Monday, October 6, 2008


Environmental pollution is contamination of air, water and land from man-made waste. Pollution leads to depletion of the ozone layer, global warming and climate change. Air pollution is the release of chemicals and particles into the atmosphere. Water pollution includes surface runoff, leakage into groundwater, liquid spills, wastewater discharge and littering. If toxins are spilled on the ground or if an underground storage tank leaks, soil can become contaminated. Well known contaminants include herbicides and pesticides. Toxic waste is waste material, often in chemical form, which pollutes the natural environment and contaminates groundwater.

Further, environmental pollution is a term that refers to all the ways that human activity harms the natural environment. Most people have witnessed environmental pollution in the form of an open garbage dump or an automobile pouring out black smoke. However, pollution can also be invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Some kinds of pollution do not actually dirty the land, air, or water, but they reduce the quality of life for people and other living things. For example, noise from traffic and machinery can be considered forms of pollution.

Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and other life forms today. Badly polluted air can harm crops and cause life-threatening illnesses. Some air pollutants have reduced the capacity of the atmosphere to filter out the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Most scientists believe that these and other air pollutants have begun to change climates around the world. Water and soil pollution threaten the ability of farmers to grow enough food. Ocean pollution endangers many marine organisms.

Anthropogenic (Human Caused) Sources of Pollution

By the object of pollution:

  • Air pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Soil pollution (contamination) / Land pollution

Air Pollution causes Smog

By the economic source (originator) of pollution:
  • Agricultural pollution
  • Industrial pollution
  • Transport pollution
    • Car pollution / Heavy vehicle pollution
    • Ship pollution
    • Airplane pollution
  • Commercial and domestic sector pollution
Other types
  • Radioactive pollution (contamination)
  • Chemical pollution
  • Invasive species pollution
  • Light pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Visual pollution
Natural Sources of Pollution
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Dust storms
  • Smoke from forest and grass fire

Different Types of Pollution

There are nine basic types of environmental pollution, and each one has detrimental affects on wildlife, human habitation, and the quality of life in the affected area.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is defined as any contamination of the atmosphere that disturbs the natural composition and chemistry of the air. This can be in the form of particulate matter such as dust or excessive gases like carbon dioxide or other vapors that cannot be effectively removed through natural cycles, such as the carbon cycle or the nitrogen cycle.

Air pollution comes from a wide variety of sources. Some of the most excessive sources include:

  • Vehicle or manufacturing exhaust
  • Forest fires, volcanic eruptions, dry soil erosion, and other natural sources
  • Building construction or demolition

Depending on the concentration of air pollutants, several effects can be noticed. Smog increases, higher rain acidity, crop depletion from inadequate oxygen, higher rates of asthma, and global warming are all related to increased air pollution.

Water Pollution

Water pollution involves any contaminated water, whether from chemical, particulate, or bacterial matter that degrades the water’s quality and purity. Water pollution can occur in oceans, rivers, lakes, and underground reservoirs, and as different water sources flow together the pollution can spread.

Causes of water pollution include:

  • Increased sediment from soil erosion
  • Improper waste disposal and littering
  • Leaching of soil pollution into water supplies
  • Organic material decay in water supplies

The effects of water pollution include decreasing the quantity of drinkable water available, lowering water supplies for crop irrigation, and impacting fish and wildlife populations that require water of a certain purity for survival.

Soil Pollution

Soil, or land pollution, is contamination of the soil that prevents natural growth and balance in the land whether it is used for cultivation, habitation, or a wildlife preserve. Some soil pollution, such as the creation of landfills, is deliberate, while much more is accidental and can have widespread effects.

Soil pollution sources include:

  • Hazardous waste and sewage spills
  • Non-sustainable farming practices, such as the heavy use of inorganic pesticides
  • Strip mining, deforestation, and other destructive practices
  • Household dumping and littering

Soil contamination can lead to poor growth and reduced crop yields, loss of wildlife habitat, water and visual pollution, soil erosion, and desertification.

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution refers to undesirable levels of noises caused by human activity that disrupt the standard of living in the affected area. Noise pollution can come from:

  • Traffic
  • Airports
  • Railroads
  • Manufacturing plants
  • Construction or demolition
  • Concerts

Some noise pollution may be temporary while other sources are more permanent. Effects may include hearing loss, wildlife disturbances, and a general degradation of lifestyle.

Radioactive Pollution

Radioactive pollution is one of the types of pollution that is rare but extremely detrimental, even deadly, when it occurs. Because of its intensity and the difficulty of reversing damage, there are strict government regulations to control radioactive pollution.

Sources of radioactive contamination include:

  • Nuclear power plant accidents or leakage
  • Improper nuclear waste disposal
  • Uranium mining operations

Radiation pollution can cause birth defects, cancer, sterilization, and other health problems for human and wildlife populations. It can also sterilize the soil and contribute to water and air pollution.

Thermal Pollution

Thermal pollution is excess heat that creates undesirable effects over long periods of time. The earth has a natural thermal cycle, but excessive temperature increases can be considered a rare type of pollution with long term effects. Many types of thermal pollution are confined to areas near their source, but multiple sources can have wider impacts over a greater geographic area.

Thermal pollution may be caused by:

  • Power plants
  • Urban sprawl
  • Air pollution particulates that trap heat
  • Deforestation
  • Loss of temperature moderating water supplies

As temperatures increase, mild climatic changes may be observed, and wildlife populations may be unable to recover from swift changes.

