Country Profiles

Philippines - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The Philippines is one of 18 mega-biodiverse countries of the world, containing two-thirds of the earth’s biodiversity and between 70% and 80% of the world’s plant and animal species. The Philippines ranks fifth in the number of plant species and maintains 5% of the world’s flora. Species endemism is very high, covering at least 25 genera of plants and 49% of terrestrial wildlife, while the country ranks fourth in bird endemism. The Philippines is also one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots with at least 700 threatened species, thus making it one of the top global conservation areas. The national list of threatened faunal species was established in 2004 and includes 42 species of land mammals, 127 species of birds, 24 species of reptiles and 14 species of amphibians. In terms of fishes, the Philippines counts at least 3,214 species, of which about 121 are endemic and 76 threatened. In 2007, an administrative order issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources established a national list of threatened plant species, indicating that 99 species were critically endangered, 187 were endangered, 176 vulnerable as well as 64 other threatened species.

This unique biodiversity is supported by a large variety of ecosystems, landscapes and habitats, most of which are also greatly threatened by human activities. According to the FAO definition, the Philippines has 7.2 million ha of forest ecosystems, comprising approximately 24% of the total land area. It is however estimated that, between 2000 and 2005, the Philippines lost 2.1% of its forest cover annually, representing the second fastest rate of deforestation in Southeast Asia (second to Myanmar) and seventh in the world. The country’s agricultural ecosystem is also noteworthy. The Philippines is part of the center of diversity of rice, coconut, mung bean, taro and yam, as well as the center of origin and diversity of bananas in Southeast Asia. Yet this agricultural biodiversity is nowadays experiencing general decline, as is the land area devoted to these activities.

The trend is similar for inland water biodiversity, with findings indicating a decreasing trend in water quality, fish, biodiversity and cultural value in the country’s largest lake (Laguna de Bay) and its tributary rivers. The Philippines presents unique coastal, marine and island biodiversity. It is indeed located within the Coral Triangle, at the center of highest marine biodiversity. A study conducted in 2005 noted that there is a higher concentration of species per unit area in the country than anywhere in Indonesia and Wallacea. Yet this ecosystem is also greatly at risk. While the 2005 review of the state of the marine and coastal environment indicated an increase in the mangrove cover, reef cover, seagrass cover and fishery production are nowadays decreasing substantially.

The Philippines derives large benefits from ecosystems. In particular, the country recognizes the important role played by watersheds, river basins and coastal areas in the environment and in society as a source of livelihood (supporting fisheries, recreation and tourism and many other activities). For instance, a watershed with adequate forest cover provides water that supports lowland agriculture, prevents soil erosion and siltation of coasts and water bodies, and sustains the supply of surface and groundwater for domestic use. Likewise, the forest ecosystem provides ecological services that benefit agriculture, industries, water and power needs. Production forest areas for tree plantations and agroforestry activities are sources of jobs and revenues, with agriculture having represented 18.4% of the country’s GDP in 2007.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

Threats to biodiversity differ from one ecosystem to another. In the forest ecosystem, the primary causes of forest loss are commercial exploitation and population growth (including lifestyle and consumption patterns) and the introduction of invasive alien species. Loss of biodiversity in the agricultural ecosystem is a direct consequence of habitat destruction via conversion of agricultural land to other uses; the possible negative impacts of biotechnology; natural calamities or extreme weather events associated with climate change; introduction of invasive alien species, pests and diseases; and inherent institutional problems of government agencies responsible for conserving agrobiodiversity. Yet the observed decline is also the indirect result of the increased demand for food, land and other agro-based resources; pursuit of economic growth through intensive agriculture, export-oriented policies and the promotion of extractive industries, such as mining, that are potentially damaging to the environment; and lifestyle change of farmers brought about by urbanization. Major threats to inland water biodiversity, as well as marine and coastal environments, include chemical pollution and eutrophication, fisheries operations, habitat alteration, invasion of alien species and global climate change.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The Philippines started formulating its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan in 1994 with the formulation of the Philippine Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity (PSCBD). In 1995, the Philippines undertook an assessment of the country’s biodiversity through the UNEP-assisted Philippine Biodiversity Country Study. As a result, the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was developed and published in 1997. Five years later, in 2002, a review of the NBSAP was undertaken that identified 206 conservation priority areas and species conservation priorities, collectively known as the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities (PBCP), which is considered the second NBSAP revision and incorporates six major strategies and immediate actions. Finally, the PBCP was reinforced in 2006 with 228 key biodiversity areas (KBAs) identified covering an estimated 10.56 million hectares.

