Remarks by Sung Y. Kim, U.S. Ambassador, B+WISER Program Close Out Event

Thursday, October 11, 2018
B+WISER Program Close Out Event

[As Prepared]

[Greetings]

I am honored to be here today, to recognize the environmental champions who have worked tirelessly to preserve the country’s forests and biodiversity. It is because of your unwavering commitment that future generations will be able to enjoy the benefits of these valuable resources.

More than five years ago, the United States Agency for International Development formed a partnership with the DENR to protect the Philippine forests. Today’s event celebrates the many milestones that we have achieved together through the B+WISER project.

During the last century, the Philippines lost nearly 75 percent of its natural forests. The country’s remaining 7 million hectares of forests play a critical role in the economy. About one in three Filipinos depend on natural resources, including forests, for their livelihoods. Forests also benefit the entire country by providing energy, protecting communities from floods, and improving air quality.

USAID has been working with the DENR, local governments, the private sector, and civil society to safeguard this crucial natural resource.

As Undersecretary Adobo highlighted, the Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System, or Lawin, has revolutionized forest and biodiversity conservation in the Philippines. This technology helped modernize how forest rangers conduct their patrols and report threats. The data generated by Lawin now helps DENR make evidence-based decisions to protect the country’s forests and biodiversity.

Equipping patrollers and decision-makers with these tools and training has helped improve the management of over 90 percent of forests in the Philippines. Reforestation and forest conservation efforts have helped reduce 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing more than 2 million cars off the streets.

Congratulations to everyone who made these remarkable achievements possible. DENR has now adopted Lawin as part of its national forest protection strategy, and has also tripled its protection budget to 1 billion pesos this year, making more resources available to further intensify forest conservation.

I especially commend our partners at the DENR, ably led by Secretary Cimatu and Undersecretary Adobo, for your commitment to and hard work toward resilient and sustainable growth for the country.

I also want to recognize government and private corporations -- such as the National Power Corporation, Energy Development Corporation, and Holcim Philippines. Thank you for your robust support of forest and watershed conservation.

Guided by our shared value of inclusivity, we have been working closely with local communities and indigenous peoples in our joint efforts. Today, they are sharing their wisdom as traditional keepers of rainforests and partnering with DENR to guard forests within their ancestral lands. Special thank you to the indigenous peoples groups -- especially the Kankanaeys and Ibaloys of Cordillera, the Aetas, Manyans, and Dumagats of Southern Luzon, the Tulaandigs, Bukidnons and Higaonons of Mt. Kitanglad, the Dumagats of Northern Luzon, and the Aetas and Kalanguyas of Central Luzon -- who now patrol the forests alongside the government’s forest rangers.

I am also incredibly proud of our youth partners, whose active role in conservation will ensure a continuation of community participation in conservation. I applaud the inspiring work of the young Eco-Rangers of Mindoro and Isabela, who serve as conservation advocates, organizing activities to share ways to help the environment and mobilizing community support in taking care of the forest.

Each of you in this room is part of a large network of champions committed to protecting forests and biodiversity. We are honored to work with all of you as friends and partners in safeguarding our environment and pursuing a more prosperous Philippines.

Thank you very much and mabuhay!

Issuing Country 

Last updated: October 19, 2018

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