Light Pollution

Cities cause light pollution.
Cities cause light pollution.

Light pollution is the over illumination of an area that is considered obtrusive. Sources include:

  • Large cities
  • Billboards and advertising
  • Nighttime sporting events and other nighttime entertainment

Light pollution makes it impossible to see stars, therefore interfering with astronomical observation and personal enjoyment. If it is near residential areas, light pollution can also degrade the quality of life for residents.

Visual Pollution

Visual pollution – eyesores – can be caused by other types of pollution or just by undesirable, unattractive views. It may lower the quality of life in certain areas, or could impact property values and personal enjoyment.

Sources of visual pollution include:

  • Power lines
  • Construction areas
  • Billboards and advertising
  • Neglected areas or objects such as polluted vacant fields or abandoned buildings

While visual pollution has few immediate health or environmental effects, the other types of pollution that cause an eyesore can have detrimental affects.

Personal Pollution

Are you polluting yourself?
Are you polluting yourself?

Personal pollution is the contamination of one’s body and lifestyle with detrimental actions. This may include:

  • Excessive smoking, drinking or drug abuse
  • Emotional or physical abuse
  • Poor living conditions and habits
  • Poor personal attitudes

In some cases, personal pollution may be inflicted by caregivers, while in other cases it is caused by voluntary actions. Taking positive steps in your life can help eliminate this and other types of pollution so you can lead a more productive, satisfying life.


Pollutants enter the watershed either directly from a traceable source (point source pollution) or through channels that prevent the source from being identified (non-source point pollution). Regardless of the manner in which they enter the water, pollutants can be classified into four types: toxic, sediment, nutrient, and bacterial.

Toxic pollution includes chemicals that poison and kill organisms in and near streams, rivers, lakes, and the Bay. When a body of water has a high level of toxic pollution, fishing for the purpose of human consumption is banned. Even low levels of toxicity can be lethal when chemicals accumulate in predators that consume large amounts of slightly poisoned organisms. Examples of toxic pollution include pesticides and herbicides; gasoline, oil, and other automotive products; household cleaning products; paints and solvents; battery acid; industrial waste chemicals; and toxic substances in car exhaust and solid waste incinerator smoke.

Sediment pollution is dirt, minerals, sand, and silt eroded from the land and washed into the water. It comes from areas where there is inadequate vegetation to slow runoff. Sediment causes several problems for aquatic organisms. First, particles of sediment are suspended in the water. The resulting cloudiness decreases the amount of sunlight that can reach underwater plants that provide food and oxygen for underwater animals. Second, as sediment particles settle, they fill spaces between rocks, destroying the habitat needed by manyunderwater insects and other macroinvertebrates. Sediment also clogs the gills of fish, crabs, and other underwater organisms. Sediment can bury fish and insect eggs, preventing them from hatching, and when it covers an oyster bed, it smothers the oysters.

Nutrient pollution results from an overabundance of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Living things cannot survive without nutrients, but too much can be detrimental to watershed organisms. An overabundance of nutrients leads to escalation in plant growth, particularly of algae and vascular plants. This causes two problems. First, water clouded with too much alga growth does not allow enough sunlight to reach the plants below. Second, when those plants die, the bacteria that decompose them use inordinate amounts of dissolved oxygen. This deprives underwater animals of the oxygen they need to survive. Sources of nutrient pollution include overflow from sewage treatment plants, leakage from improperly maintained septic systems, discharge from factories, and automobile exhaust. Examples of nutrient pollutants include fertilizers, animal manure, discharge from boat toilets, and household detergents.

Bacterial pollution occurs when there is an excess of harmful bacteria. There are many beneficial bacteria in the water. Even harmful bacteria in small amounts are safe. In larger concentrations, however, certain types of bacteria can be deadly to fish and animals (including humans) that drink or accidentally ingest the water. Certain bacteria can cause illness if they come in contact with an open wound. Interestingly, most of these harmful bacteria do not affect aquatic insects. Some sources of bacterial pollution include overflow from sewage treatment plants, leakage from improperly maintained septic systems, animal manure, and discharge from boat toilets.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Poverty is an economic condition of lacking both money and basic necessities needed to successfully live such as food, water, education, and shelter. There are many working definitions of "poverty" with considerable debate on how to best define the term: (1) income security; and (2) economic stability; and (3) the predictability of one's continued means to meet the basic needs all serve as absolute indicators of poverty. Poverty may therefore also be defined as the economic condition of lacking predictable and stable means of meeting basic life needs.

Causes of Poverty

  1. education
  2. war
  3. natural disasters
  4. political corruption
  5. mental illness
  6. disability
Those who live in conditions of poverty lack a wide range of economic and other resources and may be described as poor, in low income and impoverished. Some see the term as subjective and comparative, others see it as moral and evaluative, while others consider that it is scientifically established.

