2011 Jul 20
July 20, 2011

Rich biodiversity of Asean region

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“The natural world is the greatest source of excitement, the greatest source of visual beauty, the greatest source of intellectual interest.” — David Attenborough

MANILA, Philippines — Although the ASEAN region occupies only 3 percent of the world’s total land area, it is home to the richest and most unique biodiversity which consists of 15 percent of all known plant and animal species. It has 34 percent of the world’s 284 sq. kilometers of coral reefs.

But it is losing biodiversity at an alarming rate, a threat to the region’s over 500 million people’s well-being This crisis has not yet been brought to the attention of government, media and business leaders who can best respond to this challenge, primarily attributed to lack of awareness of the growing threat.

A recent response, the Asean Champions of Biodiversity, a joint program of development agencies, recognizes projects initiated by the business, media, and youth sectors that have made a demonstrable impact on biodiversity conservation. The three from the business sector are HSBC Brunei (first place), PTT Public Company Lts (2nd), and Chevron Philippines, Inc. (3rd).

HSBC’s Heart of Borneo aims to conserve the transboundary ecosystem, the only place remaining in Southeast Asia where forest, biodiversity, and its ecosystem can still be conserved.

This is perhaps the most ambitious project as it spans some 22 million hectares, stretching across Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia and provides a habitat to 44 endemic mammals, birds, fish, and amphibian species. Climate change and forest research, reduction of carbon footprint by reducing fleet fuel and paper consumption, and tree planting; and environment education are also supported by HSBC.

Other award-winning projects in the business category are PTT’s conservation of mangroves and reforestation projects, and Chevron’s marine conservation.

Under the media category, GMA Network’s “Born to be Wild” TV series garnered first place. Gilberto Duavit, network president who cites Attenborough (above), notes local species that are facing extinction – the Tamaraw, the Philippine Crocodile, the Calamian deer, the Visayan Warty Pig, the Golden Fruit Bat, and the Philippine Eagle. Born to be Wild, well-researched and creatively packaged, provides an example of how to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the general public.

The Brunei Times’ editorial pages demonstrate the paper’s commitment to conservation. Managing editor Romulo Luib expresses this by citing environmentalists who say that Brunei’s wealth does not only come from black gold. It is also sitting on another kind of gold – untouched rainforests and their biodiversity.

Business Mirror’s editor, Lourdes Molina Fernandez, describes the paper’s editorial policy – “biodiversity is part and parcel of life, relating especially to our business constituencies.” “It’s (biodiversity) not exactly a simple topic to handle as reporters and editors have to embrace its seamless connection to climate change and the state of human survival,” notes science editor Lynn Resurreccion.

The three selected entries in the Youth category are the Green Community (young people taking action through inventory of plants and animals, empowering locals, and protecting the coastal ecosystems), Sahabat Alam (empowering youth for biodiversity conservation), and ASAPHIL-UP (conserving wetlands, and young architects committed to conservation).

Noteworthy are these initiatives of the business sector as they have successfully integrated biodiversity with priority concerns – harnessing ecotourism for wildlife preservation, linking biodiversity with agricultural entrepreneurship, adopting endangered species, “flying green” (air taxi operations), preserving giant clams, caring for a marine sanctuary, recycling, responsible tourism, mobilizing out-of-school children, and training scouts for nature.

The partners are: ASEAN, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, ASEAN Foundation, Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication, European Union, GTZ, Convention on Biological Diversity, and UNESCO are inviting potential partners from industry, national and international development agencies to join them in what they describe as “championing the web of life.” -DR. FLORANGEL ROSARIO BRAID, Manila Bulletin