ACCORDING to the Convention on Biological Diversity of the United Nations Environment Programme, the Philippines is one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries of the world, containing two-thirds of the earth's biodiversity and between 70 percent and 80 percent of the world's plant and animal species. The Philippines ranks fifth in the number of plant species and maintains five percent of the world's flora. In simple terms, we have many native plants and animals, some of which can only be found here.

It is interesting to know that to this day, scientists continue to discover new species of plants and animals in the Philippines. Just last Monday, I read in the newspaper that two new species of crickets and one species of a katydid were discovered in Laguna province by a team of entomologists who are working to update the database of insect taxonomy recorded in the Philippines over a century ago.

Last month, a new species of one of the largest flowering plant genera Begonia was discovered in El Nido, Palawan. In June, a new species of helmet orchid was also discovered in Palawan. Identified as Corybas circinatus, the wild orchid is the second of its species found on the island province.

In 2019, five new species from the Philippine waters have been officially recorded by the California Academy of Sciences among the 71 new species discovered from around the world this year. The identified the new marine species damselfishes and two sea slugs.

There may be many more undiscovered species out there in the wild. That's how gifted our country is. But this blessing comes with responsibility. We need to preserve what is left, and ensure their survival for generations to come. You see, the Philippines is one of the world's biodiversity hotspots with at least 700 threatened species. They will all be gone forever if we don't do anything.

All of us can do our share in our own little way, like having a small garden to attract friendly insects. If you have the opportunity and the capacity to do more, then do it. Many years back, I started a campaign to propagate the Balacat tree (Zizyphus talanai), whose numbers where dwindling in my native place Mabalacat. The city was named after the tree. Ma-balacat means full of Balacat. The tree can only be found in the Philippines and was classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

I sought the help of the Region-3 office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, who co-funded and help me grow the first 500 balacat seedlings. Later, I established my own nursery. We were able to plant and distribute balacat seedlings all over Mabalacat. When I became a City Councilor, I institutionalized the conservation and propagation of the balacat tree by declaring it as the official city tree in the Environmental Code of Mabalacat City, which I authored.