Thousands gathered recently at Quezon City Memorial Circle to celebrate the Walk for Creation 2019 and open the Season of Creation 2019 with the theme “The Web of Life.”
The Global Catholic Climate Movement-Pilipinas initiated the event for the last two years in commemoration of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. About 5,000 congregated at the Liwasang Aurora for the celebration, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who presided over the Mass for the event.
Part of the event was a discussion on biodiversity conservation by J. Kahlil Panopio, a conservation specialist at Haribon Foundation. Highlighting the current state of the Philippine Environment, Panopio emphasized Walk for Creation 2019 is a great opportunity to raise awareness about existing species in the country and what stakeholders can do to help various conservation activities.
PH biodiversity threats
The forest cover all over the country has been dropping over the years. From having 60 percent in the 1920s, it dropped to 34 percent in the 1970s until it reached 22.93 percent in 2015.
“These decreases are alarming,” Panopio warned, as the country needs at least 54 percent forest cover for Philippine biodiversity to thrive. This includes the archipelago’s various species of:
– plants (over 15,000 species with half being endemic to the Philippines);
– birds (593,258 are exclusive to the country);
– mammals (over 200 species of land mammals and 27 species of marine mammals);
– reptiles (more than 250, 66 percent are endemic);
– amphibians (77 percent are endemic); and
– invertebrates (22,000 mollusk species, over 20,900 insect species, and at least 484 hard coral species).
The national average of Philippine corals is also at crucial levels as there is only 22.8 percent of live hard coral cover today (about 30,000 square kilometers). Panopio added this endangers various water species such as the 120 Philippine endemic marine species, 344 water species, and 3,094 coral reef species.
Moreover, plant and wildlife species are facing grave threats such as destruction of habitats, heavily extractive industries, wildlife trade, hunting, poaching, and unsustainable human practices.
Haribon reminded that threats to biodiversity contribute to increasing global temperatures, which will put every living organism — including humans — at risk of suffering if temperatures go beyond the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.
“Awareness-raising programs like the Walk for Creation not only raise consciousness on these pressing issues, but it also calls on stakeholders to commit to sustainable actions that will help address the climate crisis,” the group said.
Haribon Foundation, the Philippines’ first environmental organization, has made its commitment to respond to biodiversity threats since the 1970s. The foundation strengthens the involvement of various sectors in forest governance through capacity building for forest wardens, community-based monitoring and reporting, building networks, and cooperating with various stakeholders (civil society groups, local government units, among others).
Haribon also advocates for the passage of the Sustainable Forest Management Bill in restoring and rehabilitating the Philippines’ forest cover.
Other participating organizations also made their contributions and commitments known. The Student Catholic Action of the Philippines launched the “Bamboohay Challenge,” which aims to grow as much as 200,000 and more native bamboos, specifically at the threatened watershed areas of Metro Manila, in a year.
To support the country’s forest restoration efforts, the Couples for Christ community also presented their tree planting and growing activities. Signature campaigns launched by the Save Sierra Madre Network Alliance and the Alyansa Tigil Mina to stop the construction of Kaliwa Dam and mining were also highlighted in the event.
At some point during the program, the Global Climate Catholic Movement also led a symbolic signing and reading of commitment to “care for our web of life.”
All actors are encouraged to help in biodiversity conservation by learning more and spreading awareness about the state of the Philippine environment, practicing the 4R (reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse) at home, school or work, and by joining conservation activities such as tree planting drives that promote the use of native seedlings.
MA. ALEXANDRA MILAN