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abs pbscThe Project Board/Steering Committee members and representatives comprised of national government agencies convened to approve and support the ABS Project’s implementation strategies on September 27, 2022 in Quezon City. Photo courtesy of ABS Project

Quezon City, Philippines - National government agencies forming the Project Board/Steering Committee (PB/SC) of the Implementing the National Framework on Access and Benefit Sharing of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in the Philippines Project (ABS Project) convened on September 27, 2022, to approve and support the project’s implementation strategies.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the ABS Project is being implemented by the Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines.

The ABS Project seeks to increase economic opportunity and biodiversity conservation for indigenous peoples and local communities in the Philippines through fair and equitable sharing of biodiversity benefits. The project aims to develop at least 2 bioproducts from local genetic resources of banaba in Region III and pili in Region V during its 6-year implementation.

Indigenous peoples and local communities in key biodiversity areas, who lack sustainable livelihood, could gain monetary and/or non-monetary benefits from fair and equitable use of genetic resources. These resources refer to any biological material containing genes and/or metabolic material derived from plants and animals that are used for research or product development.

The ABS Project is the Philippines’ initiative to strengthen compliance with the Nagoya Protocol, an international agreement that seeks to provide a transparent legal framework to implement the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources.

Director Nieva Natural of the National Economic and Development Authority - Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environment Staff (NEDA-ANRES) presided over the meeting on behalf of the PB/SC chairperson and DENR-BMB OIC-Director Natividad Bernardino. In attendance at the event were key national government agencies, including the DENR-Forest Management Bureau (FMB), DENR-Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), DENR-Policy and Planning Service (PPS), DENR-Foreign Assisted and Special Projects Service (FASPS); DA-Policy Research Service (PPS), DA-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR); DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

In his virtual message, UNDP Philippines Deputy Resident Representative Edwine Carrie noted that this first ABS Project presents a timely opportunity to firm up the Philippines’ ABS national coordinating mechanisms, including the needed protocols, platforms, and procedures, as the country moves toward the implementation of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and the revisiting of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP).

Carrie further highlighted that through the leadership of DENR-BMB, the partnership between indigenous peoples and local communities and the private sector could be realized. “One of the key innovative mechanisms of the ABS Project is the partnership among communities and the private sector, which we desire to realize. This will provide us a learning model, which DENR can scale up and replicate,” Carrie said.

During the half-day discussion, the PB/SC members approved the project’s 2022-2023 annual work plan and provided recommendations on project implementation strategies. Members of the PB/SC will convene again on December 7 to provide guidance on project-relevant issues, address potential risks, and appraise the 2023 annual work plan.

As the ABS Project moves forward to full implementation this October, there will be consultation meetings with research institutions and consortia, academe, and national government agencies for the development of roadmaps for banaba and pili. Discussions with private sector partners, including Pharmalytics, PhilPili, and Herbanext, are also scheduled to ensure UNDP’s private sector due diligence. Furthermore, a workshop on stocktaking and analysis of ABS-related laws and regulations among national competent authorities will be conducted to update, harmonize, and simplify inter-agency ABS regulations.

In partnership with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the project will conduct site selection and assessment activities in Region III, particularly in Bataan, Pampanga, and Zambales where banaba is abundant. This will ensure the demonstration of the Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) with indigenous peoples as project partners.

Similarly, the DILG through the LGUs will play a major role in the site selection and assessment. Their engagement will ensure inclusivity and the conduct of Prior Informed Consent (PIC) with local communities in Region V. Target project sites are within the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon, where pili is thriving.

Anchored on the Philippines’ Wealth Creation Programme from Biodiversity Resources, the ABS Project contributes to increasing economic opportunities by safeguarding the country’s biological resources, and facilitating fair and equitable sharing of biodiversity benefits.