Poverty is understood in many senses. The main understandings of the term include:
  • Description of material need, typically including the necessities of daily living (food, clothing, shelter, and health care). Poverty in this sense may be understood as the deprivation of essential goods and service.
  • Descriptions of social need, including social exclusion, dependency, and the ability to participate in society. This would include education, and information. Social exclusion is usually distinguished from poverty, as it encompasses political and moral issues, and is not restricted to the sphere or economics.
  • Describing a lack of sufficient income and wealth. The meaning of "sufficient" varies widely across the different political and economic parts of the world.
Measuring Poverty

Poverty may be seen as the collective condition of poor people, or of poor groups, and in the sense entire nation-states are sometime regarded as poor. To avoid stigma these nations are usually called develping nations.

Poverty may be measured as (1) absolute poverty (also known as Graham Parnaby Poor) or relative poverty. It refers to a set standard which is consistent over time and between countries. An example of an absolute measurement would be the percentage of the population eating less food than is required to sustain the human body (approximately 2000-2500 kilocalories per day). Absolute poverty is a condition that applies to people with the lowest incomes, the least education, the lowest social status, the fewest opportunities, etc., (2) extreme poverty which is defined by World Bank as living on less than US$ (PPP) 1 per day, and (3) moderate poverty as less than $2 a day.

Factors that have been alleged to cause poverty:
  1. Poor, failed, or absence of an infrastructure, lack of opportunities.
  2. State discrimination and corruption. Abuse of public power.
  3. Lack of social integration. Competition instead of cooperation.
  4. Crime
  5. Natural disasters
  6. Substance abuse; such as alcoholism and drug abuse
  7. Procrastination
  8. Natural factors such as climate or environment
  9. Historical factors, such as imperialism and colonialism
  10. Overpopulation. Population growth slows or even become negative as poverty is reduced due to the demographic transition
  11. War, i.e. civil war, genocide and democide
  12. Lack of education
  13. Lack of social skills
  14. Matthew effect - the phenomenon, widely observed across advanced welfare states, that the middle classes tend to the main beneficiaries of social benefits and services, even if these are primarily targeted at the poor.
  15. Cultural causes, which attribute poverty to common patterns of life, learned or shared within a community. Example, some have argued that Protestantism contributed to economic growth during the industrial revolution.
  16. Individual beliefs, actions and choices.
  17. Mental illness and disability, such as autism and schizophrenia
  18. Excessive materialism
  19. Lack of freedom
  20. Poverty itself, preventing investment and development
  21. Geographic factors, for example fertile land access to natural resources
  22. Disease, specifically diseases of poverty: AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and others overwhelmingly afflict the poor, which perpetuate poverty by diverting individual, community, and national health and economic resources from investment and productivity. Further, many tropical nations are affected by diseases like malaria and schistosomiasis that are not present in temperate climates.
  23. Frequent bullying, prevents productivity and development
  24. Inadequate nutrition in childhood in poor nations may lead to physical and mental stunning.
  25. Inadequate tax systems
  26. Age discrimination, gender discrimination, racial discrimination
Effects of Poverty
  1. extreme hunger and starvation
  2. disease and disabilities low health care services
  3. high crime rate
  4. increased suicides
  5. increased risk of political violence, such as terrorism, war and genocide
  6. homelessness
  7. lack of opportunities for employment
  8. loss of opportunities for employment
  9. more susceptible to death from natural resources
  10. increased discrimination
  11. lower life expectancy
  12. drug abuse
Poverty Incidence in the Philippines

Poverty incidence in the country, which refers to the proportion of families with per capita income below the poverty threshold, was placed at 28.1 percent in 1997 and 28.4 percent in 2000 based on the new provincial poverty methodology recently approved by the NSCB Executive Board. Poverty estimates released by the NSCB also show that in 2000, 4.3 million families or 26.5 million Filipinos, more than one-third (34.0 percent) of the country’s population, were living below the poverty line. These figures indicate an increase over the 1997 levels of 4.0 million families or 24.0 million Filipinos striving to make ends meet. The 2003 poverty statistics will be released by the NSCB after the NSO has finished processing the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) results.

The annual per capita poverty threshold, or the amount required to satisfy food and non-food basic needs at the national level, reached P11,605 in 2000, 17.9 percent higher than the 1997 threshold of P9,843. Thus, a family of five members should have a monthly income of at least P4,835 to meet their food and non-food basic needs.

Among the 77 provinces of the country and the four districts of Metro Manila, Sulu consistently posted the highest poverty incidence in 1997 and 2000 with 67.1 and 63.2 percent, respectively. Also included among the poorest provinces are Masbate, Tawi-Tawi, Ifugao and Romblon. Four provinces of ARMM are among the 10 poorest provinces in the country.

Table- Ten Poorest Provinces in 2000
Province 1997 2000 Inc/Dec (%) Rank ‘97 Rank ‘00
Sulu 67.1 63.2 -3.9 1 1
Masbate 61.4 62.8 1.4 2 2
Tawi-Tawi 35.0 56.5 21.5 40 3
Ifugao 57.7 55.6 -2.1 4 4
Romblon 52.8 55.2 2.4 8 5
Maguindanao 41.6 55.1 13.5 27 6
Lanao del Sur 55.6 55.0 -0.6 7 7
Sultan Kudarat 36.6 54.3 17.7 38 8
Camiguin 32.5 53.1 20.6 49 9
Camarines Norte 49.7 52.7 3.0 10 10

Source: National Statistical Coordination Board

Eliminating Poverty

Economic Growth
  • Growth is fundamental for poverty reduction, and in principle growth as such does not seem to affect inequality
  • Growth accompanied by progressive distributional change is better than growth alone
  • High initial income inequality is a brake on poverty reduction.
  • Poverty itself is also likely to be a barrier for poverty reduction, and wealth inequality seems to predict lower future growth rates.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Philippine Biodiversity: Species Richness and Abundance

Angel C. Alcala
Academician and University Research Professor, Silliman University, Dumaguete City

The term biodiversity, coined by Walter Rozen of the United States Academy of Science in 1986, was first used by E.O. Wilson, the famous Harvard biologist, in 1988. Since that time, it has become increasingly popular among biologists, and is now entrenched in the scientific literature. The term encompasses the total richness and variety of life on earth. Biodiversity studies are directed at five levels of biological organization: gene, species, population, community, and ecosystem. This paper will focus on Philippine biodiversity at the species level.

