ASEAN biodiversity body seeks more protection for wildlife areas
This undated file photo shows Mt. Apo

ASEAN biodiversity body seeks more protection for wildlife areas

( - November 29, 2020 - 5:40pm

MANILA, Philippines — An ASEAN body on Sunday called for better safeguards to critical habitats and other protected areas, highlighting its role in preventing diseases and mitigating the impact of disasters.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic and recent typhoons should push countries to think of how its actions toward nature are connected to its people's health and wellbeing, according to the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity.

"These made our task of conserving the remaining intact ecosystems and biodiversity in the Region even more urgent and crucial," said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the intergovernmental group based in Laguna.

The remarks come on the 36th anniversary of the ASEAN Heritage Parks, which had expanded to nearly 50 sites in the last three decades.

Lim said keeping natural habitats intact could prevent the spillover of diseases acquired from animals and passed on to humans.

World Health Organization officials in March had said that all available evidence at that time points to the SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 as having a "natural animal origin" and "most probably has its ecological reservoir in bats."

The deadly virus that has infected over 60 million and killed more than 1.4 million was first detected in Wuhan City in China late 2019.

Lim added that maintaining ecosystems also helps reduce the risk of flooding and other hazards to communities. 

"Maintaining healthy and well-managed protected areas is our cost-effective defense against diseases and the impacts of climate change," she said.

The Philippines is home to nine ASEAN heritage parks, all of which are found in mountains with the exception of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary.

Some 20 typhoons pass by the country on average per year, but the recent string of disasters to hit the country — Super Typhoon "Rolly" and Typhoons "Quinta" and 'Ulysses," had groups calling on the government for concrete actions and declare a climate emergency.

Cost of damage from the typhoons had reached billions, with scores dead, injured and missing. The entire island of Luzon, for one, was put under a state of calamity with millions affected and provinces submerged.

The biodiversity center also reported that measures are being planned to ensure that conversation projects will continue amid the pandemic, led by civil society groups in countries in the region. — Christian Deiparine

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