CURRENT BIODIVERSITY CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
25 January 2015
The Biodiversity Financing Initiative (BIOFIN) Project of the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau presented last Friday, 23 January 2014 to concerned agencies and stakeholders the final estimates of what the full implementation of the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) 2015-2028 may cost the country. The figures the project experts have come with is a low estimate of something like Php 336 billion (US$ 7.4 billion) to a high of around Php 392 billion (US$ 8.7 billion) with an average of around Php 24 billion required, on a yearly basis, and while some of the amounts can be met with the current appropriations of the key implementing agencies DA and DENR, what will be needed then annually is something like TWENTY TWO BILLION PESOS (Php 22,000,000,000.00) until the end-year implementation of PBSAP in 2028.
The Php 22 billion yearly cost is actually the financing gap that will be further scrutinized in later components of the project, particularly the public and private expenditure review, and as explained, the balance that will remain from that exercise could be the amount where a plan for resource mobilization will be drawn up that will be part and parcel of the PBSAP.
This amount appears to be humongous, but if one looks at the country’s General Appropriations Act, the annual budget, the Php22 billion figure is not even half of the amount being spent for the Conditional Cash Transfer Program of the Aquino Administration which for 2015 is budgeted at Php 62.3 billion. To get a sense of how puny this amount is, if we look at the Philippines GDP total aggregate figure for 2013, which is at Php 6,695 billion (this amount is from http://www.economywatch.com/economic-statistics/country/Philippines/, accessed 24 January 2015, though if one looks at data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, from http://www.nscb.gov.ph/sna/2014/3rd2014/tables/1Q3-Rev_Summary_93SNA.pdf, accessed 24 January 2015, the aggregate figures of the quarterly GDP estimates for 2013 there is Php 11, 547 billion) the 22 billion requirement does not even amount to 1% (it’s actually .003 or .3%) of the country’s GDP in 2013.
The challenge for the Philippines now is how it may source this amount. Here are some of the ways the country can meet this challenge in the coming years :
1. Bring in other agencies and other government instrumentalities to help out meet these costs
A participant in the said briefing from the Department of Finance said that there are other off-budget items such as from the government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) which may be enlisted in the over-all effort to conserve biodiversity in the country and their contributions can help minimize the funding gap. But there are other agencies, for example, the Climate Change Commission, whose work on climate change adaptation would largely require the conservation of biodiversity that can mobilize funds for the programs identified in the PBSAP through the financing mechanisms of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or through bilateral channels. There is also the Department of Interior and Local Government whose 2015 budget for capacity development and performance oversight and incentives and awards services for local government units is pegged at Php 3.082 billion. If part of these capacity development programs can be redirected to the strengthening of the efforts of local government units from the barangays to the provinces for biodiversity conservation, then that is another way to fill in the funding gap identified. One of the key components of the PBSAP, the awareness-raising and mainstreaming targets found in Goal A, can be piggy-backed on the activities of, for example, the Presidential Communications Operations Office whose mandate as stated itself in the General Appropriations Act 2015 vol. 1 is to involve the citizenry and mass media to enrich the quality of public discourse on all matters of governance and build a national consensus thereon. Similar agencies working along these information dissemination and education goals are the State Universities and Colleges, the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education. Other agencies that may be also persuaded to include biodiversity conservation in their programs, activities and projects are the DOST, DOE, DPWH, including also the DND which has put up a budget in 2015 of around Php 352 million for disaster risk reduction and management services, which, if packaged to include climate change adaptation, could very well include biodiversity conservation as its key thrusts and initiatives.
There were also initiatives of government mentioned during the presentation to quantify the value of ecosystem services but sadly, it seems there is no real data generated that could already be used that would have enabled the estimate of how much these ecosystems services can be traced back to biodiversity conservation efforts. This will have to await the mainstreaming of natural resources or environmental accounting across all of government which is something that will have to be figured out separately by the data crunching agencies of government particularly the NEDA and the Philippine Statistics Authority.
2. Identify how much the private sector can pitch in and commit
The presentation on this component of BIOFIN indicated that work will still continue this year to further identify how much all the other government agencies, including the private sector, are providing, for biodiversity conservation. A cursory web search for the amount of spending provided for biodiversity conservation by the private sector in the Philippines will not yield significant information, but suffice it to say that one umbrella organization, the League of Corporate Foundations, has some thirty-four members engaged in environment work, which includes biodiversity conservation. The BIOFIN research team will just have to work closely, including enlisting the help of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, for those entities who may seek tax deductions for their efforts in biodiversity conservation and use that, along with other information that they can gather direct from the corporations themselves, to build a fuller picture of what the private sector is doing in this area. Whatever figures they may discover can be the baselines on which further commitments by the private sector itself can be made and later upscaled as we move on to 2028 in PBSAP implementation.