The Philippines is one of the countries that exhibit high species richness. An estimated 13,500 species of terrestrial plants are found in the country, 8,000 of which belong to the flowering group. About 40% of flowering plants are endemic. Of economic and scientific interest are 39 species of trees in the Family Dipterocarpaceae, the source of Philippine mahogany. The resident and breeding terrestrial vertebrate animals in the Philippines comprise about 911 species. The approximate numbers of land vertebrate species are 100 amphibians (ca 80% endemic); 240 reptiles (ca 70% endemic); 396 birds (ca 44% endemic), and 175 mammals (ca 64% endemic). The country compares favorably with Brazil and Madagascar, two countries known for their outstanding biodiversity. The Philippines (land area 300,000 square kilometers) has about 529 endemic species of terrestrial vertebrates, while Brazil (28 times larger in area than the Philippines) has 725 endemic species. Madagascar (twice larger than the Philippines) has fewer unique mammals (90) than the Philippines (111). The Philippines possesses no extensive freshwater habitats, but Lake Lanao was reported to harbor about a dozen endemic species in three or four genera of true freshwater fish of the Family Cyprinidae.

The species richness of corals, shells and fish is very high in the fertile triangle formed by the Philippines, New Guinea and the Malay Archipelago. Some 400-500 species in 90 genera of hermatypic (reef-forming) corals and ca 4,000 species of marine fishes are believed to have existed in this area. The 900,000-square-kilometer Sulu-Sulawesi Sea (part of this fertile triangle) is home to 2,500 species of fish (including a species of coelacanth), five species of marine turtles, and 22 species of marine mammals. However, small reef systems harbor much fewer fish species. For example, 200 species have been observed on two reefs in the Central Visayas over a period of 30 years. Pristine reefs in the country such as Tubbataha Marine Park should have more than this number.

For the Philippines, the factors that are responsible for the high species richness in old-growth tropical rainforests are (1) geologic age (main land
masses more than 50 million years old), (2) tropical location providing equable climatic conditions, (3) environmental heterogeneity as shown by diversification and complexity of microhabitats, (4) insular (island) condition, and (5) contiguity to a large land mass (Asia) and islands in the south and southeast serving as source of immigrants. The first four factors have favored the development of new species (speciation) through evolutionary processes operating on biological
and genetic materials of immigrants. Movements and distribution of terrestrial species are limited by natural barriers that influence speciation processes such as bodies of water, high mountain peaks, and in modern times by cultivated areas.

In contrast, oceans and seas tend to be connected to each other. Oceanographic processes, including water mass movements, ocean currents, etc., provide the mechanisms to transport marine propagules and to connect distantly located marine areas. For example, the Pacific Ocean connects to the Sulu Sea through ocean currents in the Bohol (Mindanao) Sea moving southwestward, and the South China Sea connects to the Sulu Sea through the Mindoro and Balabac Straits. Because of this connectivity, mixing of genes in
marine species populations occurs, and endemism is lower in marine organisms than in terrestrial ones. This is illustrated by the similarity and the low endemism of corals and reef fishes of the Philippines. Because of the wide distribution of marine propagules over large areas of oceans, the incidence of species extinction among marine species is also low. The differences between terrestrial and marine environments imply that approaches to biodiversity
conservation would also differ between terrestrial and marine species.

As widely known, Philippine biodiversity has been affected by not only natural events but also human-induced factors especially during the past 50-60 years. The effects of man’s activities on Philippine biodiversity may be assessed in a general way in terms of two measures, species richness and abundance, using groups of terrestrial organisms (rainforest trees and land vertebrates) and marine organisms (corals and reef fishes), for which a certain amount of data exists.

The Family Dipterocarpaceae, comprising 39 species in the Philippines, is now represented by only 14 species in several limestone forest fragments with a total area of ca 300 ha in southwestern Negros Island. The number of species that may have gone extinct during the past years is not known. However, there is little doubt that abundance of this tree family has been reduced because of forest degradation. The various vertebrate groups in these forest fragments have shown variable responses to human impacts. The amphibians and reptiles have lost more than 20% of the species occurring there 50 years ago. The birds appear to have lost a few endemic species. The mammals, especially the volant species (fruit bats), have not lost any species during the past 50 years, but a couple of species have become rarer and are on the verge of extinction. The large herbivores have also shown reduction in population size. The degradation of Philippine coral reefs has been sufficiently documented. Only about 5% of coral reef sites explored have at least 75% live coral cover, and 70% of the surveyed sites have only 25% cover or less. The majority of coral reefs have much reduced numbers of carnivorous fishes (fish eaters or top carnivores), and some have virtually none of these fishes. However, no coral or top carnivores have been shown to be extinct. Density of reef fishes in general is low (<>100 kg/1,000 sq m in more pristine or protected reefs.

The loss or decline of species richness and abundance of terrestrial and marine species in the Philippines has serious negative effects on the social and economic well being of our people. Efforts to protect what remain of our biodiversity are urgently needed.

Biodiversity is usually considered at three levels, namely:

  1. Genetic diversity - is the sum total of genetic information contained in the genes of individual organisms that inhabit the earth.
  2. Species diversity - is the variety of living organisms on earth which is estimated to be between 5 and 50 million or more (only about 1.75 million or 13% of the totalnumber of species on earth has been described). One measure of biodiversity would be the number of species (a group of organisms genetically so similar that they interbreed and produce offspring).
  3. Ecosystem diversity - relates to the variety of habitats, biological communities, and ecological processes in the biosphere.
Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is the foundation of healthy and functioning ecosystems - the fountains of opportunity for all people. Rich soils, clean air, and water abundant forests - the complexity of nature and the myriad species they support- are essential for thriving societies.
Biodiversity is estimated to have contributed 33 trillion US dollars to the global economy (Constanza, et al., 1997) yet few people realize its value.
In the Philippines, the extent of biodiversity loss has reached alarming proportions - so much so that some international experts have proposed to write off as global biodiversity disaster area.

The Global Significance of Philippine Biodiversity:
The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,107 islands covering an estimated land area of 30 million hectares. Its archipelagic waters cover an estimated 220 million hectares or approximatel 88% of the Philippine territory. The country's complex geological history and long periods of isolation from the rest of the world have produced varied life forms, water bodies and climatic conditions. These, in trun have, contributed to the wide array of soil, temperature, moisture, and weather regimes and combined with its extensive areas of rainforest and its tropical location, have given rise to high species diversity and endemism.

The country has more than 52,177 described species, of which, more than half ar found nowhere else on earth. There are many more species that are unknown to science.

The Philippines is considered one of the 17 megadiversity countries. As such, Philippine biodiversity is an integral part of our global heritage and is one of the most important countries in the world for conserving diversity of life on earth.

  • Threatened Species - species of organism that could become extinct if a critical factor in their environment were changed.
  • Endangered Species - those species that are present in small number that they are in danger of becoming extinct
  • Extinct - those species that existed in the past, but representative members can no longer be found at the present
A great number of rare and exotic animals exist only in the Philippines. The country's surrounding waters reportedly have the highest level of biodiversity in the world. But this distinction was soon overshadowed by the fact that the Philippines has been dubbed as the "hottest of the hotspots" by no less than the Conservation International.

The Philippines is considered as a mega diversity country and a global biodiversity hotspot. In the 2000 Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), 418 of the country's 52,177 species were listed as threatened. The country is home to about 9,000 species of flora, a third of which is said to be endemic to the country. It hosts 165 species of mammals, 121 of which can be found only in this part of the world. The Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priority-setting Program (PBCPP) described these 165 endemic mammal species as endangered or critically endangered.

There are also 332 species of reptiles and amphibians living in the country, 215 of them endemic to the archipelago. It is said that less than 14 of the 114 total species of snakes in the country are poisonous. Several species of frogs and other reptiles remain to be documented. Unfortunately, several species were believed to have vanished without being studied.

In 1953, Albert Herre identified 2,117 species of fish in Philippine waters. These included 330 species of endemic freshwater fish. Whales, dolphins and whale sharks have also been visiting Philippine waters near the islands, allowing sightings by both marine scientists and commercial fishermen. About 500 of the 800 known coral reef species in the world are found in Philippine waters.

The country also has the highest concentration of birds and butterflies in the world. There are some 86 species of birds and 895 species of butterflies in the country. About 352 species of butterflies are endemic to the Philippines.

Many of these biological wonders are now in danger. The main culprit is human's indiscriminate use of the country's natural resources, resulting in an unabated denudation of the Philippine rainforests. In the last 500 years, the Philippines saw the destruction of over 93 percent of its original forest cover. Only about 5 percent of the country's 27,000 square kilometers of coral reefs were in excellent condition.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the country's total forest size dwindled to 6.7 million hectares in 1990 from 30 million hectares in 1930. At the same time, the forest-to-man ratio shrank to 0.1 hectare per Filipino in 1990 from 1.13 hectares per Filipino in 1930. By 1996, experts claimed that only 1.8 million to 2.4 million hectares or 6 to 8 percent of original vegetation were remaining.

A study by the Philippine Congress said that 123,000 hectares of the country's forest cover are lost every year. The study added that by 2036, there would be no forest left in the Philippines, unless reforestation is started.

In January 2003, a study by the Green Tropics International (GTI) claimed that the Philippines would need P30 trillion to reforest country's denuded mountains in over 85 years.

