By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is pushing for the integration of biodiversity conservation efforts in key development sectors, such as tourism, infrastructure, and banking and finance.
“Biodiversity is our life source. It is where we get our food, ingredients for medicine, materials for our clothing and shelter, and raw materials for businesses and industries. Thus, biodiversity and environmental issues and concerns are interconnected with all development sectors,” Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), said.
In the Regional Workshop on Mainstreaming Biodiversity into Development Sectors in ASEAN member-states held in Manila, stakeholders identified approaches to mainstreaming biodiversity as well as priority actions towards implementing their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020.
“Biodiversity conservation is a shared responsibility. What happens in one area affects other parts of the world. We cannot say that what we throw in Manila Bay stays in the Philippines. Hence, biodiversity crisis requires regional and global solutions,” said European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen, as he stressed the importance of working together in combatting the worsening biodiversity loss regionally and globally.
Workshop discussions revolved around the efforts of the tourism, infrastructure, and banking sectors in mainstreaming biodiversity, including challenges and steps needed to move further in mainstreaming biodiversity.
Mainstreaming biodiversity in tourism
Pattarin Tongsima, a senior environmentalist from Thailand, highlighted the need for studying the carrying capacities of tourism sites so as to ensure that biodiversity is conserved and the ecological balance of the areas is maintained.
She added that there is a need to consider the involvement of local communities in deciding the kind of tourism activities in a particular area.
Meanwhile,Chester de la Cruz from the Philippine Green Building Council emphasized the need for strict regulations of businesses in tourist destinations.
“We should learn from the case of Boracay where businesses were not strictly regulated, resulting in environmental degradation,” he said.
Sustainable Infrastructure and biodiversity
“Biodiversity conservation should not be just an after-thought in infrastructure development. Biodiversity should be considered from the planning to financing, and construction,” Lim said.
Dr. Sentagi Sesotya Utami of Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia explained that green buildings are designed, constructed, and operated to reduce or eliminate negative environmental impacts or even create positive effects to nature.
“Sustainable buildings, aside from environment-friendly designs, should also integrate elements such as energy efficiency, durability and life cycle performance. They must support the occupants’ need to live productively,” she emphasized.
Investing in biodiversity
“If we are serious about mainstreaming biodiversity in banking and finance, then we must veer away from the ‘conventional banking system’ profitability is the utmost consideration. Banks should be discouraged from approving business loans that harm biodiversity and the environment,” said Dr. James Alin from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah.