are evaluated for with mines, titled lands, ancestral domains through adaptability, productivity and optimum growth and computer-based and satellite-based technologies then promoted to interested clientele. such as remote sensing and GIS. Safekeeping crop diversity at the National FORUM: What are the DOST-PCARRD’s policy Germplasm Repository. This completed project is thrusts and activities that are related to the protection a PCARRD-IPB-NPGRL collaboration that aimed and conservation of Philippine biodiversity? to regenerate threatened collections of annual FAYLON: PCARRD has partnered with key crop germplasm and fruit trees, and safeguard the government and non-government entities in sharing germplasm of asexually propagated species. The our resources for the conservation and management project will ensure the availability of good quality of biodiversity. Our participation in biodiversity seeds for plant breeders, researchers, and farmers, conservation activities on a national level includes as well as the conservation of treasured germplasm policy advocacy. We also have recently affirmed our for succeeding generations. support for the Council’s position to resolve landCollection, conservation, regeneration and use conflicts in protected areas such as overlaps of re-introduction of indigenous orchids on selected mining areas, ancestral domain claims and titled protected habitats. The project aimed to conserve lands within PAs. Land-use conflict is one of the diversity of indigenous orchid species; regenerate major barriers to effective biodiversity conservation genotypes and produce planting materials; and and management. re-introduce and maintain indigenous orchids in In recognition of the importance of biodiversity, selected natural habitat in situ. PCARRD and its R&D Network have identified and DOST-PCARRD Executive Director Patricio Faylon Conservation and use of tropical fruit species considered as priority the generation of knowledge diversity in the Philippines. Philippines.This completed project’s milestone achievements and technologies in the conservation and management of biodiversity. Of the 14 include: (a) Collecting, characterization, evaluation and maintenance of tropical R&D consortia in the country, 12 regions have identified biodiversity as priority fruit tree species in selected areas of the Philippines; (b) Registration with the and PCARRD has committed strong support to pursue R&D in these regions. Some specific programs that PCARRD is supporting on biodiversity National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) new jackfruit variety, (“Baybay Sweet”) and a mangosteen accession (“Roxas Purple”); (c) Descriptors for Durian (Durio include: Integrated R&D Program on Biodiversity Assessment and Conservation of zibethinus Murr.); (d) Draft Descriptors for Pili; (e) Documentation of the tropical Selected Forest Ecosystem in Central Luzon. This project is being implemented fruit diversity in Palawan (a potential source of food, additional source of income by the Central Luzon State University in partnership with DENR-ERDS Region 3, for the indigenous people), as well as the status of conservation and threats of Aurora State College of Sciences and Technology, and the Bataan Peninsula State tropical fruits in Palawan. This project was coordinated by PCARRD with funds from Bioversity International and implemented by UPLB, BPI-DNCRDC, WPU, University. This program started in June 2011 and will run for three years. The Forest Biodiversity Park. This project is jointly being implemented by DA-EVIARC, and DA-AES. Introduction, evaluation, development of package of technology and PCARRD, DOST-NCR, FPRDI-DOST and supported by biodiversity experts FAYLON, p. 14 from the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources.

SURVEY, from p. 8 Alcala also identified gaps in the various thrusts of biodiversity research projects, reiterating the predominance of survey and monitoring projects, which “needs to be critically assessed, especially the surveys, which tend to be superficial.” Sustainable production and biodiversity uses with the view toward providing food security and other basic needs for people are urgently needed, as is conservation and management in light of the Philippines’ status as a biodiversity “hotspot.” There was also a need for ecology and restoration studies followed by action programs. “Studies on evolution, genetics, and systematics, which are not too many in the country, should be encouraged because of the rapid degradation of habitats and the heavy exploitation rates, both of which threaten the survival of endemic species,” added Alcala. There was also a lack of research projects dealing with mathematical ecosystem modeling and biosafety and biosecurity issues. Biodiversity research in UP In recent years, the University of the Philippines has continued to lead in biodiversity research projects and studies, with research projects moving slowly but steadily to fill the gaps in our biodiversity research thrusts. In UP Diliman, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Development (OVCRD) Project Management and Data Center has cited 52 research projects on biodiversity, both ongoing and published, within the last three years. A great majority of them are marine research, and include the “Philippine Pharmaseas Drug Discovery Program Project," “Conservation Strategy Based on Regional Reef Connectivity and Environment Load Assessment in SEA-WP Region,” “Integrated Coastal Enhancement: Coastal Research, Evaluation and Adaptive Management for Climate Change” and “Reef Restoration: Preserving Coral Biodiversity and Increasing Reef Resilience in the Face of Climate Change,” among others. Non-marine

research include “Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation: Mainstreaming in Local Agricultural Landscape Implementing Institution,” “Climate Change Adaptation strategies: Biodiversity Sector and Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture” and “Urban Biodiversity Studies of UP Diliman.” The UP Baguio College of Science, through Dean Dr. Wilfredo V. Alangui, listed 18 biodiversity research studies, both completed and ongoing. In keeping with UP Baguio’s milieu—the mountainous environment of Northern Philippines—many of the research projects are terrestrial, including surveys of the abundance and distribution of particular plants (including traditional medicinal plants), fauna and microorganisms in various locations of the Cordilleras, including certain areas in Benguet and Kalinga. A cursory look at the UP Los Baños Research and Extension Online Database (http://redb.uplb. yielded five recent biodiversity-related research projects: “Biodiversity Assessment of Mt. Makiling,” “Biodiversity of Thermal Hot Springs: Zooplankton and Benthos,” “Enhancing Potential of the Philippine Rice Genetic Resources and Continuing Effective Conservation of its Biodiversity,” “Plankton Biodiversity, Water Quality and Environmental Status of Los Baños” and “Terrestrial Arthropod Biodiversity in Conservation Priority Areas, Part I.” The Museum of Natural History (MNH), however, has had a remarkable track record over the past six years, discovering several new species of mites, stick insects, Rafflesia, lichens, frog, spiders, trematodes, homoprotozoan, plants and small mammals, and recording some new species of birds, mealybug, wasp and plants. Since 2006, the MNH has also undertaken 77 biodiversity-related research projects, many of which involve the inventory, cataloguing, databasing and survey of species of flora and fauna in certain areas in Southern Luzon. The Office of the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Extension (OVCRE) of the UP Visayas lists 77 concluded, biodiversity-related researches. Many of

the research projects were conducted by faculty and researchers from the College of Arts and Science and the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, while some were conducted by researchers from the School of Technology in partnership with the UPLB-National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, the UP Diliman Marine Science Institute, and UP Mindanao. As befits the premier institution for fisheries research in the country, all the research projects are marine. Some of these are “Biodiesel Production from Marine Micro Algae and Seaweeds,” “Coastal and Marine Resource Management in the Philippines,” “Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation: Marine and Coastal Situation Analysis," “Integrated and Sustainable Development Program for the Shrimp Industry," “Management of Tuna Fisheries in the Philippines” and “The Monitoring and Rehabilitation Program of the UPV-Marine Biological Station.”

