DENR pushes for biodiversity protection treaty

Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - March 19, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Environment Secretary Ramon Paje is pushing for the ratification of an international treaty that will protect the nation’s rich biodiversity.

The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization outlines measures on how countries can access genetic resources and share their benefits within the country of origin.

Paje said the Philippine accession to the Nagoya Protocol is a must in order to protect the nation’s rich biodiversity from the threat of biopiracy.

“Acceding to the protocol would translate to directly benefiting not only the country, but local communities who use and care for our biological resources,” the Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief said.

Dubbed as one of the most important multilateral environmental treaties recently adopted, the Nagoya Protocol entered into force on Oct. 12, 2014 or four years after its adoption. However, the Philippines has yet to ratify and accede to the treaty.

Further, Paje explained the protocol could be the country’s shield against biopiracy, or the commercial exploitation or monopolization of biological or genetic material like medicinal plant extracts, usually without compensating the indigenous peoples or countries from which the material or relevant knowledge is obtained.

He said the government needs to address the issue of biopiracy, where other parties unlawfully use biological and genetic resources “that have been with us for a long time but we are either not aware of or informed about it.”

“The Nagoya Protocol would require countries using the Philippines’ biological and genetic resources to comply with our own national measures on access and benefit-sharing,” Paje said.

He added: “Without our accession, we cannot avail of its international tracking and monitoring mechanisms by which we can track the use of our resources.”

Paje cited a number of resources found in the country but were “taken” by researchers, such as medicinal plants from Coron in Palawan, soil samples from Panay Island, and mollusk species from Balicasag Island in Bohol.

Biopiracy, he added, also covers the documentation without due compensation of associated traditional knowledge owned or practiced by indigenous peoples (IPs) with resources in their environment.

The DENR pointed out that accession to the Nagoya Protocol would strengthen compliance by other countries that use such genetic resources (GRs) and their associated traditional knowledge (ATK) to existing Philippine laws such as Executive Order No. 247 issued in 1995, and Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

“It would enable the Philippines to claim its rightful share in benefits from a wider range of activities related to GRs and ATK, such as tracking and monitoring research being done on them before and during their commercialization. These indigenous resources would also get the recognition and respect they deserve when utilized abroad and while products using them are being developed.”

Paje said the protocol also puts local and foreign researchers on equal footing while collaborating on studies using the country’s resources; and clarifies the rights of the country, researchers, and the IP and local communities, as well as secure benefits especially on new uses of traded commodities.

BALICASAG ISLAND DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES ENVIRONMENT SECRETARY RAMON PAJE EXECUTIVE ORDER NO GENETIC RESOURCES AND THE FAIR AND EQUITABLE SHARING OF BENEFITS ARISING NAGOYA PROTOCOL PAJE PANAY ISLAND PROTOCOL RESOURCES
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