SENATOR Loren Legarda joined calls to protect our species, which is the theme for this year’s Earth Day celebration on Monday, April 22.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Global Champion for Resilience, said that stronger biodiversity protection efforts must be put in place to prevent loss of species especially since thousands of species are becoming extinct every year.
According to Earth Day Network, normally, between one and five species will go extinct annually. However, scientists estimate that we are now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate.
Legarda said that biodiversity loss, which is mainly caused by habitat destruction and wildlife trade, is heightened because of climate change. Studies indicate that 30% of species would be at risk of extinction due to the warming climate.
“We need to take greater action to protect the delicate ecological balance. It is incumbent upon us humans, who are the stewards of the Earth, to be more responsible as most of our actions are the very threats to other species. There needs to be stronger convergence among government agencies and local government units and collaboration with the private sector, civil society and all our citizens, to protect our species and conserve our biodiversity,” she stressed.
Legarda said that the government must strictly enforce laws that protect biodiversity, such as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, the National Integrated Protected Areas System (Nipas) Act of 1992, and the Expanded Nipas of 2018, which she principally authored.
“I authored the Expanded Nipas Act, which covers 94 protected areas all over the country, so that we have the legal mechanism to protect critical biodiversity areas and prevent biodiversity loss. The challenge for us is to ensure its strict implementation and promote awareness on the importance of conserving biodiversity and of the underlying threats to it,” Legarda said.
In Antique, her home province, Legarda has been advocating for the conservation of its protected areas—the Northwest Panay Peninsula Natural Park (NWPPNP), the Sibalom Natural Park (SNP), and 39 marine sanctuaries.
The NWPPNP, which is situated in the municipalities of Malay, Buruanga and Nabas in Aklan and Libertad and Pandan in Antique, is home to the famous Tarictic Hornbill and Dulungan Hornbill and other endemic species of flora and fauna in the Western Visayas. Its lush forests and natural springs are important sources of water and refuge for the various animals in the area.
The SNP is also a haven for unique flora and fauna, including Rafflesia speciosa and Amorphophallus, the biggest and tallest flowers in the world. Its mountains, Mt. Banagon and Mt. Poras, are bird sanctuaries for about 100 bird species, 30 of which are endemic to the Philippines, including the Walden’s Hornbill, Visayan Tarictic Hornbill, White-winged Cuckoo Shrike and Negros Bleeding Heart.
Among Legarda’s efforts to create awareness on Antique’s rich biodiversity is the creation of the Pandan Arboretum and Eco-Park, an ecotourism area that aims to promote biodiversity-friendly tourism activities and develop sustainable livelihood enterprises.
The Pandan Arboretum and Eco-Park has a total area of 108,925 hectares where trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific and educational purposes. It has an arboretum for old-growth trees, a bambusetum (bamboo garden), a palmetum (palm garden), an orchidarium, and an herbarium.
“This is our effort to protect endangered species of trees, which also leads to the protection of biodiversity in the province. Biodiversity is essential for human existence as it provides for the many goods and services we need, such as clean air, fresh water and food products,” said Legarda.
“Antique, as well as many other provinces in the country, is rich in natural resources and we are fortunate to be sharing this with a diverse group of marine and wildlife animals. However, we are also responsible for their protection. Let us not wait for the day when all these are gone and our children can only see them through imagination,” Legarda concluded. (PR)