New thrusts in biodiversity research in the Philippines The years 2011 to 2020 are shaping up to be a critical decade for the world’s biodiversity. In its October 2010 meeting in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, which various countries, including the Philippines, agreed to translate into their own NBSAPs within the next two years.10 The Philippine Development Plan of 20112016 11, released last May 2011 by the National Economic Development Authority, revealed the added protective measures the government has put in place in terms of biodiversity conservation. Some of these measures include cave and wetland management through an Updated National Wetlands Action Plan for the Philippines; the proclamation of a total of 111 protected areas since the passage of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) Act in 1992; various issuances on the protection of specific species or areas, such as Executive Order SURVEY, p. 14


FORUM September-October 2011

Agrobiodiversity and Monoculture Homogenization in Agri/Culture By Arbeen Acuña


ropagated by media conglomerates, mainstream news on beauty pageants, boxing congressmen, pregnant actresses, and the Malacañang occupant’s love life push agricultural issues such as agrobiodiversity to the background. If agrobiodiversity concerns are at all raised via media, data and analyses are more often than not presented without depth and watered down to mere sloganeering. Unlike Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment’s call to turn “lights off on new coal-fired power plants,” the World Wildlife Fund’s popular earth hour campaign, for instance, trivializes the issue and claims to involve citizens by turning off their lights to fight climate change (one of the causes of agrobiodiversity loss). There is no mention of corporate greed, no particular culprits. Quite similar is the academe’s participation in the preservation of agrobiodiversity. Despite the clamor against genetic modification and chemical farming, corporate funding gets researches going with corporate interests as primary consideration. Among and despite the required general education (GE) courses on particular sciences, one may graduate from UP—or any university in this predominantly agricultural country— without having studied even the essential concepts of agriculture. Look no further for a culprit, as it could have been quick to evade your scrutiny: we may credit culture, reflecting the interests of those who control the economic base, for such a circus of spectacles that deviates from subject matters more relevant than the president’s new lover. Overlooked are matters that matter―i.e. agricultural concerns or peasant issues like land reform, trade policies, and the plummeting state of agrobiodiversity. Threatened state of agrobiodiversity According to the UPLB-College of Agriculture (UPLBCA) represented by Prof. Teresita Borromeo, agrobiodiversity is the “variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture, including crops, livestock, forestry and fisheries.” Being a subset of biodiversity, it “comprises the genetic resources of plants (crop varieties, landraces, wild relatives of crops); animal genetic resources (native and new breeds/strains of livestock and poultry) and microorganisms important to food and agriculture.” “Agrobiodiversity, being the foundation of sustainable agricultural development and vital resources for food security provides economic, environmental and socio-cultural benefits,” UPLBCA said. Simply put, agrobiodiversity, as defined by the Magsasaka at Siyentista Tungo sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), is “the diversity of the biological resources we have domesticated” for our basic human needs. MASIPAG further said that agrobiodiversity is necessary for offering a multitude of resources, improving our chances of survival and providing more components for farm integration. UPLBCA added, “A total of 39,100 species of flora and fauna have been identified in the country, of which a high 67% are endemic. There are approximately 15,000 plant species so far identified within its borders. Of the 8,120 species of flowering plants 40% are endemic to the country.” However, these numbers may dwindle or fluctuate and eventually plummet, if measures are not taken.

Art by tilde102011

Besides displacement of the landraces and traditional varieties being the primary problem, “acculturation, globalization of the food systems and marketing, deforestation, population pressure, land conversion, urbanization, pests and diseases, overgrazing, civil strife and natural calamities, and climate change,” also contribute to agrobiodiversity erosion, according to UPLBCA. MASIPAG is more particular, enumerating (1) conversion of highly diversified farms into haciendas being the beginning of monoculture of export crops; (2) over-exploitation of natural resources;(3) environment poisoning due to chemical farming and use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers;(4) marketing of commercial varieties; and (5) implementation of government policies and monoculture. Among the victims of agrobiodiversity erosion are species that may not have potential value at the moment, genetic diversity mainly among rice varieties, and even indigenous culture (MASIPAG 2003). According to these pronouncements, the crises facing agrobiodiversity are quite similar with those of cultural diversity—losses in agriculture due to the introduction of modern chemical farming coupled with genetic modification results in the disintegration

of indigenous culture and knowledge. Similarly, powerful corporations that introduce, or rather impose, modern or high- yielding varieties (HYVs) displace local varieties, forcing farmers to purchase commercial seeds that are patented and out of farmers’ control. Modern varieties then, besides threatening the environment and food security, among others, serve as agents of monoculture and monopoly in agriculture. Similarly, the Internet, cable television (TV) and World Trade OrganizationGeneral Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (WTOGATT) provisions contribute to homogenization of culture in the guise of globalization. Despite the Philippines’ ranking “seventh in the world in terms of species diversity and endemism,” (UPLBCA 2011) the realization of promises of a better future for a country with rich agrobiodiversity seems unlikely as amid global calls for biodiversity preservation, “the spread of modern seeds and agricultural technologies controlled and operated by agribusiness corporations have led to the erosion of biodiversity.” (MASIPAG MASIPAG 2010). The UPLBCA has taken measures to preserve agrobiodiversity. It continues to offer courses on AGROBIODIVERSITY, p. 11

FORUM September-October 2011 11 AGROBIODIVERSITY, from p. 10 agrobiodiversity conservation and management. It also houses at its Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) the National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory (NPGRL), the national repository of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA), despite having “no comprehensive national PGR program and no stable funding to support initiatives especially in the maintenance of national collection at the NPGRL.” MASIPAG’s scientists on the other hand directly trained and involved farmers in rice breeding, identifying research areas, and devising technologies. Cogs of a Familiar Machine In an interview with the UP Forum, Dean

