‘Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health’

By: Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos May 23,2019 - 07:02 AM


Yesterday, May 22, we celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity. The theme focused on “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.”

António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, called on all “government, business, and civil society sectors “to take urgent action to protect and sustainably manage the fragile and vital web of life on our one and only planet.” He emphasized that this year’s observation highlights the impacts of “environmental neglect on food security and public health.”

The exhortation for action has become more compelling as studies show that our state of biodiversity is at a most dangerous point in the history of our planet. The  2019 Global Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem (IPBES) pictures Nature’s decline as “unprecedented” with 1 million species threatened with extinction. The IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson has declared that “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Another alarming development is the news that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 415.26 parts per million, according to the Mauna Loa Observatory, for the first time in “human history.”

Our oceans are likewise in a dire situation, from pressures humans have inflicted recklessly upon them.

Our country has seven times more water than land, and is known as the center of the center of marine biodiversity of the world. Despite our dependency on fish as the primary animal protein, It is unfortunate that, for decades, policies and attention were more focused on terrestrial concerns, relegating fisheries to the background. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources with the mandate of managing and conserving our fisheries and aquatic resources is tacked under the Department of Agriculture. Our biological wealth has not trickled down to the communities as fisherfolks and farmers are considered the poorest among vulnerable sectors.

An estimate of US$620 millionyearly are lost due to illegal and unreported fishing.

Amid the fact that at least two thirds of the principal fishing grounds are overfished, among other pressures our oceans face, considerable progress has been made. The Fisheries Code was amended in 2015 with strong features that if fully implemented will change the ocean governance for the better. Senator Villar, as one of the principal authors of the amendatory law, considers the law as one of the principal legislative achievements or milestones. 

Fisheries Management Areas (FMA) system established in January this year, which delineates fishing grounds into 12 FMAs, if truly made science-based, participatory with strong enforcement action, will help rebuild our fisheries and promote food security.

There is still hope — as always. We have to shape up, work together and reverse the tide of ecological destruction by going for sustainable management and conservation of our vastly threatened natural life support systems.

Biological diversity is life itself and we should never forget that. Let’s save and protect it.

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