3. Estimate the value of the collective action of indigenous peoples and local communities
This notion of “collective action” is one of the recent items to come out in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) negotiations in Pyeongchang, South Korea last October 2014, and with the persistent push of Bolivia, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the CBD, finally recognized in the financial reporting framework that was also adopted in Pyeongchang, the role of collective action, including by indigenous peoples and local communities, and non-market-based approaches for mobilizing resources for achieving the objectives of the Convention.
There was no clear-cut elaboration of what this “collective action” will entail, and there was even an information document in the CBD about the conceptual and methodological framework for figuring this out (see http://www.stockholmresilience.org/download/18.2f7e0423148c33cc98f2bc9/1412342386040/CONTRIBUTION_OF_COLLECTIVE_ACTION_TO_BIODIVERSITY_CONSERVATION.pdf, accessed 24 January 2015) but this involves mainly the attribution of monetary amounts to the efforts of communities to conserve biodiversity within their midst and the COP Decision on this item even cited examples like community-based natural resource management, share governance or joint management of protected areas or through indigenous and community conserved areas. Now, if BMB will work with the NCIP, NEDA and the organizations working with indigenous peoples and local communities to further elaborate how to account for the benefits of “collective action”, then surely, this will largely go a long way towards reducing the funding gap.
4. Identify the perverse incentives in biodiversity and act decisively to phase them out
The policy and institutional review component of BIOFIN is a good first step in getting the landscape of Philippine policy and institutions that are relevant for biodiversity financing, but what should follow from this effort is an assessment of the over-all picture on what kinds of perverse incentives and harmful subsidies are out there wreaking havoc or setting back ongoing efforts in biodiversity conservation. This is a top priority for this year 2015 since the countries that attended the CBD COP meeting committed to the decision on resource mobilization that they will carry this out first in 2015 by developing a national target on this item then following through on a plan for legislative or policy action towards eliminating or phasing them out in 2016 through 2018. The rationale articulated during the negotiations towards working on these perverse incentives is that achieving this may redirect the funds generated or potential income deferred or given away from these incentivized activities to real biodiversity conservation, aside from stopping the continuing degradation of biodiversity when these incentives are continuously availed of by the private sector and the general public.
5. Tap international financial resource flows which should be doubling in magnitude starting in 2015
Ultimately, the bulk of these amounts needed for biodiversity conservation should not be shouldered by a country, a developing country at that, and in the case of the Philippines, always on top of the list of countries that are most or highly vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events that are increasingly being attributed to climate change. The Convention on Biological Diversity, being a Rio treaty like the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, has embedded in its institutional principles the notion of common-but-differentiated-responsibility, such that those countries who have more capacity and money, i.e., the developed countries, should assist countries not similarly endowed. That is why we have the provision on art. 20.4 of the Convention which states :
The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under this Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under this Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account the fact that economic and social development and eradication of poverty are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.
Given that the Philippines at present is already devoting a big chunk of its national budget to conserve its biodiversity, developed countries should do their part and provide the necessary funds such that the global goals of biodiversity conservation are met. This is what has been affirmed in Pyeongchang in October 2014 on resource mobilization such that there will now be
Double total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries, in particular least developed countries and small island developing States, as well as countries with economies in transition, using average annual biodiversity funding for the years 2006-2010 as a baseline, by 2015, and at least maintain this level until 2020
Notwithstanding such commitment by developed countries, it is not really clear if that doubling of total biodiversity-related international financial resource flows to developing countries will actually happen in 2015, since this figure will only be arrived at once there is also a complete picture of how much resources the developing countries are mobilizing internally. This complete picture will only happen once countries have started to fill out the FINANCIAL REPORTING FRAMEWORK which they are invited to submit, where feasible, by 31 December 2015. When there are countries that have already submitted this report, then work will proceed at the Secretariat level to figure out how much money from external sources are needed. From what the negotiations on resource mobilization have elaborated, this is the amount that will be doubled as what has been agreed in COP 12 in Pyeongchang, South Korea in October 2014.
Ultimately, developing countries like the Philippines have to be prepared for the eventuality that they cannot meet these resource requirements. That is why we have only attempted to suggest ways how these targets may be attained satisfactorily, the important thing is that there is ongoing effort to reach these levels of funding through various means.