- Dr. Ernesto Pernia, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Director-General of the National Economic and Development Authority;
- Dr. Lisa Bersales, National Statistician and Civil Registrar General, Philippine Statistics Authority;
- Atty. Jonas Leones, Undersecretary for International Affairs and Foreign-Assisted Programs, Department of Environment and Natural Resources;
- Participants of this conference, including our international guests who traveled from as far away as Botswana; ladies and gentlemen;
The welfare of each one of us is determined not only by the economy and society in which we live, but also by the ecosystems that support our income, health, and spiritual wellbeing.
Economic and population pressures as well as climate change have dramatically contributed to the degradation of natural resources that comprise the earth’s ecosystem. This has significant negative consequences, particularly for the poor.
At the core of this crisis is the systematic undervaluation of ecosystem services and the failure to account for their value in decision making.
Countries measure economic growth through Gross Domestic Product or GDP. However, it’s clear that GDP is not a sufficient indicator of sustainability because it does not value the cost of environmental degradation or recognize how natural resources are being depleted in the course of meeting the demands of economic growth. Neither does it recognize the needs of communities who depend on natural resources for day-to-day survival.
The solution is to incorporate the full value of ecosystem services and the benefits that humans derive from them into policymaking through natural capital accounting or the NCA.
Natural capital accounting measures and values the links between the economy and the environment and allows us to analyze if we are using natural resources sustainably. It is useful tool for national and local planning and public policy making.
NCA is all the more compelling because of two important global agenda: the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, both of which the Philippines has joined.
The Sustainable Development Goals or the SDGs are a global agenda to eradicate poverty and put all countries on a trajectory towards sustainable development by 2030. The SDGs were formulated based on a definition of progress as a holistic measure of economic, social and physical well-being. Inherent in the SDGs is the link and interdependency between human well-being and healthy ecosystems.
Specifically, the SDGs call for ecosystem and biodiversity values to be integrated into national and local planning, development policy making, poverty reduction strategies and accounts. The NCA will be an important tool worldwide for realizing this aim.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change forms the international basis on which countries will work to achieve the goal of limiting global temperature rise to within 2 degrees Celsius. Under this agreement, countries will regularly submit nationally determined contributions known as NDCs as their commitment towards achieving this goal.
To satisfy the requirements of the Paris Agreement, standardized approaches are needed to monitor the interaction between the environment and the economy especially as countries transition to greener economies. This requires better and more integrated information on how the economy, environment and society interact, and this is another area in which NCA can play a vital role.
Recognizing the importance of ensuring that natural resources are properly accounted in policy making and planning around the world, in 2010, the World Bank, together with several donor countries, launched a global partnership called Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services or WAVES.
WAVES started out with five core implementing countries namely Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and the Philippines. The economies of these countries are significantly dependent on natural resources and all of them need an evidence-based framework to build sustainability into their development agenda.
Since 2010, the partnership has expanded to include five other countries, namely Guatemala, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, and Zambia.
All of the 10 pilot countries have used their participation in WAVES to move the NCA agenda forward in their countries. In Rwanda, where minerals are among their top exports, NCA is being used to help identify optimal land uses for mining and other development. In Guatemala which faces critical challenges of water sustainability, NCA is helping inform conservation policies. Colombia is using the tool to set water tariffs and evaluate the true cost of forest fires.
The Philippines has been an active participant of WAVES since its inception. Through WAVES, natural capital accounting is being used to inform policies to protect resources such as water, mangroves, and coral reefs.
The ecosystem accounts for the Laguna de Bay basin in particular, have identified critical sub-watersheds for rehabilitation as well as households that are most at risk of flooding.
In Southern Palawan, the ecosystem accounts highlight conflicting and overlapping land uses, stressing the need to coordinate land management efforts across all involved government agencies. Furthermore, the accounts quantify the contribution of mangroves to mitigating climate change as well as protecting coastal communities and their means of livelihood from typhoons and floods.
Most importantly, the Philippines, which has by now a strong expertise is natural capital accounting, has taken concrete steps to mainstream NCA into policy planning.
The Philippine Development Plan 2017 – 2022 acknowledges the range of products and services provided by ecosystems, and plans to institutionalize an ecosystem valuation and natural resource monitoring system. It also envisages the development of a policy for Payments for Ecosystem Services.
These actions will facilitate informed decision making by political leaders and local communities; provide better alternatives and trade-offs in development planning; generate income and employment in the rural areas; and create wealth in a sustainable way for the nation.
Reaching this point has taken a lot of hard work, energy and enthusiasm and I would like to congratulate you all for your dedication to the WAVES partnership and NCA.
Much has been achieved, but even more still needs to be done, especially to translate the findings of the completed reports and analyses into actionable development policies. This can only be done if an effective link is created between NCA and development policy and planning at all levels of government within the Philippines.
To achieve this, we need to extend the dialogue from the government to also include the private sector, civil society, the academe, development partners, and the public at large. That’s the purpose of today’s event.
We need to bring together the data producers and users from the public and private sectors around this agenda.
Together, we can develop a common language and utilize an effective communications strategy to tell stories behind the data – stories that will resonate with the wider public and generate support for public policies that account for the true value of the Philippines environment.
Events and conferences such as this provide an excellent venue to gather the different stakeholders together to further this dialogue.
At this event, I am calling on each and every one of us to stay the course. Much still needs to be done before we achieve our goal of sustainable development.
In the Philippines, may we be guided by recognizing the vital role that NCA can play in sustainably managing and protecting the critical natural resources ecosystems on which future generations of Filipinos will depend.