Problems and Threats

Biodiversity loss in the Philippines stems from 4 broad categories:

  1. Habitat destruction - anthropogenic causes : logging, fires, land conversion, siltation, destructive fishing methods, encroachment and occupance in protected areas. Natural Causes : volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, typhoons, pests and diseases.
  2. Overexploitation - overharvesting and unsutainable use of resources due to poverty, population pressure, ignorance, paucity of livelihood opportunities, wrong values, and unrestrained and unregukated access to natural resources.
  3. Environmental pollution - chemical waste from mine tailings, hazardous wastes from industrial plants, factory discharges, agricultural pesticides and fertilizer, and household wastes. Pollutants overwhelm and overtax the dispersal and self-cleansing capacity of our atmosphere, water bodies and land.
  4. Biological pollution - introduction of exotic species at the expense of the endemic and indigenous species through predation, parasitism, competition, hybridization, and habitat alteration.
  5. Weak Institutional and Legal capacities - inappropriate, ovetapping, conflicting, and obsolete policies and institutions: shortage of technical expertise, shortage of funds, weak information, education, and communication, poor integration of research and development activities.
Impact of Biodiversity Loss in the Philippines
  • floods and landslides
  • destruction of crops, fisheries, homes, roads, bridges
  • shortage in availability
  • loss of human lives
  • economic crisis (loss of billions of pesos)
Initiatives/Institutions In-charged of Conservation

PAWB - Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureaus was tasked at handling the establishment and management of the country's protected areas and the conservation of biological diversity.

DENR - was assigned the formulation of the Philippine Strategy for Sustainable Development.

PCSD - Philippine Council for Sustainable Development hel fulfill the Philippines' commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity

NIPAS Act - National Integrated Protected Areas System Act became the basis for the establishment and management of protected areas.

NBSAP - National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan sets forth the strategies and actions that the country will pursue to conserve its biodiversity.


Philippine Agenda 21 is part of the country's response to fulfill its commitments in the historic Earth Summit in 1992 where government and key sectors of society agreed to implement an action agenda for sustainable development, known as the Agenda 2 1.

Philippine Agenda 21 seeks to answer four questions:

Where are we now?

What is sustainable development?

Where do we want to go?

How do we get there?

In answering these questions, the major stakeholders involved in the formulation of the Philippine Agenda 21 found it necessary to seek common ground. The Principles of Unity, forming part of this document, embodies this common ground which unites the key actors in their pursuit of sustainable development.


The Current and Emerging Landscape for Sustainable Development

chieving sustainable development is a formidable task. Hence, the journey towards sustainable development must be grounded on a clear understanding of the challenges, trends and opportunities that lie ahead.

Demographic Trends. The Philippines ranks as the 9th most populous country in Asia and 1 4th in the world. The country's population growth, if unabated, will double to 128 million by 2025. Rapid population growth and imbalances in spatial distribution will continue if policy decision-making at all levels of governance does not recognize the relationships among population, resources, environment and development. The crucial role of the Filipino family in the dynamics of these relationships should also be considered.

Cultural Trends. The inherent strengths of the Filipino culture (e.g. openness, freedom of expression, resilience, strong family orientation ) continue to reinforce social cohesion within the Philippine society. These values are also embodied in the growing tradition of local activism. However, it has been observed that some erosion of Filipino cultural values has taken place as manifested by, among others, the commodification of indigenous culture, sexual tourism, consumerism and increasing materialism.

Science and Technology Trends. There have been many positive developments in this area. These include the improved level of contributions of highly skilled Filipino scientists and the growing recognition of the value of indigenous science and technology and holistic science. on the other hand, the sector has its share of problems, such as: the a brain drain" phenomenon; unfair monopoly of intellectual property rights; increasing use of technology as a simplistic response to complex problems; poor quality of science education due to inadequate funding and facilities; among others.

Economic Trends. Positive economic growth rates (as measured by GDP) have benefited certain sectors of Philippine society but do not reflect social decline and inequity nor the deterioration of the environment associated with economic growth. Despite continued economic growth, challenges remain, which include, among others: high level of public indebtedness; low level of savings; large deficits; remaining distortions in the price and incentive system; rampant casualization of labor; and indiscriminate land and ecosystem conversion.

Urbanization Trends. Difficulties in the implementation of agrarian and urban land reform and rural development programs have contributed to unplanned and uncontrolled urbanization. Philippine cities have deteriorated as human habitats, beset with intractable and often interrelated problems like pollution, water shortage, flooding, violence and other social ills.

Human Development Trends. Existing measures of human development indicate some improvement over time. However, these improvements are uneven across geographical, income, gender and ethnic groups. The development of human potential is being affected by continuing challenges such as: rampant substance abuse, break-up of families, economic exploitations and homelessness as evidenced by the growing number of street children.

Environmental Trends. Even with accelerating economic growth, environmental quality is- fast deteriorating as dramatized by the increased incidence of environmental disasters, problems associated with mine tailings, deforestation, pollution, salt water intrusion and a host of other destructive activities. The regenerative capacities of fragmented areas in the biogeographic zones that nurture flora, fauna and natural resources are severely threatened. While advances have been made in the area of biodiversity conservation alongside the growing awareness of the role of indigenous peoples in maintaining the integrity of ecosystems, the Environmental Impact Assessment system continues to be plagued with various enforcement and compliance problems.

Institutional Trends. The Philippines has strong institutional building blocks for sustainable development, including a strong civil society, socially and environmentally- conscious business groups, community empowerment initiatives, devaluation and decentralization. However, these are plagued by ineffective mechanisms for enforcement and implementation, information inadequacies and continuing systemic graft and corruption.

