Philippine President launches UN Decade on Biodiversity for Southeast Asia

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Montreal 30 May 2011— The President of the Philippines, Benigno S Aquino III, has launched the United Nations (UN) Decade on Biodiversity for Southeast Asia and has issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring a National Decade.


The event took place on 30 May 2011 at the Malacanang Palace with the participation of the diplomatic corps from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam; high-level government officials; and representatives of media, conservation organizations and the business community.


In support of the UN Decade, President Aquino’s proclamation of 2011-2020 as the National Decade on Biodiversity in the Philippines recognized the UN celebration as an excellent opportunity to increase public awareness of the values of biodiversity and promote actions at the national, regional and local levels to conserve and sustainably manage the nation’s rich natural heritage.


The Philippines’ Environment Secretary Ramon Paje handed over a copy of the Presidential Proclamation to Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, with President Aquino witnessing the presentation.


As a further demonstration of his country’s commitment to the objectives of the Decade, the President declared "the strangler fig tree, known in the Philippines as Balete, located in front of this hallowed hall, as our Heritage Tree. This balete tree, which is more than 100 years old, has been a mute witness to the unfolding of the Philippines’ rich history.”


“In declaring the Balete as a Heritage Tree, we will constantly be reminded of our obligations as citizens of this planet to protect, conserve and sustainably use our biodiversity resources," President Aquino said.


Prior to the Southeast Asia launch of the UN Decade on Biodiversity, President Aquino launched a National Greening Program which aims to plant 1.5 billion trees in more than 1 million hectares of land across the Philippines from 2011 to 2016. The program was part of the Philippines launch of the International Year of Forests 2011.


The ceremony followed the successful launch of the UN Decade for Asia and Pacific held in New Delhi, India on 23 May, as well as the national launch by the Republic of Korea, held in Sangjo on 20 May.


Recently, on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, the Philippines expanded the protection of 109 threatened species in about 400,000 hectares of conservation sites through the New Conservation Areas in the Philippines Project (NewCAPP).  The project was made possible through the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).


 Following his meeting with the President, Mr Djoghlaf stated, “Responding to the biodiversity challenges calls for the full engagement of all stakeholders without exception. Last week in Seoul, I had the immense privilege of meeting H.E. Lee Myung-bak, the President of Korea. Today, I had the unique privilege of meeting the President of the Philippines, H.E. Benigno S Aquino III.  My meetings with these two tremendous supporters of sustainable development demonstrated to me that leaders are taking up the challenge.” 


 The Southeast Asia launch of the UN Decade on Biodiversity coincided with the week-long celebration in the Philippines of the International Day for Biological Diversity, on 22 May, and the awards ceremony for the ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity.  The winners were HSBC in Brunei (business), “Born to be Wild” Philippines TV program (media), and Green Community of Indonesia (youth). The ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity recognized the outstanding biodiversity conservation and advocacy initiatives of business, media and youth organizations in Southeast Asia. The awards were organized by the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and supported by the ASEAN Foundation, European Union, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, GIZ of Germany and the CBD Secretariat.


Mr. Rodrigo Fuentes, Executive Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity said the launch of the UN Decade on Biodiversity in the Philippines and the awarding of ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity was very timely.


“The Philippines is one of the world’s 17 mega diverse countries while Southeast Asia, occupying only three per cent of the earth's surface, boasts of globally significant terrestrial and marine biodiversity that include an astonishing 18 per cent of all species assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” said Director Fuentes. “It is but fitting that Southeast Asia and the Philippines play a major role in global conservation efforts and celebrations”.


Regional launches for the UN Decade on Biodiversity are planned throughout the coming months. The Caribbean launch will take place in Havana, Cuba, on 4 July to be followed on 22 July by the regional launch for Africa in Addis Ababa. Costa Rica and Ecuador will host the regional launches for Central America in October and for the Latin America in the fall, respectively. Japan as the President of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the country of origin of this initiative will host an international event to launch the Decade in December 2011.


“Last year as a contribution to the celebration of the International Year of Biodiversity, the Philippines was the sole country of the world to proclaim 2010 as their national year on biodiversity.  Today the President of the Philippines, HEM  Benigno S Aquino III has become the first leader of the world to  proclaim 2011-2020 a  national decade on biodiversity.  I sincerely hope that many others leaders of the world will do the same" said Ahmed Djoghlaf.


Information on the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, including the logo, can be found on the official website at: www.cbd.int/2011-2020

President Benigno S. Aquino III declared 2011-2020 as the National Decade on Biodiversity in the Philippines as the country hosts the historic launching of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity and International Year of Forests in Southeast Asia in Malacañang.


In his statement, the President called on everyone to act now in the preservation and protection of vulnerable species and habitats because the region is quickly losing a significant number of these endangered plants and animals due to deforestation, wildlife hunting, climate change, pollution and population. He also said that the government has begun several programs like the National Greening Program to sustain the balance of the country’s biodiversity. The administration will also continue to pursue regional conservation efforts, such as the Coral Triangle Initiative, the Greater Mekong Program, the Heart of Borneo Initiative and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Parks.


UN Assistant Secretary General and Executive Secretary of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity Dr. Ahmed Djoghlaf, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary and ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Executive Director Rodrigo Fuentes and Undersecretary Antonio Rodriguez called on President Aquino earlier to discuss the goals and targets of the said 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity.


Together with the some of the ambassadors in the ASEAN member countries, they also joined the President in the unveiling of the commemorative marker for the Malacañang Heritage Tree. The event is to demonstrate the commitment of the Philippines and ASEAN toward the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity. The “balete” or strangler fig tree contributes immensely to biodiversity conservation as a great food source and habitat for birds, small mammals and other wildlife. It is considered a sacred tree by Filipinos and also believed to be resided by supernatural beings. Famously called as Mr. Brown, the heritage tree is over a century old and stands just outside the Palace entrance.


Notes for Editors

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology. To date, 159 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol. The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal. For more information visit: www.cbd.int.


The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity is an intergovernmental organization mandated to coordinate regional efforts of ASEAN Member States in conserving and sustainably managing biodiversity resources and ensuring access and benefit sharing of biodiversity resources in Southeast Asia. The Centre facilitates cooperation and coordination among the ASEAN Member States and with relevant national government, regional and international organizations, on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such biodiversity in the ASEAN region.  For more information visit:  www.aseanbiodiversity.org

For additional information, please contact: David Ainsworth on +1 514 287 7025 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; or Johan Hedlund on +1 514 287 6670 or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it