Bicutan, Taguig City – The National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL) held a webinar on Marine Ecosystems and Policies on 24 June 2022, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM via Zoom and Facebook Live.

Marine ecosystem services of coastal protection and carbon sequestration and other biodiversity goods are particularly critical in the context of changing climate. This webinar focused on mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs communities as well as their vital services and how to stop their ongoing degradation. Part of this degradation is due to this misaligned/inappropriate bureaucratic framework.

Roadmap to institutionalize the Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) in the Philippines

Ms. Nieva T. Natural, director of Agriculture of the Natural Resources and Environment Staff (ANRES) from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), presented the Roadmap to institutionalize the Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) in the Philippines. Dir. Natural explained that the NCA is a tool that can help measure the full extent of a country’s natural assets and links the economy, ecology, and environment. The document provides strategic guidelines for the national implementation of NCA from 2022-2040. She presented the critical activities, milestones, and outputs for each planning period to fully institutionalize and integrate NCA including valuation of ecosystem services in the government’s planning, investments, decisions, and policymaking process.

Dir. Natural stressed that the collaboration and collective efforts of different agencies and stakeholders are the key factors for implementation. She also presented the policy issues on coastal and marine, the unsustainable coastal development practices such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and overfishing. Furthermore, the limited availability of periodically updated data and resource assessment is important.

Blue Carbon in the Philippines

Dr. Severino G. Salmo III, associate professor at the Institute of Biology, College of Science from the University of the Philippines Diliman presented about Blue Carbon in the Philippines. Dr. Salmo explained blue carbon dynamics and explained how mangroves are considered natural, long-term solutions to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. He also explained the international programs and policies, from the first international climate change policy that occurred at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, to the latest Paris Agreement on climate change. One of the international programs he mentioned was the blue carbon policy and management event, the Paris Agreement on climate change.

To conclude his presentation, Dr. Salmo recommended that further Blue Carbon studies be monitored and reported, mangrove conservation and restoration initiatives be supported, wetland bills such as the Green Belt Law be passed, and the NDC reconsider to include ” Blue Carbon” initiatives.

Coastal Success Stories Rooted in Effective Local Governance Focused on Mangrove Principles and Policies

Academician (Acd.) Jurgenne H. Primavera, member of the Biological Sciences Division of NAST PHL, discussed coastal success stories rooted in effective local governance focused on mangrove principles and policies. Acd. Primavera described the major strategies for mangrove rehabilitation in the Philippines -- seafront planting, seagrass planting, and abandoned pond reversion. Based on ecology and science-based programs, she advocates the need to stop planting on seagrass beds, limit seafront planting only to correct sites using correct species (Avicennia marina and Sonneratia alba in the upper and mid-intertidal zone), and and shift government and NGO resources to the reversion of abandoned fishponds back to mangroves. Primavera also showed community-based mangrove rehabilitation projects in the Philippines, such as the Leganes Integrated Katunggan Ecopark. (LIKE) Iloilo. Local regions will see increased fish catches and incomes, improved biodiversity, and improved public awareness, as acknowledged by local, national, and international awards, if key factors for mangrove protection are followed.

Atty. Gloria E. Ramos, Vice President of OCEANA, and Dr. Marian S. Delos Angeles, Board Member Emeritus and Senior Advisor of Resources, Environment, and Economics Center for Studies, Inc. (REECS), served as the reactors of the forum.

The Importance of Mainstreaming Science in Policymaking

Atty. Ramos commented that environmental cases should adhere to various environmental principles and that the NCA should be brought to the attention of the Judiciary. However, it appears that in some cases, environmental principles are not in the mind set of the decision makers. Furthermore, only a few follow the National Climate Change Act, which requires all government agencies, subdivisions, and instrumentalities to integrate the effects of climate change into all of their plans and activities.

There is lack of appreciation and awareness due to lack of data. Some Local Government Units (LGU) should have ecological profiling when they do local development plans, but they seem to be arbitrary on their program. This is a task for scientists, academics, civil society organizations, and NGAs to tackle together in order to help local communities. Atty. Ramos is grateful that community based success studies and best practices in various LGUs are being presented.

Flows Between the Economy and the Environment

Many of the benefits and costs from ecosystem services are not valued in economic terms. Recently, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) became the statistical framework to measure the environment and its interactions with the economy. The SEEA Central Framework was adopted as an international statistical standard by the UN Statistical Commission in 2012, it includes the flow and stock accounts, biophysical units, and economic values (market prices). The SEEA Ecosystem Accounting was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission in 2021 and complements the Central Framework to provide a coherent framework for ecosystem accounting.

The most important to note is that when one does ocean accounts or a coastal resource accounts framework, it is important to look into the flow into the environment, the extent and conditions of the assets, and the supply and use of ocean services.

The open forum includes questions related to the national roadmap for the national capital accounting, since a lack of information was frequently cited as one of the gaps in the critical inputs. Julius Casabal, Chief Economic Development Specialist (EDS) of NEDA-ANRES served as Dir. Natural’s representative for the open forum. Issues regarding the science-based mangrove planting, social issues about human settlements on mangroves, and science policy on blue carbon was discussed.

To officially close the forum, Acd. Gisela P. Concepcion, member of the Biological Sciences Division, NAST PHL, summarized the policy recommendations on blue carbon and NCA. She thanked all the speakers for their insightful presentations and suggestions on the topic of marine ecosystems and policies. She hoped that the policy and decision makers on marine conservation and maritime policies, students, and educators from private and government institutions have gained valuable insight in this forum on the good practices and relations rooted in effective local governance.

This webinar aimed to (1) increase awareness of the goods and services from marine ecosystems to promote protection and improved management; (2) review key existing national policies and implementation; (3) showcase good practices and innovations; and (4) identify strategies for scaling impacts.

Invited participants include relevant national government agencies, policymakers on marine conservation and maritime policies, students, and educators from private and government-owned institutions to attend the virtual forum. (Janpherson Lapuz/ NAST PHL)

The event was broadcasted on the NAST PHL Facebook page. (