BIOFIN leads biodiversity finance initiatives in the Philippines

Biodiversity finance is the practice of raising and managing capital and using financial incentives to support sustainable biodiversity management. This includes private and public financial resources used to conserve biodiversity, investments in commercial activities that produce positive biodiversity outcomes and the value of the transactions in biodiversity-related markets such as habitat banking. This is particularly important to the Philippines, one of 17 megadiverse countries with 228 recognized key biodiversity areas which are home to 855 globally important species of flora and fauna. The benefits and services that biodiversity provides cannot be overemphasized as Filipinos largely depend on it.

This and other issues were discussed during the recently concluded 2018 Asia Pacific Coral Reef Symposium held in Cebu City, particularly for challenges confronting coral reefs. Dr. Andrew Seidl, Colorado State University Professor and former Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) Senior Technical Advisor, was one of the first to present the importance of financing. He pointed out the enormous financial burdens of continuing research, the need to address threats posed by illegal fishing, reclamation, pollution, harvesting of corals and associated species, along with coral restoration procedures that need to be undertaken.

“BIOFIN promotes a methodology, applicable at both national and sub-national levels, that emphasizes how policies and institutions promote or suppress economic drivers impacting on coral reefs, estimates expenditures patterns to detect policy alignment and determines the major costs associated with coral reef management” Dr. Seidl said.

Application of the BIOFIN methodology would appear to be working with Thailand applying island visitation fees and establishing a trust fund for Koh Tao island. The Philippines is also currently working on increasing public sector budgets, accessing earmarked funds and the localization of the BIOFIN process.

Annabelle Plantilla from BIOFIN Philippines spoke on mobilizing resources for the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) providing details on how the parties committed to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), of which the Philippines is a signatory to, have prepared and are implementing their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans. The PBSAP is the country’s roadmap to conserve its biodiversity and achieve its vision that by 2028, biodiversity is restored and rehabilitated, valued, effectively managed and secured, while maintaining ecosystem services to sustain health, resilient Filipino communities and delivering benefits to all.

The estimated cost of PBSAP implementation from 2015 to 2028 is P24 billion per year. However, a public and private expenditure review revealed that current government (including local governments) spending on biodiversity is only P5 billion per year. This leaves a huge financing gap that needs to be closed. BIOFIN contributes to closing this gap by identifying, accessing, combining and sequencing sources of biodiversity funding to meet national needs.

BIOFIN also shared how the methodology was being applied at the subnational level in Mindoro, how payment for ecosystems services may work using the Koh Tao example, additional finance solutions such as corporate giving, crowdfunding and conservation license plates, and opportunities for non-BIOFIN countries to participate through the regional nodes.

The 2018 Asia Pacific Coral Reef Symposium happened from June 4-8, hosting experts and other stakeholders to discuss the theme “Coral Reefs of the Asia-Pacific: working together amidst contemporary challenges”, with the focus on how to make connections that matter work in order to save one of the most prized resources of the Philippines’ rich biodiversity.

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