"Diversity in culture is necessary as different people of varying experiences are resilient to different crises. Children in wartorn Mindanao may more easily overcome trauma than kids exclusively schooled in the metro. In the same way, different plant varieties are resistant to different climates—so it all boils down to diversity being essential to survival of people, their crops, their culture, and their community.” — Tolentino Rolando Tolentino of the UP College of Mass Communication (CMC) said that diversity in culture is necessary as different people of varying experiences are resilient to different crises. Children in war-torn Mindanao may more easily overcome trauma than kids exclusively schooled in the metro. In the same way, different plant varieties are resistant to different climates—so it all boils down to diversity being essential to survival of people, their crops, their culture, and their community. Pests may plague a farm but with diverse varieties, food may remain secure. Pit diversity in culture and in agriculture, against monoculture and you get the exact opposite: apocalypses of people, their crops, their culture and their community. Worldwide homogenization in different aspects aggravates the crisis of human monoculture. Agricultural erosion and cultural assimilation are just two of the offshoots of neocolonialism via imperialist war machines of aggression, which may be explicit or implicit. That is, borrowing Althusserian terms, forms of foreign, intrusive control may be through Repressive State Apparatuses (RSA) or Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA). The former functions by violence that may not necessarily be physical (the police, the military, etc.); the latter by willing compliance (the church, the university, etc.) or interpellation, i.e. an ideological control that compels the subject to willingly comply. Such compliance is the foundation of hegemony— the tacitly agreed upon status quo values and practices that are not simply impositions from above, but from below as well, according to Tolentino. “Hegemony is also a means of containing radical subversion.” With the analogy to agriculture, monoculture homogenization, through imposition of commercial HYVs, deems “centuries of rice production and development” backward and inefficient (MASIPAG 2010). Likewise, indigenous cultures deemed pagan and barbaric are benevolently assimilated, justifying enculturation. RSAs and ISAs are then employed to agriculturally and culturally homogenize, with the former ranging from legislation to military harassment and the latter primarily through education.

Compare UPLBCA’s and MASIPAG’s analysis of the reasons behind agrobiodiversity erosion, and notice that the former (a formal institution) did not explicitly mention corporate interests while the latter (an informal institution) blatantly criticizes agribusinesses imposing monoculture through commercial control, criminalization of farmers by restricting research, among others, at the expense of species that serves as stationary food of the farmers, genetic diversity and indigenous culture. As Dean Michael Tan of the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy (CSSP) said in an interview with the UP Forum, “The definitions of ‘culture’ are in fact very agricultural in nature, in the sense of nurturing and cultivation.” The nurturing then of a child, and the nurturing of the seed shall be diversified and based on the community, indigenous or otherwise, he was born into. Tan added, “Variation in nature is important for survival.” In contrast, the practice of monocropping threatens survival since “with its narrow genetic stock, pest and disease outbreaks are more frequent and crops are less resilient to climate pressures.” (MASIPAG MASIPAG 2010). However, some institutions calling for preservation of biodiversity may be another liberal strain to those calling for multiculturalism, i.e. the pluralist acceptance of cultural diversity in society (Tolentino 2011), that E. San Juan Jr pertains to as he quotes Slavoj Zizek in his paper "The Paradox of Multiculturalism": “With the intensifying commodification of ethnic particularisms, the multicultural spectacle now operates as the authentic ‘cultural logic of multinational or global capitalism.’” Pluralism then passes itself as democratic, yet it often concludes and reaffirms hegemonic institutions. In the same manner, justifying the status quo are the pretentions of New Criticism in literature, objectivity in journalism and agrobiodiversity in agriculture with the claim of science being value-free or unbiased. Tolentino said that multiculturalism is devoid of class analysis. Likewise, San Juan’s reservation of the said paradigm is its “occlusion of unequal power/property relations.” Tolentino further said that the myth of the melting pot is too utopian as no matter how the mixture of all cultures in the margins can never be the national culture, the national culture remains in Manila, defined by the educated and the moneyed. Pulling legislative strings of RSAs and ISAs, dominant institutions in both the agricultural and the cultural industries force stakeholders into submission. The Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002 (PVP), according to MASIPAG, grants ‘breeders’ (formal corporations and institutions) privileges to their discovered or developed varieties while farmers are deprived of their right to varieties they helped to develop. Moreover, HYVs or commercial varieties, available from agribusinesses, require chemical fertilizers and pesticides to produce high yields. Notice that even the IMF-World Bank requires policies that ‘encourage’ budget cuts on social services, compelling educational institutions to rely on privatization and commercialization. In effect, this transforms universities from institutions of higher learning to corporate research facilities that shall then be driven by the profit motive—consistent with the government’s commitment to debt servicing. Monopoly, monoculture and monocropping economically, culturally and agriculturally intervene and displace the locals, the indigenous and the tillers. Tan’s example that can be taken literally or figuratively is right in the University’s backyard: “(in Palma Hall) We recently discovered the Gmelina trees, planted as part of our ‘greening’ efforts, have been growing so quickly with its long roots that it is now difficult for other plants to survive. Our famous kalatsutsi are becoming stunted. Carabao grass is disappearing, because the Gmelina trees, with its long and rapidly-growing roots, are taking up all the water. The roots are also moving into our sidewalks causing cracks and uneven terrain. We could have introduced more biodiversity using other plants that fit with each other.” The manufacture and/or imposition of agricultural

technologies and cultural paraphernalia increment casualties and melt everything into homogenization in the guise of technological advancement. San Juan said, “Clearly, the paradigm of modernization and developmentalism predicated on the superiority of Western political and economic institutions determined then, and continues to influence, the instrumentalizing technologies and policy implications offered by those who claim to be authorities on the cultural diversity of the Philippines.” In this instance, both in the agricultural and cultural sense. Homogenization, thanks to cultural imperialism via globalization, drives people’s desire towards global middle class products or services such as iPods and iMacs (Tolentino 2011), as farmers are interpellated into accepting “modern” farming technologies, i.e. commercial pesticide-/fertilizer-dependent chemical farming, rather than traditional farming methods deemed to be doomed to antiquation—or in agricultural terms, ex situ (off-site) and in vitro (within glass) conservations, rather than in situ (on site), with the former utilized by formal institutions and the latter by informal institutions. Notice the semblance to the ivory tower of the literary canon overlooking literatures from the margins, or, “emergent literature,” as Elmer Ordenez puts it, may be more appropriate. Similarly, the culture of Manila business process outsourcing, as Tolentino illustrated, discriminates against call center applicants from the provinces imposing that the non-Manileños lose their accent and implying that they shrug off their cultural identity. According to Tolentino, such snobbery creates a glass ceiling intimidating nonhegemonic ethnicities. In agriculture, this can be seen in the imposition of HYVs. Tolentino added that for a multicultural society to be healthy, there has to be unity in diversity, tolerance and support. Tan values variety as well, saying, “The same principle applies to human communities, where a ‘monoculture’ means narrow views of the world, and an insistence that there is only one way to look at and interpret the world.”

