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Around 120 participants from DENR, other government agencies, academia, and non-government organizations gathered at the HCVA-NCA toolkit writeshop to identify information needs and data sources to help account for the country’s natural resources and ecosystem services. The event was the preliminary step towards the development of a toolkit that will guide government partners in assessing conservation values in the Philippines. (Blue Motus/USAID SIBOL)

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reiterated its support to develop and implement a toolkit to properly measure and account for the benefits derived from the country’s ecosystems, leading toward the production of statistics that accurately reflect the value of the Philippines’ natural resources.

DENR Biodiversity Management Bureau Director Natividad Y. Bernardino made the commitment during the Sukat ng Kalikasan: High Conservation Value Area (HCVA)-Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) Framework Toolkit workshop held on November 22-25 in Quezon City. The United States Agency for International Development’s Sustainable Interventions for Biodiversity, Oceans and Landscapes (SIBOL) Project, a five-year natural resource management and biodiversity conservation project launched in 2020, organized the event.

Around 120 participants from government agencies, academia and non-government organizations joined the workshop which focused on gathering feedback and recommendations from environmental experts. Their inputs will be used in the development of a toolkit that will serve as a practical guide in effectively managing the country’s natural resources—from planning, assessment, monitoring and addressing of threats. The participants identified information gaps, currently available data sources and how to access them. They also gave suggestions on assessing more complex ecosystems such as those in the marine landscape. Once the draft toolkit is finalized, government partners can adapt it in their assessment tools and make it part of policy guidelines to craft evidence- and science-based management plans and decision-making tools for biodiversity conservation areas in the country.

“I assure everyone, as far as DENR is concerned, that we will put 100% effort to support the completion of the toolkit including the rollout… It is also a high priority of the [DENR] secretary so I am optimistic of this endeavor,” Bernardino said in her remarks.

The toolkit is a preliminary guide in assessing and measuring HCVs—a valuation system of natural assets and corresponding ecosystem services of a biodiversity conservation area. Natural assets include species, habitats and ecosystems, while ecosystem services are benefits communities get from the environment which may be economic, social, or cultural in nature. NCA, meanwhile, is a tool to measure and assign monetary value of the country’s natural assets and the services they contribute to the society and economy. Since the environment plays an important role in the socio-economic development of a country, it is crucial to include natural resources in the national account to guide policies in managing biodiversity conservation areas more effectively.

Ecosystem services (watersheds, crops, livestocks, medicines, recreation, visual amenity, etc.) highly depend on the management of natural assets that may be marine or terrestrial (animals, plants, trees, forest covers, rivers, swamps, grasslands, etc.). When communities, for example, cause the degradation of forest covers, it can lead to soil erosion or lack of natural water filtration system. Thus, failure to capture, and account for this complex and dynamic relationship between biophysical assets and ecosystem services can negatively impact effective management of conservation areas.

"This toolkit has diverse applications in conservation areas, watersheds, islands and even political units. It can also help planners and implementers prioritize the use of limited resources, address climate mitigation, adaptation and good governance," SIBOL Chief of Party Dr. Ernesto Guiang said.