The draft IUCN Programme 2013-2016 has confirmed what conservationists have suspected all these years: the nations of the world, including the Philippines, have been paying lip service to the conservation of biodiversity despite the importance of biodiversity in development. I am quoting from this IUCN document (p. 12) that is being circulated for comments:
“Yet despite its fundamental importance, biodiversity continues to be lost. The Global Situation Analysis…highlights the major challenges for biodiversity conservation based on several assessments and other reports and tools (among others, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3-GBO3). In particular it should be noted that GBO3, an assessment of the state of the world’s biodiversity in 2010, clearly showed that, despite some conservation successes, the target set by the world’s governments in 2002 of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 was not met, either internationally or nationally in any part of the world. The conservation successes have reinforced the fact that we know that conservation works —there is now a need to scale it up and to do a great deal of works, especially as the principal drivers of biodiversity loss are in many cases intensifying as a result of human actions.
There are multiple indications of continuing decline in biodiversity in all three of its components—ecosystems, species and genes. Ecosystems continue to be degraded and fragmented by development. Species extinction rates are up to 1,000 times greater than the average rates in pre-human times, and increasing. Crop and livestock diversity continues to decline in most agricultural systems. Such losses of genetic diversity are contributing to increased disease outbreaks putting ecosystems, food production, and even lives at risk.”
The Philippines has a responsibility to do better beginning this year (2011). One of the first steps is to determine the components of biodiversity that are rapidly lost and the drivers of this biodiversity loss. The next step is to decide on which of the successful conservation programs are most promising. Finally, we need to scale up these action programs. The question is whether our government has the will to do it. If there is no will, there is no way we can fulfill our commitments to the world community. Then we will lose face because we have been saying that we are the center of the world’s biodiversity but we are not concerned with its survival.
Loss of biodiversity is measured by not only loss of species but also by loss of individuals of species. Species that becomes rarer in terms of number of individuals suffers from loss of genes in the population gene pool (decrease in genetic diversity), bringing such species nearer to the brink of extinction. So any human action that directly or indirectly causes species to become rare contributes to loss of biodiversity. This is certainly true of many of our endemic vertebrates, which have been subjected to overexploitation.
Loss of genetic diversity is also a consequence of loss of habitats. This loss of habitats is a continuing process in the Philippines. Our national and local governments are not able to stop this loss or confine it to certain portions of the country. This is obvious in the case of mining, which proliferates in the country because of government policy that underestimates the true value of biodiversity. It is only when biodiversity becomes part of our valuing system and understood clearly by our people as part of the nation’s wealth that we can prevent the continuing loss of biodiversity. Can we expect our people to understand fully the true worth of our country’s biodiversity?
I hope that day will come before all is lost.