“The definitions of ‘culture’ are very agricultural in nature, in the sense of nurturing and cultivation. The nurturing then of a child, and the nurturing of the seed shall be diversified and based on the community, indigenous or otherwise, he was born into... Variation in nature is important for survival.” — Tan The agreement to disagreement can never be achieved with monoculture homogenization shoving its dominance down everybody’s throats. Thus, everybody is left with no choice but to heterogeneously defy and vigilantly hold on to our identities and roles in society. We cannot take such a challenge sitting down, as we cannot afford to lose tillers due to the injustices legalized by the government and the superiority of the formal or modern farming techniques instituted by the ruling elite. The former, an RSA, functions through implementation of agriculture-related policies such as the PVP; while the latter, an ISA, functions with subtlety through society’s intimidating the farmers’ indigenous knowledge and culture by considering their ways passé. Thus, people empowerment through organized social movements is necessary in resisting monocropping, monoculture and the other facades of monopoly capitalism. -------------------Email the author at


FORUM September-October 2011

A Sacrifice for Future Generations

The Plight of Environment Conservationists in the Philippines

By KIM Quilinguing


hey may not be as visible as the progressive groups which protest in the streets or those who frequent the Don Chino Roces (Mendiola) Bridge, but environment conservationists and activists also face threats as real as those endured by members of the parliament of the streets. Some have paid the ultimate price for their principles and advocacy. On January 24, 2011, journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega of the Radio Mindanao Network (DWAR) was shot dead by unidentified persons in an ukay-ukay store in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. A veterinarian by profession, Ortega was also program manager of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Philippine Ecotourism Palawan. The suspected triggerman, Marlon Recamata alias “Pusa” or “Tagar,” was later arrested in the municipality of San Vicente after a brief chase.1 Police also found the pistol believed to have been used to kill Ortega along the path of the chase. In the investigation, the murder weapon was traced to Palawan former provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias.2 Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn would later say on DZMM that the slain journalistenvironmentalist had repeatedly lambasted Seratubias in his radio show. Ortega had accused Seratubias of having ties to mining firms and [being involved in] the “alleged misuse of the Malampaya plant.”3 Doc Gerry, as he was fondly called, was neither the first nor the last of environment conservationists in the country who succumbed to violence. His case is also not the last where the search for mastermind

behind the violent silencing of an activist has reached deadends and road blocks Recently however, the Department of Justice (DOJ), in an effort to identify the persons behind the assassination, decided to re-investigate Ortega’s case. In a memorandum dated September 7, Secretary Leila de Lima formed a new panel which will conduct a preliminary investigation on the murder of the journalist-environmentalist of Puerto Princesa.4 The family and friends of Doc Gerry are hoping that with the reinvestigation, new evidence and testimony would point more clearly to the people behind the murder. While the case of Dr. Ortega has been followed closely by national news organizations and several environment conservation groups, the case of UP Los Baños forest technician Elpidio Malinao, largely remains in obscurity. A forest technician at the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystem for the past 25 years, Malinao was described by UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources Dean Rex Cruz as “one of the forest guards who had the [biggest] number of cases filed against loggers and settlers with illegal structures.”5 In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), Cruz said that Malinao “was not the type you could intimidate.” On May 9, after appearing at a hearing on illegal settlers encroaching on the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve, Malinao was shot dead at a sign shop in Barangay Maitim, Bay, Laguna. The shop owner said that a man wearing a black jacket, helmet and medical mask walked up to the victim and shot him in the head. Using a blue Honda Wave motorcycle with a faded plate number, the man then fled the scene After speaking with witnesses, the victim’s brother, Zacarias Malinao Jr., filed a murder case at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office against Roberto Canovas who was identified by a witness to the shooting incident. Canovas however remains at large. UP President Alfredo Pascual condemned the killing, saying “…the dastardly act by forces who seem to be mindless of the need to preserve the biodiversity in our environment, has not deterred our people from doing their jobs.”6 He said that Malinao will serve “as an inspiration to others in the performance of their task” in protecting Mt. Makiling and the environment. But Malinao’s murder is not the first attack against environment conservationists from the UP community. Months earlier, UP lost one of its most invaluable assets in the forests of Kananga Leyte—

biologist Leonard Co. On November 15, 2010, Co and his companions, forest guard Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo, were killed in what the 19th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan alleged as a legitimate military operation against members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Tutaan said that Co and his companions were caught in the operation and killed as a result of an exchange of fire between his troops and the rebels.7 Family members, colleagues and friends of Co, Cortez and Borromeo, however, refuse to believe the armed forces’ version of the incident. Several of his colleagues at the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology said that Co’s death will leave a huge empty space in studies relating to the country’s biodiversity. The institute’s director, Dr. Perry Ong said, “Hindi lang simpleng tao ang napaslang… Ang hindi na-realize ng marami, nawalan tayo ng national treasure.”8 Recently, Agham Partylist Representative Angelo Palmones filed at the House of Representatives House Resolution 652 calling for an investigation of the death of Co and his companions.9 Palmones hopes that with the investigation, the case of Co will be reopened after the charges against the soldiers were dropped. Asked if threats would deter environment conservationists and activists from continuing their work, environment conservationist Rodne Galicha said, “Threats are challenges. If I yield to threats, fear comes.” He said that protecting the environment has always entailed certain risks and these, along with threats from individuals, would always pose a challenge to them “The risks involved in this advocacy are inevitable,” he added. Hailing from Sibuyan Island in Romblon, Galicha became an environment conservation activist after mining firms threatened the natural environment of his hometown. Since then, he has been involved with Haribon Foundation and Friends of the Earth Philippines. He is currently the country district manager for The Climate Reality Project of then US Vice-President and environment conservation activist Al Gore. Asked on what keeps him going as an activist despite the threats he faces, Galicha said, “Being an environment advocate is a life-long commitment. We are all called to discover for ourselves the amazing link of our lives to nature. Unless we are unable to accept that we are part of the totality of nature, we will continue to look at it as a mere subject [object]. This we do to learn from the past, address the abuses SACRIFICE, p. 13

Photos from,,, and

Heroes for the earth. Environmental defenders and biodiversity advocates (left to right) Doc Gerry Ortega; anti-mining leader Eliezer "Boy" Billanes being carried to his final resting place; UP botanist Leonard Co; and anti-mining activist Armin Marin of Sibuyan Island.

FORUM September-October 2011 13


1 "The Assassination of Doc Gerry Ortega," http://opinion., last accessed September 12, 2011. 2 Ibid. 3 "Owner of gun used in killing Palawan journalist identified," owner-gun-used-killing-palawan-journalist-identified, last

ROUNDTABLE, from p. 6 of the small-scale fisherfolks. But with corporations exploiting the environment way over sustainability, how can a balanced biodiversity still be maintained? There should be immediate

and appropriate action to improve the state of our environment. The UP community plays an integral role in educating our people and empowering them to prevent the plunder of our natural resources, and ensure the primacy of domestic use over that of multinational and transnational corporations. We must engage in constant scientific study and sustained information, organization and mobilization activities that will integrate the academe with the people’s environmental movement. Rare are the Filipino experts and researchers who, despite harassment and disregard of their human rights, dedicate their capabilities to social change. Such was the fate of our very own Leonard Co. While on a biodiversity mission in Leyte, Co’s

Environmental and human rights activists call for justice for those slain while defending the earth. accessed September 14, 2011 4 "DOJ orders reinvestigation of Ortega Killing," http://, last accessed September 14, 2011. 5 "Mt. Makiling guard killed," http://newsinfo.inquirer. net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110513-336232/MtMakiling-guard-killed, last accessed September 14, 2011. 6 "UPLB forest technician killed, suspect remains at large,", last accessed September 14, 2011. 7 "No crossfire when botanist Leonard Co was shot witness

says,", last accessed September 14, 2011. 8 "Military knew Leonard Co was in the area – EDC," http://, last accessed September 14, 2011. 9 "HR 652 Leonard L. Co Investigation and Resolution," hr-652-leonard-l-co-investigation-and-resolution.html, last accessed September 14, 2011. 10 "Environmental Quotes," http://www.grinningplanet. com/6001/environmentala-quotes.htm, last accessed September 12, 2011.

group was mistaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a crack team of the New People’s Army (NPA)―warranting an immediate open fire upon them. The challenge to the future Iskolar ng Bayan is to continue the work left by Co and other “barefoot” people’s scientists and intellectuals amidst the risk presented by our state’s culture of impunity. We must hold the government responsible for ensuring the physical and legal safety of experts engaged in environmental research, education and advocacy. The entire Filipino people, not just a privileged few, are entitled to the benefits provided by the country’s rich biodiversity. It is therefore necessary to oppose the profit motive of the few. Being the country’s national university, UP has a big responsibility to dedicate education to protecting the people’s interests and to be ready to fight against the exploitation of natural resources Indeed, the environmental crisis will not wait for UP students to graduate to make a difference. We cannot wait for the complete exhaustion of our biological resources before taking a stand. The key to winning our struggle for the people and the environment is to act now.

for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) chose to collaborate with the UP System both in research and in field studies. Indeed the UP System has been the leading force in agriculture and agroecology researches. This was the case when the Philippine government back in the 60’s started the Masagana 99 program which transformed the almost subsistence type of agriculture of the countryside to a semi-national industry. Rice tonnage was boosted from 0.2-0.3 metric tons per hectare to a whooping 5-6 tonner average, setting up the number for today’s national average ranging from 3-5 tons per metric hectare. Not that bad at all. But like all seemingly Faustian exchange complex of sciences,

Eroles: Since its founding UP has been at the foreground of both agricultural and biological research in the Philippines. This was further cemented after the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and Southeast Asian Regional Center

as Antoine Lavoisier pointed out in his theory of conservation of mass and energy, Masagana 99, its monocropping techniques and high external input intensive agriculture took its toll. It wore down soil productivity and

disrupted ecological balance. The excessive use of mineral fertilizer made the soil acidic. The soil was overloaded with gypsum carriers compromising soil physical q u a l i t i e s a n d t h e u n d e rg r o u n d waters were contaminated with continuous leaching. Meanwhile, beneficial insects were not spared by pesticides. Farming communities suffered poisoning and even faunal keystone species in the field had been adversely affected. Moreover the increase in yield led the farmers to think that they would require less land to operate, so that coupled with farmer indebtedness, massive land use conversion was justified. Fields turned into subdivisions and industrial complexes. UP can help in promoting agricultural biodiversity by helping reorient agricultural practices in this country. The technocrats that UP provides should be farmer-needs oriented and not geared to serving multinational companies alone. The enrichment of our agroecology lies in the way farmers practice agriculture. The issue here is not just diversity. With farmer organizations UP can lobby for increased land area in agriculture by supporting genuine agrarian reform. It can also lobby for a more protectionist form of economic policy for the agricultural sector in the Philippines. In this way we can ensure not only the richness of agricultural biodiversity but also national food security, food availability and land tenure for farmers.

Photo from

SACRIFICE, from p. 12 of the present and pay for our ecological debts for the next generations to come.” There has yet to be a comprehensive study and data base of the number of environment conservationists and activists who have offered life and limb to protect the country’s biodiversity. The fatalities in recent months, though, have caught the attention of the national media and the public. As long as environment conservationists and activists continue the struggle against irresponsible farming, transnational corporations and even ordinary settlers, the number of casualties is expected to rise. If, in past years, environmental activists were only dealt with through intimidation and threats, now those who disagree with their advocacy resort to murder, leading UP President Alfredo E. Pascual to say, “…indeed, protecting our environment is a challenging and hazardous endeavor.” The sacrifices by environment conservationists and activists like Doc Gerry, forester Jojo Malinao, and biologist Leonard Co are proof of their willingness to risk their lives for their children and the children of their children. Their deaths give life to what Earth Day co-founder Gaylord Nelson said: “The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”10 -------------------Email the author at


