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Databases of Philippine natural resources

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The Department of Science & Technology (DOST) is holding a forum on the status of Philippine biological resources this week.

Ideally, questions by anybody on the state of the natural resources at any point in time should be answered right away. But in the case of the Philippines, we lack databases on our biological resources from which answers can be extracted. I asked my friends in the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) for such databases but they told me there are none in the DENR at the present time.

The DENR cannot be blamed. If I know how government departments are functioning, such databases cannot be expected to exist. We seem to be a people who take things for granted. We assume that things will remain as they are for the years to come. We seem to be interested only in the present, not the future. That is why we have huge problems with the conservation of these resources.

I was in South Korea last month for a series of meetings on marine resources under a United Nations program on assessment of the marine environment.

In that meeting, I was impressed how the South Korean government keeps track of developments of their coastal and marine resources. They have databases for practically all of their marine resources, so they know the state of these resources at any point in time.

Even the number of species of migratory birds (150 species) visiting the shores of South Korea every year is in a database!

Incidentally, this number happens to be about the number of migratory bird species recorded in the Philippines, if I remember it right.

There might be in some departments of the Philippine government databases on natural resources, but it seems there are none at the DENR. The previous government of the Philippines was right in putting out an Executive Order mandating the concerned agencies of government to develop databases on Philippine biodiversity.

The Commission on Higher Education has responded positively to this Order, and a program on research on Philippine biodiversity with the instruction to create databases is ongoing at the Commission, with the cooperation of selected institutions of higher learning. I am heading this program at this time.

Research scientists can help in the creation of the databases, and several are now in use, such as FishBase and ReefBase databases.

These are, however, creations of foreign scientists mainly, and we need to expand the effort to include specific groups of Philippine biodiversity, which is, by the way, one of the most unique in the world.

Scientists as part of their academic responsibility write reviews of the state of knowledge in their fields of science. It is because of this that I am able to respond positively to the invitation to present the status of marine biological resources at the DOST forum this week.

I reiterate what I said regarding the need to create databases on our biological resources, both terrestrial and marine, and hope that the national government will respond favorably.

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