The updating of the NBSAP is on-going. The process builds on the current status and achievements of the Philippines with respect to biodiversity planning and reporting. It aims to integrate the Philippines’ obligations under the CBD into its national development and sectoral planning frameworks through a renewed and participative ‘biodiversity planning’ and strategizing process. It is expected to produce measurable targets for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. Interim biodiversity targets were also incorporated into the Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016).

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

Among the major achievements toward the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets is the increase of the forest cover from 23.9% in 2003 to 52.6% of the total land area in 2006 (2007 MDG report), the extension of the terrestrial protected areas network from 8.5% in 1992 to 12.8% of the total land area in 2008 (2007 MDG report), along with 1,169 marine protected areas (in the form of reserves, sanctuaries and parks), and improvement in management effectiveness of these sites, which rose from 10-15% in 2000 to 20-30% in 2007. In addition, threatened flora and fauna were given further protection through various species conservation programs and executive and administrative issuances (with positive trends recorded for marine turtles and mangroves); the number of confiscations of illegally traded wildlife species regulated under CITES increased from 513 heads in 2005 to 11,124 heads in 2011; measures such as fish farming and eco-tourism in protected areas are being implemented to promote sustainable use and benefits for local livelihoods; indigenous knowledge and the practices of 16 tribes were documented by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) between 2005 and 2008; policy-making and access and benefit-sharing have been institutionalized through the process of free and prior informed consent from indigenous and local communities.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

Traditionally, sectoral approaches have been used in the Philippines to manage environmental and natural resources, which have led to separate governance mechanisms for different resource uses, and conflicts in management. In the 1990s, the watershed approach, integrated Ecosystem Approach, bay regional planning, integrated river basin and coastal zone management approach to development and management emerged for planning and addressing issues that cut across ecosystems. Presidential Memo Order No. 289 (1995) was issued, directing the integration of the NBSAP, as was Executive Order No. 578 (2006) establishing national policy on biodiversity and directing all concerned government agencies and offices and local government units to integrate and mainstream the protection, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into their policies, rules and regulations, programs and development planning processes.

Since then, several initiatives have been launched, notably in terms of integrated watershed management. Moreover, Executive Order 533 (2006) mandated the adoption of integrated coastal management (ICM), with a recent review indicating that significant resources had been invested into ICM, with the participation of various stakeholders, and that several concerns were taken into account, ranging from poverty alleviation to food security and sustainable development.

Finally, enhanced cooperation on biodiversity management is promoted through the formalization of partnerships, either through Executive Orders, as in the case of the Bicol River Basin and the Watershed Management Councils in Lake Lanao and Bukidnon Watershed, or through a Memorandum of Agreement or Understanding, such as in the case of the Kabulnan Watershed Multi Sectoral Council. Under said councils, multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary task forces, committees, and technical working groups are organized to address specific policy decisions or implementation problems or issues, either at the local, provincial or regional level, depending on the extent of coverage of the river basin and watershed. A multi-sectoral, multi-institutional mechanism called “Network for Nature” (N4N) should be put in place to proactively disseminate, monitor and coordinate the implementation of the Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Priorities (PBCP).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

Monitoring activities are led in relation to water quality, coral reefs cover (notably recording the impacts of climate change in the framework of the ICE CREAM project), and species conservation. Several biodiversity monitoring tools have been developed but sustaining the effort remains a challenge, especially after donor exit. In 1999, the Biodiversity Monitoring System (BMS) was introduced as a tool to collect data on priority species and resource use and to guide decision-making by the Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB). This was institutionalized through policy. For a time, monitoring efforts yielded promising results and resulted in management interventions. In some protected areas, the BMS was sustained through local efforts but, in general, monitoring ceased due to lack of funds. Efforts regarding the development and implementation of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, requiring the participation of multi-disciplinary teams, etc., had a similar fate after donor exit. The Biodiversity Indicators for National Use (BINU) for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems remain to be implemented by other stakeholders, although the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources is slowly piloting them within its bureaucracy. Implementation of Conservation International’s framework for monitoring biodiversity conservation outcomes held promise however has failed to fully take off due to lack of funds.