FORUM September-October 2011

SURVEY, from p. 9 (EO) 578, EO 533, AO 282 and EO 797; various initiatives leading to the establishment of marine protected areas. However, there is a need to scale up the marine protected areas and strengthen fishery and environmental laws as well as halt the continued loss of threatened species and their habitats. Scientific R&D, particularly biodiversity research, will play a crucial role in both the implementation and the monitoring and evaluation of these programs. Environmental and biodiversity research also forms the foundation of the DENR's “2011-2016 Integrated Environment and Natural Resources Research, Development, and Extension Framework”.12 According to the DENR, “[t]he framework embeds the templates of sector-based (e.g. forestry, lands, mines, water resources, inter alia) concerns; embodies the inputs of stakeholders and adheres to the policies and priorities set out by the government...” and “incorporates cross-cutting themes on climate change adaptation and mitigation; disaster risk management; biosafety and biosecurity; water resources; alternative and renewable energy sources; biotechnology; ecotourism; and technology transfer and extension.” The framework’s objectives include: to strengthen the conservation, protection and rehabilitation of existing natural resources through the generation and transfer of DENR technologies; to generate and disseminate research-based information/database on the characterization/profiling of Philippine ecosystems and the assessment and valuation of the country’s environment, natural resources and biodiversity; to intensify the exchange of scientific information through a well-developed and dynamic mechanism using the most effective and practical techniques/strategies in information and communication technology; to formulate recommendations on effective standards for monitoring, review and mitigation to improve environmental quality in the country; and to contribute to the upliftment of the quality of life of stakeholders through the transfer and adoption of generated DENR technologies. The issue of biodiversity loss deeply affects all life on earth and spans all areas of human activity, be it social, economic, cultural, political, and spiritual—be it individual, local or global. “The UN family…has begun tapping into a pool of global resources— scientific and engineering expertise, corporate engagement and civic leadership,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in 2008. “We have begun to appreciate more fully how the world’s dazzling know-how can solve the seemingly unsolvable when we view our problems from the right perspective.”13 -------------------Email the author at NOTES:

1 “History of the Convention”, The Convention on Biological Diversity,, accessed October 6, 2011. 2 “Convention on Biological Diversity,” United Nations, 1992. 3 Ibid. 4 "Global Biodiversity Outlook 3," Convention on Biological Diversity website,, accessed October 6, 2011. 5 Dan Clover, “A New Earth”, Vision: Insights and New Horizons, Summer 2009 issue, article.aspx?id=18199, accessed October 6, 2011. 6 See the profiles of the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, uk/research/biodiversity/; the School of Environmental Sciences of the University of Guelph, http://www.uoguelph. ca/ses/content/about-ses; the School of Environmental Sciences of the University of East Anglia, http://www.; the School of Environmental Science of Murdoch University, http://www.environment.murdoch.; Biodiversity Research Institute,; European Commission: Research & Innovation - Environment, environment/index_en.cfm?pg=bio. Accessed October 4-6, 2011. 7 "The CBD National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) Fact Sheet," The Convention on Biological Diversity,, accessed October 6, 2011. 8 “National Biodiversity and Strategy Action Plan: Section 1”, Philippine Clearing House Mechanism for Biodiversity, http:// id=87&Itemid=104, accessed October 6, 2011. 9 Angel C. Alcala, “Biodiversity Research in the Philippines from 1998-2003,” ASEAN Biodiversity, January-December 2004, vol. 4, p. 26-31, default/files/asean_biodiversity_vol_4_p26-31.pdf, accessed October 6, 2011. 10 “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi

FAYLON, from p. 9 promotion of chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.) in the Cordillera Administrative Region. This ongoing project is promoting and fast-tracking the adoption of suitable chickpea varieties for Cordillera. It has collected 30 chickpea varieties from ICRISAT and evaluated them in the highlands (1,245 masl) and the lowlands (645 masl) of CAR. It is being funded by PCARRD in collaboration with ICRISAT and implemented by BSU, Apayao State College, Kalinga-Apayao Agricultural State College, Abra State Institute of Science & Technology, and BSU-Buguias and Bokod campus in Benguet. Accelerating pigeonpea (Cajanus cajan L.) adoption, production and utilization in Northern and Central Luzon, Philippines. Philippines This is a new program on pigeon pea and is being funded by PCARRD in collaboration with ICRISAT. It aims to accelerate adoption of improved pigeon pea varieties under different cropping systems. It will be implemented by MMSU in cooperation with ISU, BSU, CLSU, NVSU, and DA-CVHROS-RFU. Other biodiversity projects in the pipeline include the Lobo Batangas Biodiversity and Ecotourism Development and Management. PCARRD is one of the members of the Steering Committee tasked to plan for biodiversity conservation and management. Lobo Forest is one of the key hotspots in the country owing to its remaining forest area that supports substantial and unique kind of biodiversity, which needs to be protected and conserved. The key players here are the LGUs of Lobo and the Province of Batangas, DOST region 4, Batangas State University, UPLB including De La Salle University in Lipa City and Letran College in Calamba. Another project proposed by the Central Mindanao University in partnership with the Taiwan Forest Research Institute (TFRI) is the survey and inventory of Pteridophytes in the country. FORUM: What is the role of universities in achieving DOST-PCARRD’s R&D goals? FAYLON: Other than the DENR, the state colleges and universities (SCUs) are PCARRD’s key partners in the conceptualization, packaging and implementation of biodiversity-related programs and projects. They are the generators of basic information and knowledge which beefs up the science behind the technology and practice. They are also the sources of technical expertise and research infrastructure/ laboratories where R&Ds are implemented. They also have a critical role in research management and policy research and advocacy. In most cases, there are biodiversity-rich areas within their jurisdiction that support a large number of biodiversity, i.e. the UPLB-College of Forestry and Natural Resources in Los Baños where the Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve is located. The role of the SCUs in achieving PCARRD’s R&D goals is very critical as they are the “repository” of dedicated expertise for generating knowledge, information and technologies that can provide solutions to pressing problems and threats to our biodiversity. FORUM: What can the other sectors do to promote scientific attitude and environmental consciousness? FAYLON: Their role is an example of public-private participation/cooperation. Many of the biodiversity projects that PCARRD is embarking on already involve some of the participants from various sectors―civil society, media, church, industry. However, in order to reach out to other stakeholders, there is a need to intensify advocacy and campaign through information, education and communication. FORUM: As executive director of DOST-PCARRD, what is your view on the current biodiversity R&D efforts being done in the country? How can we encourage more scientists and students/academics to choose to focus more on environmental research? FAYLON: The scope of Philippine biodiversity is so enormous but funding is limited. Despite the R&D work that has been done, there are still gaps such as: (a) improving biodiversity conservation and management for sustainable ecotourism, preservation, and effective use of indigenous structures and system; (b) ecotourism product development; (c) ethno-botanical, socio-economic, and cultural studies on the management of economically important species; (d) sustainable conservation and use of plant and animal genetic resources; (e) R&D initiatives on improvement of domestic animals; (f) conservation and protection of biodiversity-rich areas; etc. PCARRD, through its current STA, is committed to continue supporting biodiversity R&D in support of ecotourism and in the light of changing climate. The inclusion of biodiversity as priority commodity under environmental services in the STA 20112016 will encourage researchers and scientists to engage in the quest for science-based technology and information. The STA also signals that under the PCARRD banner program, Capability Development, PCARRD also supports degree and non-degree training programs on environmental science and related disciplines. -------------------Dr. Faylon holds a PhD in agriculture from UP Los Baños. Email him at RESPONSIBLE MINING, from p. 15 remain the highest goal of the mining company, even if it means reduced mineral productivity. Adopting this common-sense ethic is the only way we can ensure that the golden dreams of mining do not turn into the nightmare of poisoned streams.” Alan Young of the Environmental Mining Council of British Columbia said, “Over the last year, we have seen an inability in regional government offices to monitor and enforce environmental standards at several mine sites. The agencies do not

