As one of the fastest growing countries in Asia, the Philippines faces environmental challenges, with disproportionate impacts on the poor and women. Ineffective management seriously degrades the country’s significant biodiversity resources; water and air pollution levels exceed generally accepted healthy standards; greenhouse gas emissions are increasing from the transport and power sectors; and the country is ranked as one of the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of environmental disasters.
For the Philippines to become a more stable, prosperous and well-governed nation, the country must become more environmentally resilient and better able to cope with the impact of natural disasters and recover quickly. Natural resources play a critical role in the Philippine economy, as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry represent about 10 percent of gross domestic product and account for almost 30 percent of employment. Equally important, natural capital provides energy, water, flood control, storm mitigation and other environmental services that benefit the entire country, including cities. USAID assistance improves natural resource management in the Philippines; promotes water and energy security; and reduces vulnerability to and natural disasters.
Buy-in to the U.S. Forest Service Participating Agency Program Agreement (PAPA) for Sustainable Forest Management
USAID has partnered with the United States Forest Service since 2011 to help build the capacity of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, local governments, indigenous peoples, communities and the private sector in sustainable forest management, including forest change monitoring using geospatial technologies, forest inventory analysis forest land use planning, forest restoration, forest fire management and development of the national forest monitoring system.
Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP)
According to an article in the February 2015 issue of Science magazine, eight million tons of mismanaged plastic wastes are deposited in the world’s oceans each year. This waste threatens marine ecosystems and human health as it makes its way into the global human food supply, mostly through fish products. MWRP is USAID-funded initiative designed to reduce land-based sources of marine plastics pollution in Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. The program provides grants and technical assistance for promising solid waste management and waste recycling efforts in urban and peri-urban areas, enhances the effectiveness of such programs and makes recommendations for future investments in municipal waste recycling.
USAID Fish Right
The Philippines depend on coral reefs for food and income valued at $22 million annually. Fish and fish products provide more than 50 percent of Filipinos' dietary protein. However, unsustainable fishing practices have affected coastal and marine biodiversity. USAID's Fish Right program uses an ecosystem approach to fisheries management to "right-size" fisheries and enhances the sustainable use and resilience of critical coastal and marine resources. The program will work with fisherfolk, provincial and municipal governments and community-based organizations to promote improved management of marine key biodiversity areas (MKBAs). At the end of five years, the program will result in an average of 10 percent increase in fish biomass as a result of improved management of 2.5 million hectares of marine waters, benefitting the more than 2 million people.
Partnership for Biodiversity Conservation III (PBC)
According to the 2011 Tropical Forestry and Biodiversity Analysis commissioned by USAID, the destruction of biodiversity and natural resources remains a core environmental problem in the Philippines. Now in its third phase, PBC is strengthening environmental law enforcement to improve biodiversity conservation in the country. PBC primarily works with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Philippine National Police, Department of Justice and the judiciary. PBC assistance has led to the development of manuals for enforcing wildlife, fisheries and forestry laws. The project also helped create a computer-based tool to combat wildlife trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; deputized hundreds of wildlife and environment and natural resources officers; formulated environmental law enforcement action plans from the subnational to national levels; and facilitated the Supreme Court’s development of the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, which aided in the timely disposition of environmental crime cases.
The Philippines' rich biodiversity is under threat, mostly from human activities, including deforestation and forest degradation, illegal fishing and illicit wildlife trade. Unfortunately, local stakeholders, who have the greatest stake in protecting the environment and the natural resources therein, have limited economic incentives, financial support and capacity to manage high biodiversity areas. Protect Wildlife reduces direct threats to biodiversity within its geographic scope through an integrated approach that focuses on: facilitating behavior change through effective communications; increasing investments in conservation; building capacity in biodiversity conservation and combating wildlife trafficking; improving decision making through evidence generated by science, technology and innovation; and strengthening environmental law enforcement. In the first two years of implementation, Protect Wildlife improved the management in three protected areas covering almost 223,000 hectares, trained more than 1,000 people in natural resources management and biodiversity conservation, reached almost 4,300 people through behavior change campaigns and secured $100,000 in private sector investments in anti-wildlife poaching actions.
Toxic Site Identification Program
The Toxic Site Identification Program assists governments and communities to take locally-led actions to mitigate health exposures by breaking pollution exposure pathways and preventing future toxic emissions. The program has three objectives: (a) improve existing knowledge and gather critical data about the scope of toxic pollution and its human health impacts; (b) encourage decision-makers to mainstream the issue of toxic pollution, chemicals and wastes and associated impacts on human health and the environment into development agendas; and (c) assist decision- makers and communities to mitigate the impacts of toxic pollution, chemicals and wastes on human health and the environment.
U.S. Peace Corps Small Project Assistance
When Peace Corps Philippines offered to co-locate its volunteers in USAID project sites, the agencies deployed volunteers to projects focusing on biodiversity conservation and environmental resilience. The volunteers work with community counterparts to identify common concerns, develop strategies to address these concerns and implement small-scale community-level projects. Since the beginning of the program, USAID and Peace Corps have awarded 45 grants, which are strengthening capacities of local environment and fisheries officers and communities to protect and manage biodiversity and natural resources.