Political Trends. The current wave of globalization is increasingly posing some threat to the country's national sovereignty. Domestically, the rich continue to dominate political processes as evidenced by deep-seated iniquitous structures and processes. The challenge continues for meaningful electoral reforms. Meanwhile, the Local Government Code has reinforced the role of LGUs in development administration. Civil society, as a countervailing force, has been engaging government at all levels.


A Conceptual Framework For Sustainable Development

he World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), in its report "our Common Future" published in 1987, defines sustainable development as "meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs".

While sustainable development derives its meaning from the global discourse, its application must be rooted in the context of national realities and aspirations. The Philippine Agenda 21's concept of development is grounded on both an image and a shared vision of the Filipino society. It recognizes the key actors in sustainable development as the government, business and civil society and the functional differentiation of modern society into three realms--economy (where the key actor is business), polity (where the key actor is government) and culture (where the key actor is civil society). The three realms are interacting, dynamic and complementary components of an integral whole.

Thus, the essence of sustainable development is in the harmonious integration of a sound and viable economy, responsible governance, social cohesion/harmony and ecological integrity to ensure that development is a life-enhancing process. The ultimate aim of development is human development now and through future generations.


Elements of a Shared Vision

Philippine Agenda 21 envisions a better quality of life for all through the development of a just, moral, creative, spiritual, economically vibrant, caring, diverse yet cohesive society characterized by appropriate productivity, participatory and democratic processes and living in harmony within the limits of the carrying capacity of nature and the integrity of creation.

In concretizing the vision, Philippine Agenda 21 describes a path of images for individuals, families, households and communities; for each ecosystem and across ecosystems in consideration of the interaction of the various lifescapes and landscapes found therein.

The Philippine Agenda 21 adheres to the following principles of sustainable development:

Primacy of Developing Human Potential
Holistic Science and Appropriate Technology
Cultural, Moral and Spiritual Sensitivity
Self determination
National Sovereignty
Gender Sensitivity
Peace, order and National Unity
Social Justice and Inter-, Intra-generational and Spatial Equity
Participatory Democracy
Institutional Viability
Viable, Sound and Broad based Economic Development
Sustainable Population
Ecological Soundness
Biogeographical equity and Community Based Resource Management
Global Cooperation

HOW DO WE GET THERE? Operational Framework and Action Agenda

The Operational Framework of Philippine Agenda 21 consists of a multilevel guide for decision-making consisting of sustainable development criteria, parameters and descriptors. The principles of sustainable development embodied in the vision serve as the criteria which help define the viability of development interventions. The parameters are basic policies from which the key ingredients of a sustainable development strategy are developed. Sustainable development descriptors translate the parameters into specific action strategies.

Operationally, sustainable development is development that draws out the full human potential across ages and generations. It is, at the same time, ecologically friendly, economically sound, politically empowering, socially just, spiritually liberating, gender sensitive, based on holistic science, technologically appropriate, builds upon Filipino values, history, culture and excellence and rests upon strong institutional foundations.

Philippine Agenda 21 provides a comprehensive set of economic, political, cultural scientific and technological, ecological, social, and institutional parameters that flow out of the principles of sustainable development. Development is sustainable if it is fully guided by these parameters.

Philippine Agenda 21 advocates a fundamental shift in development thinking and approach. It departs from traditional conceptual frameworks that emphasize sector based and macro-concerns. Philippine Agenda 21 promotes harmony and achieves sustainability by emphasizing:

    A scale of intervention that is primarily area-based. The national and global policy environment
    builds upon and support area-based initiatives.

    Integrated island development approaches where applicable. This recognizes the archipelagic
    character of the Philippines which includes many .small island provinces.

    People and the integrity of nature at the saltier of development initiatives. This implies the
    strengthening of roles, relationships and interactions between stakeholders in government, civil society,
    labor and business. Basic sectors have an important role to play in achieving equity and in managing the
    ecosystems that sustain life.

The action agenda of the Philippine Agenda 21 elaborates the mix of strategies that integrate the SD parameters in the country's overall development strategy. In formulating the action agenda, PA 21 has been guided by the key concepts of integration, multi-stakeholdership and consensus building and operationalization.

PA 21 does not duplicate but builds on existing and ongoing initiatives related to sustainable development. Hence, sustainable development in the Philippines is the accumulation of conceptual and operational breakthroughs generated by the Philippine Strategy for Sustainable Development, Social Reform Agenda, Human and Ecological Security, among others. Sustainable development is also a product of the process itself, of engaging various stakeholders and of working in global national and local arenas.

The PA 21 is a document owned by various stakeholders in government and civil society. Hence, the action agenda brings out the important roles of major groups and other stake holders in the sustainable development process.

PA 21 must be identified with doing. This implies concrete policy statements as well as appropriate implementation strategies on the critical issues that will affect sustainable development in the Philippines in the next 30 years, including financing and localization mechanisms.

The journey towards sustainable development involves both a transition and a paradigm shift. Philippine Agenda 21, therefore, adopts a two pronged strategy in defining and mapping out the action agenda:

    creating the enabling conditions which would assist various .stakeholders to manage the transition
    and at the same time build their capacities towards sustainable development;

    direct and proactive efforts at conserving, managing, protecting and rehabilitating ecosystems
    through an approach that harmonizes economic, ecological and social goals.