Biodiversity Targets”, Convention on Biological Diversity,, accessed October 6, 2011. 11 “Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016”, National Economic Development Authority, PDP/2011-2016/default.asp, accessed October 6, 2011. 12 “2011-2016 Integrated Environment and Natural Resources Research, Development, and Extension Framework,” The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), DENR,, accessed October 6, 2011. 13“The economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: An interim report,” European Commission - Environment: The economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, 2008, p. 15, economics/pdf/teeb_report.pdf, accessed October 7, 2011.

have the resources to do the job, and unfortunately, some companies don’t seem to respond unless penalized. Without enforceable standards we are faced with decreased corporate accountability, and increased ecological liability. We can pay now or pay later, and history has shown us that, especially with mining [where] clean-up is always more expensive than prevention. Good companies understand this concept.” There is a need to safeguard the purity and quantity of our water against irresponsible mineral development. We need to ensure that the best pollution-prevention strategies are employed in cases where the risks can be managed. We also need to recognize that in some places mining should not be allowed because the identified risks to other resources, such as water, are too great. Sadly, most mine pollution arises from negligence and irresponsibility. In the light of all these, it is imperative for the University of the Philippines to include research, policy studies and education on responsible mining in its agenda. -------------------The author is an associate professor of zoology in UP Baguio. Email her at

FORUM September-October 2011 15 RESPONSIBLE MINING, from p. 16 and fake coins 4%, electronics 6%, and jewellery 83%. In 2010, there were reports that gold nanoparticles — tiny spheres of gold just a few billionths of a meter in diameter—have become useful tools in modern medicine. They’ve been incorporated into miniature drug-delivery systems to control blood clotting, and they’re also the main components of a device, now in clinical trials, that is designed to burn away malignant tumors. However, one property of these particles stands in the way of many nanotechnological developments: They are sticky. Gold nanoparticles can be engineered to attract specific biomolecules, but they also stick to many other unintended particles—often making them inefficient in their designated task. Mining is the third basic resource industry as it is classified under the primary sector of the economy, or that sector of an economy making direct use of natural resources. This sector includes agriculture, forestry and fishing, mining, and oil and gas extraction. In contrast, the secondary sector includes producers and manufacturers of goods, while the tertiary sector provides services. Mining is necessary for nations to have adequate and dependable supplies of minerals and materials to meet their economic and defense needs at acceptable environmental, energy, and economic costs. The primary sector is usually most important in less developed countries, and typically less important

in industrial countries. Expositions on this theme are already voluminous and numerous, and growing. The results of the study indicate that Upper Abra River streams are habitat to one-hundred-six (106) phytoplankton species and fifty-one (51) zooplankton species, mostly collected from Sinto, Sapid and Lusong series. Baguyos River, the stream below the Lepanto Mining Corporation mine tailings dam recorded only 13 plankton species, indicating that effluents from the mine tailings dam could have adverse effect on aquatic life. Interfacing the biotic data and the physicochemical data, Baguyos River registers significantly high conductivity 1087 (µS) and salinity records 0.50ppt compared to the other sites where conductivities ranged from 28 to 169.9 (µS) and salinities ranged from 0.00-0100ppt. These indicate that the water in Baguyos has high concentration of dissolved ions and salts. This characterization is compounded further by the results of heavy metals analysis. Heavy metals analysis shows that in Baguyos, the sediments contained copper, lead, mercury and zinc in concentrations that are higher than the EPA standard. These metals are released into the environment in the mining and milling of gold ore. Lead, mercury and zinc are classified as toxic metals when taken by living systems and when they move in the food web. Arsenic and cadmium are toxic mining additives that get released with the effluents from the mines and enter the mine tailings dam. In the

About this Study This article presents the results of a UP-CIDS-funded study entitled “An Ecological Assessment of Anthropogenic Impacts on Upper Abra River.” Specifically, this study investigated the possible impact of corporate mining and temperate vegetable and rice farming on the biodiversity and physico-chemical analyses, including heavy metal and pesticide residue content of the upper reaches of Abra River, an important river in the Cordillera Region. The Abra River Basin is the largest in the region, encompassing an area of 4,282 square kilometres. The study is anchored on the principle that water is essential to life and a prerequisite of sustainable development in the maintenance of uncontaminated streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Samples were taken from three springs (at 2169 to 2326 masl), and downstream tributaries to Upper Abra River, comprising three local streamflow series: Sinto Series, in Mt. Data, Benguet; Sapid Series, in Mankayan, Benguet; and Lusong Series, Benguet. The Sadsadan waterfalls has an altitude of 2130 masl. The Sinto (Site 1) series are located within the forested area of Sinto, Mt. Data. The spring is the source of the residents’ drinking water. The altitude in these sites is 2326 masl. Site 2 (2170 masl) flows a few kilometres downstream from 1A and 1B and has traversed a few vegetable gardens in Boga, Mt. Data. Continuing from there, Site 5 in Guilong has cascaded down more steep slopes to an altitude of 565 masl. The series that starts with the spring in Sapid, Mankayan, is within, but on the higher periphery of Lepanto Mining Corporation’s base area of operations. At altitude 2169 masl Site 3A has a rugged terrain such that only few residences and small gardens are near it. Site 3B traversed very steep slopes from Site 3A to an altitude of 1288 masl. This then abruptly cascades down a ravine and joins the Baguyos River (Site 4). The Mine Tailings Dam is elevated above and lateral to Baguyos River. Its overflow empties into Baguyos River. The third, Lusong series, originates from a spring at Lusong Watershed (2212 masl). It then emerges from the forest cover and flows downstream into Site 6B at altitude 2205 masl. This gradually flows over a less rugged terrain, crossing hectares of vegetable gardens, before it courses the edge of a ravine (Site 7) that falls down towards the larger tributary of Abra river in Tadian, Mt. Province. The three stream series are subject to anthropogenic impacts from household to corporate level. Domestic, agricultural, and mining activities directly and/or indirectly impact on these sites. The results are as follows: The one-hundred-six (106) phytoplankton species and fifty-one (51) zooplankton species comprising a total record of 157 plankton species are mostly collected in the sites shortly downstream to Sinto, Sapid and Lusong springs and which are within the forest cover. Specifically, the downstream tributary in Sapid, Mankayan has the highest number of plankton species, at 65 plankton species. The study site about 15 m downstream from the headwaters at Lusong Watershed, Sitio Dagadag, Mankayan, Benguet, ranked second, with 63 species. Guilong Creek, farthest downstream coming from the spring in Sinto, the Mt. Data watershed and the spring at the headwaters at Lusong Watershed, Sitio Dagadag, Mankayan, Benguet recorded 58 species each. In terms of density, the study site ten meters downstream from Sinto, Mt. Data, has the highest density of plankton species, with 606 individuals. The spring at the headwaters at Lusong Watershed, Sitio Dagadag, Mankayan, Benguet) and study site at Sadsadan, the top of the waterfalls, downstream from the headwaters of recorded four-hundred-eighty (480) and three-hundred-ninety (390) individuals, respectively. Quite consistently, Baguyos River, downstream from the LCMC mine tailings dam recorded the least species composition and counts. The pattern is reflected in the neuston (surface-dwelling organisms) and benthos (bottom-dwelling) composition and Shannon, Alpha, and Hill biodiversity indeces and the community similarity test using the Bray-Curtis Cluster Analysis .

