The project will develop at least 2 bio-products from local genetic resources of Pili tree and Banaba in the Bicol Region and Region III.

 

Metro Manila – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines launched a flagship multisectoral initiative that targets to increase economic opportunities and to conserve biodiversity for local communities and indigenous peoples in the Philippines through the sustainable utilization and equitable sharing of genetic resources.

The project entitled “Implementing the National Framework on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in the Philippines” or the Access and Benefit Sharing Project (ABS Project) is a milestone project to be implemented by the DENR and UNDP Philippines with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

The launch marks the beginning of a 6-year collaboration towards the strengthening of the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefits Sharing in the country, which seeks to advance the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources by strengthening the national Access and Benefit Sharing framework and building national and local capacities. The initiative will also support the advancement of research and support commercial development of Philippine genetic resources through the collaboration of a wide variety of stakeholders.

In her message at the project launch, DENR Undersecretary Analiza Rebuelta-Teh noted the potential of the initiative in the country and highlighted that: “the Philippines is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries, which collectively harbor 70-80% of the Earth’s biodiversity. Despite its small size, the Philippines exhibits the highest concentration of unique wildlife species per unit area in the world. Nearly 70% or more than 14,000 species of our terrestrial animals are endemic or are only found in the country. The same is the case with our Philippine flora, with half of almost 9,000 known species of flowering plants found nowhere else in the world.”

 

The diversity of species and high degree of endemism are associated with the wealth of traditional knowledge of the indigenous peoples (IPs) and local communities in the Philippines. The knowledge of the IPs and local communities on the country’s vast genetic resources is intertwined with their activities and lifestyles, and from the strict observance of their cultural and religious practices.

 

“Accessing this wealth of knowledge and subjecting it to scientific research and development and subsequent commercialization present tremendous potential for wealth creation for the country,” added Usec. Teh.

With the implementation of the ABS Project, there is opportunity to develop greater inclusion of endemic and abundant genetic resources in the value chain and to increase their market value. The project will develop at least 2 bio-products from local genetic resources of Pili tree and Banaba in the Bicol Region and Region III.

In a study commissioned by UNDP Philippines, it is estimated that the Philippines loses around USD 8.1 million annually in foregone potential royalty fees for just one pharmaceutical product that was not patented. 

“With this ABS Project, we hope to establish a governance mechanism where the government, private sector, the academic and research institutions and communities will have a platform that will encourage working together in maximizing the country’s genetic resources through an equitable sharing of benefits, transparent information sharing, a more aggressive research and development program that will pave the way for economic returns while ensuring sustainable resource use,” said Resident Representative Dr. Selva Ramachandran of UNDP Philippines, which will co-lead the project implementation along with DENR.

In the Philippines, affected in the continuous reduction of genetic wealth are the 11.2 million Indigenous Peoples (IPs) living in ancestral domains which overlap with key biodiversity areas (KBAs), and who are economically poor due to lack of sustainable livelihoods. The ABS Project will enable these communities in the KBAs to gain both monetary and non-monetary benefits from the fair and equitable use of genetic resources.

Representatives from various stakeholders were also present at the project launch as a show of support to the implementation. Among key partners who participated were Mr. Salvador “Ka Badong” A. Dimain, who is the tribal chieftain of Sitio Maporac in Zambales and the Chairman of Maporac Ayta Organization; Mr. Joeriz P. Olbes, President of Philippine Pili Industry League, Inc. (PhilPILI); Sorsogon Provincial Governor Francis “Chiz” G. Escudero; and the Chairman of National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Atty. Allen A. Capuyan.

The NCIP is also one of the key co-implementers of the project. NCIP will help in the selection of IP community partners and provide guidance in the conduct of R&D and the crafting of community protocols for bioprospecting to ensure that these are respectful of IPs rights, among others.

Director Datu Tungko Saikol of the DENR-BMB reiterated the national government’s commitment in taking the lead in the undertaking and highlighted that the initiative’s success will hinge on “the unwavering support of all stakeholders and through a whole-of-government approach.”

The project will enhance multi-sectoral and inter-agency collaboration on on-going research up until its potential for commercialization to promote ABS agreements. Additionally, DENR and UNDP will develop a database on research on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge/indigenous knowledge under the project.

 

 

 

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