Managing the transition to SD calls for interventions in the following areas:

    integrating SD in governance
    providing enabling economic policies
    investing in human and social capital
    mapping out a Legislative Agenda; and
    addressing critical and strategic concerns, to include: population management, human health,
    food security, human settlements and land use.

These interventions define the Philippine Agenda 21's action agenda across ecosystems.

The action agenda at the level of ecosystems consists of strategic and catalytic interventions covering the following ecosystems and critical resources:


    forest/upland ecosystem
    coastal and marine ecosystem
    urban ecosystem freshwater ecosystem
    lowland/agricultural ecosystem




Implementing PA 21

he implementation of Philippine Agenda 21 must be anchored on the basic principle of collective choices and responsibility. Forging new partnerships and finding areas of common ground for collaborative action are central to the process of implementation as well as building and strengthening the roles and capacities of major groups and stakeholders; a consolidated and well coordinated effort at information, education and communication advocacy; localization; generating financing means and strategies; and monitoring and assessment.

Strengthening the Role of Major Groups. The identification of key players and how they interact in the whole process provide a basis for deepening the analysis and treatment of the ecosystem, and also for defining the varying roles that various stakeholders are expected to play for achieving sustainable development.

There are two major categories of stakeholders: basic sectors and intermediaries. Basic sectors comprise the farmers and landless rural workers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, urban poor, and other disadvantaged groups such as workers in the informal sector, children and youth, persons with disabilities, elderly, disaster victims and overseas contract workers. Intermediaries are composed of formal institutions that include the national and local government units, business and private sectors, non-government organizations, church-based organizations, civic groups and professional associations, mass media and the international community.

The key roles of the major stakeholders are defined according to sectoral needs, motivation or interest and perspectives. Intermediaries can serve as any of the following: (a) brokers of information and appropriate technologies; (b) mobilizers of resources; (c) net workers to strengthen institutional linkages, trainers; and (d) product enhancers.

Basic sectors, on the other hand, can serve as advocates of specific issues and concerns, organizers and mobilizers of community resources, culture bearers, innovators of indigenous approaches and systems, managers and controllers of community resources.

There are common grounds within which these key actors can undertake collaborative actions and interventions.

Localization. The process of localizing Philippine Agenda 21 is a vital element in mainstreaming the action agenda at the local level. In principle, localization shall seek to emulate the following key concepts: multistakeholdership and consensus building, integration and operationalization while respecting the need to preserve the peculiarities inherent in each locality.

The process of localization needs a structure that will ensure coordination and cooperation among the various actors. The structure to be eventually adopted shall be left to the discretion of the local people. Two options, though, can be identified: tapping existing structures such as the Regional Development Council; or creating a separate structure which is a mirror image of the PCSD.

Financing Means and Strategies. The adoption of a mixture of market-based instruments and command and control measures is expected to set into motion financial flows that would help achieve the goals of the PA 21. The strategy aims not only to mobilize funds to support PA 21 activities. More importantly, it aims to help induce changes in production and consumption patterns in favor of the sustainable management of the country's resources.

Financing PA 21 will have to rely heavily on the economic sectors' ability and willingness to incorporate sustainable development principles in the design of their production systems. Market based instruments working in tandem with the application of beneficial and realistic environmental standards through credible enforcement of regulations and sanctions could encourage companies to invest in abatement equipment.

Companies that support philantrophic activities can also be tapped by Philippine Agenda 21 to channel an increasing share for SD initiatives under an environment fund. Pollution charges and other forms of penalties and fines can be collected at rates that will provide an incentive for environmental protection. PA 21 may a1so be considered for inclusion in the Investment Priorities Plan to make environmental investments eligible for fiscal incentives.

Proponents of public and private investment ventures are primarily responsible for making the needed investments for environmental rehabilitation and/or mitigation in compliance with environmental standards. Incorporating such investments in public sector projects can be ensured through government's appraisal procedures.

Information, Education and Communication. The imperatives of sustainable development necessitate a reorientation in the fundamental values of .society. Hence, the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive information, education and communication advocacy plan is part of the efforts to mainstream the principles of PA 21 in the various efforts of all stakeholders.

The IEC Plan for PA 21 would involve a mix of communication strategies .such as: social mobilization, advocacy, social marketing, networking and visioning. The following are some of the strategic messages which shall form the basis of the overall strategy:

    Sustainable development is a matter of survival.
    The only true development is sustainable development.
    Avoiding pollution is not necessarily avoiding profit.
    Pollution does not pay, Managing pollution pays.
    Environmental protection is a corporate responsibility.
    Sustainable development begins and ends with you.

Monitoring and Assessment. To effectively assess the implementation of Philippine Agenda 21, a comprehensive monitoring, evaluation and reporting system should be established to guide all stakeholders to meaningfully participate in the process of operationalizing sustainable development. Such a system will also help institute broad-based accountabilities and responsibility for sustainable development among members of society. This .system may include the following elements: (a) a system to coordinate and evaluate the extent to which the Philippine Agenda 21 has been adopted and implemented by all stakeholders; (b) a system to coordinate, support and enhance existing national and loca1 multisectoral as well as sectoral monitoring, evaluation and information exchange on the implementation of initiatives related to Philippine Agenda 21; and (c) a system for reporting, feed backing and utilizing the monitoring and evaluation results on Philippine Agenda 21 for international, national and local stakeholder communities.