Prof. Celia Austria

analysis, however, both do not indicate presence in toxic proportion. The presence of the values of copper in high concentration can be both due to natural erosion process (as recorded in the Sapid stream series) and/or release from gold ore processing (note the significantly high concentration in Baguyos). Pesticide residue of organophosphates, organochlorides, pyrethroids, and dithiocarbamates in the Sinto and Lusong stream series is negative. The samples were collected in January when harvest was ongoing. The tests need to be done over the entire annual cycle, but logistics did not allow this. The stream that courses through the area where mining activities are operating shows high concentration of heavy metals like copper, lead, mercury and zinc. These metals may be naturally occurring in the waters because of the bedrock in the areas, but the content is significantly compounded by mineral processing in the sites studied. There were indications that biodiversity, water conductivity and heavy metal content are affected by mining activities. Related studies have revealed that there are a number of ways by which mining causes pollution. The mining process exposes heavy metals and sulfur compounds that were previously locked away in the earth. Rainwater leaches these compounds out of the exposed earth, resulting in “acid mine drainage” and heavy metal pollution that can continue long after the mining operations have ceased. The same action of rainwater on piles of mine tailings transfers pollution to freshwater supplies. In gold mines, cyanide or sulphuric acid is intentionally poured on leach heap to chemically extract the gold ore. Ultimately, the acids find their way into the nearby water bodies. Lastly, huge pools of mine waste in the form of “slurry” are often stored behind containment dams, which may overflow, leak or burst, releasing toxins in its wake. Water has been called “mining’s most common casualty” by Washington policy maker James Lyon. Increasingly, human activities such as mining threaten the water sources, like Abra River, on which thousands of households depend. There is growing awareness of the environmental legacy of mining activities that have been undertaken with little concern for the environment. The price we have paid for our everyday use of minerals has sometimes been very high. Mining by its nature consumes, diverts and can seriously pollute water resources. True, mining is an essential part of human life, but water is essential to human and other forms of life. The advocacy for responsible mining is neither hypocritical nor myopic. As stated by the US Mineral Policy Center, “Once a mine is in operation water protection must RESPONSIBLE MINING, p. 14


FORUM September-October 2011

The Upper Abra River and the Challenge of Responsible Mining Photo from

By Celia M. Austria The compassionate application of new technology to human problems requires a deep understanding of human nature and human culture, a general education in the broadest sense. - CARL SAGAN, In Praise of Science and Technology, 1980


orthern Luzon’s Gran Cordillera Central is the highest and the single largest mass of mountains in the entire Philippine archipelago. It is a row of great mountain ranges occupying half of Northern Luzon in the Philippines and extending around 230 kilometers long and 120 kilometers wide. Its rugged backbone contains many peaks exceeding 2,000 meters high, with rolling hills and stretches of river valleys along its flanks. This mountainous region’s estimated total area is about 17,500 square km. The Cordillera’s foothills extend into a few other adjacent provinces in the nearby Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions. The region is very rich in natural resources. It has abundant mineral reserves and is especially famed for its huge gold deposits. The region is also regarded as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon. According to the Cordillera Regional Development Council (CRDC), “The Cordillera watersheds are the source of water for the domestic, agricultural, power generation and industrial needs of the region and of significant portions of Regions 1, 2 and 3. Given the often-conflicting productive and protective uses of the watershed, a continuing challenge for the region is to maintain a harmonious balance between these uses which will then further strengthen CAR’s position as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon.” People on the ground know fully well the enormity of this challenge. One of the strongest oppositions to mining

pollution comes from the people of Mankayan, Benguet, Cervantes and Santa, Ilocos Sur. Reports of damaged crops, livestock, fisheries and human health have been forwarded to the government authorities and to Lepanto Mining Corporation. These are the communities traversed by tributary streams to the Abra River as it courses towards the West Philippine sea. According to Mining Exploration News (2008), the Philippines ranks second to Africa in gold production per unit land area. In May 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), estimated “the country’s metallic mineral output to climb by almost 25%.” The sharp increase is largely the result of rising precious metal prices at

world markets. Gold Research News reported in May 2011 that “In value terms, Philippine gold output is estimated to reach 77.04 billion pesos in 2011. The country’s gold production reached 70.51 billion pesos in 2010. The report also stated that while the total gold output reached 40,847 kilograms in 2010, total production is expected to increase to 44,197 kilograms this year. As the country’s biggest gold producer, Lepanto Mining Corporation will extract all these in Mankayan, Benguet. Quite ironically, though, the World Gold Council reported (1996) that the World Gold Consumption 1995 data showed that gold production is as follows: dentistry 1%, official coins 2%, other uses 4%, metals RESPONSIBLE MINING, p. 15 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES

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UP Forum September-October 2011  

UP Forum Volume 12, Number 5. This issue of the UP Forum focuses on biodiversity with articles from Prof. Celia Austria, Professors Porfiro...

UP Forum September-October 2011  

UP Forum Volume 12, Number 5. This issue of the UP Forum focuses on biodiversity with articles from Prof. Celia Austria, Professors Porfiro...